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Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung today said the Government has requested an Internet search engine service provider in writing to put the correct information related to the national anthem at the top of search results. Mr Tang made the statement at a Legislative Council meeting in view of a recent case in which an online search for some keywords related to "Hong Kong" and "national anthem" through the Internet search engine would produce the top result as a song closely associated with the serious violence and protests advocating for Hong Kong independence in 2019. He pointed out that the Innovation, Technology & Industry Bureau and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer have mounted solemn negotiations with the service provider concerned and requested it to address the situation and take serious follow-up action. The security chief said the service provider responded that it would follow up on the case. Meanwhile, in tandem with the implementation of the National Security Law, Mr Tang said the public libraries have re-examined and updated the procedures for and guidelines on purchasing library materials and accepting donations of books and periodicals. Safeguarding national security has now been included as one of the considerations to ensure that library collections borrowed by members of the public conform to the laws of Hong Kong. Mr Tang added that the public libraries have also completed a preliminary stock review, including publications of authors or publishers that have been suspected of publishing books on Hong Kong independence previously, with a view to ensuring that materials contrary to the interests of national security would not be included in library collections. Any library material which is suspected of breaching the National Security Law or other laws will be removed from library shelves immediately. Only when the library material concerned is ascertained upon careful examination that its content does not violate the relevant laws will it be put on library shelves again, he added.
The Immigration Department (ImmD) today announced that electronic services for visa application have been extended to all visa application types with immediate effect. This means applicants of visas/entry permits for visits, employment, investment, training, residence and study can complete the entire application process online without having to visit an Immigration Office in person. Applicants can submit their visa applications, make payment and collect the visa/entry permits through the department’s mobile application, its website or the GovHK website. People may continue to use the existing methods to submit their applications and pay the fee. The eligibility criteria of relevant applications and fees will remain unchanged regardless of the submission method, the department added. For enquiries, call 2824 6111, or contact the department by fax at 2877 7711 or by email.
The Customs & Excise Department held the Hong Kong Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Programme 10th Anniversary Celebration Ceremony today and presented certificates to 29 new members of the programme and presented Hong Kong AEO Programme Partnership Scheme Awards. With "Bringing In & Going Global - Impetus for Hong Kong's Economy" as the theme, the ceremony reviewed the programme's development over the past decade. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Algernon Yau officiated at the ceremony with Commissioner of Customs & Excise Louise Ho. During the event, Ms Ho and Consul General of Indonesia in Hong Kong Ricky Suhendar represented the Governments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Indonesia to exchange the AEO Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) documents. Ms Ho and Director General of Indonesian Customs & Excise Askolani had earlier signed the documents. The department has ratified MRAs with 13 customs administrations of the Mainland, India, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Canada, Mexico and Indonesia. Under the MRAs, AEOs from the signatory countries or regions can enjoy reciprocal trade facilitation including reduced inspection rates and prioritised clearance. During the ceremony, Ms Ho and the Director General of the Department of Enterprise Management & Audited-based Control of Customs of the People's Republic of China Wang Sheng signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance AEO co-operation in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Witnessed by Mr Yau and Deputy Director-General of the Economic Affairs Department and Head of the Commercial Office of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR Liu Yajun, the signing ceremony was conducted through video-conferencing. Ms Ho said in addition to its traditional role as a law enforcer and gatekeeper, the department also takes up the role of an economic development promoter, adding that it will continue to develop the Hong Kong AEO programme. Since the implementation of the programme in 2012, 80 enterprises have been accredited.
I received a formal letter issued by the Central People's Government (CPG) in accordance with Article 11 of the National Security Law yesterday, which required the Chief Executive to submit a report to the CPG on the performance of duties of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in safeguarding national security since the implementation of the National Security Law, including relevant matters such as the work of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong SAR, with an attachment containing specified matters. I convened a meeting of the committee in respect of the matter. I hereby make a statement in the capacity as the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR and the chairperson of the committee. The top priority of the principle of “one country, two systems” is to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. According to Article 3 of the National Security Law, it is the duty of the Hong Kong SAR under the Constitution to safeguard national security. The executive authorities, legislature and judiciary of the Hong Kong SAR shall effectively prevent, suppress and impose punishment for any act or activity endangering national security. The Hong Kong SAR takes a clear and resolute stance on safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests. The National Security Law has been promulgated and implemented for more than two years. It has made significant contribution to maintaining order and security in Hong Kong. Not only has the law restored order, it has also reinforced the rule of law. Following transition from chaos to order, Hong Kong is advancing from stability to prosperity, with security and stability enhanced in all respects. I will summarise the relevant matters and submit a report to the central authorities as requested as soon as possible. In a recent case of public concern, that is the ad hoc admission of Timothy Wynn Owen, King's Counsel of the United Kingdom, granted by the High Court for representing Lai Chee-ying who was charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security and other offences, the Secretary for Justice made an application for leave to appeal against the judgment on the application for ad hoc admission. The Appeal Committee of the Court of Final Appeal dismissed the application of the Department of Justice this afternoon. In the report to be submitted to the CPG, I will mention this case and recommend that a request be made to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) to issue an interpretation in accordance with Article 65 of the National Security Law, in order to clarify the following question: Based on the legislative intent and objectives of the National Security Law, can an overseas solicitor or barrister who is not qualified to practise generally in Hong Kong participate by any means in the handling of work in cases concerning offence endangering national security? The underlying considerations and concerns of my recommendation for interpretation include: The National Security Law is a national law enacted under the principle of “one country, two systems” for safeguarding national sovereignty and security. It was enacted against the actual circumstances which had seriously endangered national security arising from the opposition to the proposed legislative amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, including massive outbreak of violence, advocacy for Hong Kong independence, and foreign interference in the affairs of Hong Kong. In an article published by the Office of the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong & Macao Affairs and the Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office of the State Council in April 2021, it was pointed out that the turmoil in 2019 was a “colour revolution” in Hong Kong, and in the light of such situation, the central authorities authorised the NPCSC to enact the National Security Law. The National Security Law has an overriding effect on the local laws of the Hong Kong SAR. Article 62 provides that this law shall prevail where provisions of the local laws of the Hong Kong SAR are inconsistent with this law. National security is a matter of top priority. We must implement the National Security Law effectively and prevent all types of risks endangering national security. National security risks are complex and vary frequently. Such risks include planning, conspiracy, collusion, provision of funds and other preparatory acts, which happen under concealment and out of sight at the early stages. Where collusion with external elements is involved, the latent acts may even take place overseas. Although such risks are generated before occurrence of substantive offences, they are not easy to detect. Therefore, prevention of acts and activities endangering national security is no easy task, and everyone should stay vigilant to them. Foreign countries and external elements are hostile towards the enactment and implementation of the National Security Law, and have on multiple occasions blatantly attempted to interfere in the implementation of the National Security Law. Out of their political interests and agenda, some foreign countries have announced or adopted measures against China and the Hong Kong SAR, including imposing various forms of “sanctions”, restrictions or prohibition on sale and use of products etc. Some foreign officials or politicians openly exerted pressure on the legal sector and even the business sector to boycott Hong Kong, preventing them from participating in normal activities in Hong Kong. Because of the relentless foreign interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, we must step up alertness to the national security risks it brings about.Various provisions of the National Security Law such as Articles 3, 8 and 42 require relevant authorities to perform the duty to effectively prevent acts and activities endangering national security. Under the prevailing system in the Hong Kong SAR, there is no effective means to eliminate any conflict of interests on the part of overseas solicitors or barristers with the national interests of their country; no effective means to ensure they would not be subject to the pressure, coercion or manipulation of governments, organisations or individuals of foreign countries; and no effective means to ensure they would comply with the confidentiality requirements in relation to state secrets, trade secrets or personal information which they come to know in the practice of law as stipulated in Article 63 of the National Security Law. In the light of these potential risks, is permitting such overseas solicitors or barristers to participate in the handling of national security cases consistent with the legislative intent and objectives of the National Security Law to safeguard national security? Hong Kong residents have the right to choice of lawyers. As explained in the case law, a defendant's right to choice of lawyers means a right to choose lawyers who are available and entitled to practise, and not overseas lawyers who are not qualified to practise. Therefore, even though defendants in cases concerning offence endangering national security cannot engage overseas lawyers, it is still consistent with the respect and protection of defendants' rights and freedom as required by Articles 4 and 5 of the National Security Law. As the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR and Chairperson of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong SAR, I am accountable to the CPG for affairs relating to safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR by virtue of Articles 11 and 12 of the National Security Law. Based on the above considerations, I will, in the report to be submitted to the CPG, recommend that a request be made to the NPCSC to interpret the relevant provisions of the National Security Law aforementioned or any other relevant provisions in order to clarify the above question. I will submit the report to the CPG as soon as possible, and request the central authorities to handle the matter expeditiously. Chief Executive John Lee issued the statement on November 28 on submitting a report to the central government on the National Security Law and recommendation to request an interpretation of the National Security Law from the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
The Civil Aid Service (CAS) held the Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Establishment of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and CAS 70th Anniversary Parade today at the Police College. Chief Secretary Chan Kwok-ki officiated at the ceremony and acted as the reviewing officer for the parade. To demonstrate national identity and patriotic sentiment for the motherland, the CAS has fully adopted from today, the Chinese-style foot drill that requires exacting standards, and demonstrated the drill's protocols for the first time in the parade. As an auxiliary force under the Security Bureau, the CAS has been honouring the pledge of "provide emergency relief, serve the community" and has been rendering immediate assistance during emergencies to protect Hong Kong citizens. During the COVID-19 epidemic, the CAS has remained steadfast on the front line of the anti-epidemic operations by rapidly assisting in setting up a number of community isolation facilities and managing quarantine hotels. In addition, it is committed to discharging duties related to typhoon rescues, fighting hill fires and searching for people who have gone missing in mountaineering accidents. Looking forward, the CAS will step up efforts to nurture more talent committed to serving the community and continue to safeguard the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.
Smart identity card replacement centres will not accept applications for the new smart identity card after February 11, 2023, while card collection service is maintained until March 3, 2023, the Immigration Department announced today. People who have missed their specified call-up periods and have not yet applied for a new smart identity card should call on one of the centres to make an application as soon as possible, the department urged. Hong Kong residents born in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 or 2000 should apply for a new smart identity card no later than December 10 this year. For Hong Kong residents born in 1954 or before, their specified period for identity card replacement will end on January 14 next year. The identity card replacement exercise covers all Hong Kong residents, be they permanent residents or non-permanent residents who are permitted to take up employment, make investments, reside or study in the city. Bookings can be made online, on the department’s mobile app or by calling the 24-hour hotline at 2121 1234. Call 2824 6111 for enquiries.
With regard to the 2019 anti-extradition amendment bill incidents, the Department of Justice today said its Special Duties Team had received 1,215 cases from Police and had given legal advice on 98.8% of them ie 1,201 cases. Responding to media enquiries, the department stressed that upon receipt of the evidence and relevant documents from the law enforcement agencies, its prosecutors always handle the cases expeditiously in accordance with the law and the Prosecution Code. For the anti-extradition amendment bill incidents, cases involving serious offences such as rioting and unlawful assembly are handled by the Special Duties Team of the department’s Prosecutions Division. Nevertheless, the law enforcement agencies do not necessarily refer all their cases to the department, it explained, as such cases may still be under investigation or no follow-up action is necessary for the time being. When evidence is considered insufficient to warrant a case referral or if the cases have been handled by the law enforcement agencies in accordance with internal procedures, such cases will not be relayed to the department, it added.
The Government announced today that the Correctional Services Academy will hold a grand performance and open day on December 10 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the renaming of the Prisons Department as the Correctional Services Department. The open day will also serve as a way to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Activities will include demonstrations by the dog unit and the regional response team, a Chinese-style foot drill demonstration by the guard of honour, a music performance by the marching band, exhibitions, game booths and an experiential activity. Additionally, members of the public can visit a number of “smart training” facilities at the academy that use new technologies, such as the e-theatre, the virtual reality training facility and the artificial intelligence Chinese-style foot drill learning station. The open day will be held from 10.30am to 5pm. People can apply for a set of four admission tickets online until December 4. The tickets will be allocated by computer ballot and successful applicants will receive an email notification on December 6.
The Government today gazetted a bill to propose the extension of the statutory time limit for the registration of deaths from natural causes from 24 hours to 14 days. It also proposes to remove the requirement for registration of births and deaths applicants to attend the registries in person. The Security Bureau said that relaxing the time limit for the registration of deaths from natural causes will allow relatives more time to handle after-death arrangements without running the risk of unintentionally breaching the law. Separately, the bill seeks to reflect the prevailing practice by specifying the duties for death registration with respect to the cause of death as opposed to where the death took place. Modernising the death registration regime through the proposed amendment can provide the legal basis for the introduction of electronic services for registration of births and deaths. The bureau added: “We also aim to provide more convenient services to the public by enabling the electronic submission of applications for registration of births and deaths.” The Births & Deaths Registration (Amendment) Bill 2022 will be introduced into the Legislative Council for the first and second readings on November 30.
Commissioner of Police Siu Chak-yee today tested positive for COVID-19 through a rapid antigen test (RAT) and a subsequent polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid test. He is undergoing isolation in accordance with the Centre for Health Protection's guidelines. Mr Siu last went to work on November 17. He wore masks and followed relevant disease prevention measures at work, including taking a RAT daily. Police have conducted thorough cleaning and disinfection operations at the office concerned. Mr Siu was earlier confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in August and had fully recovered afterwards. He attended the Disciplined Services Tennis Tournament yesterday and joined other participating officials in a tea break after the prize presentation ceremony. Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung, Commissioner of Customs & Excise Louise Ho, Commissioner of Correctional Services Wong Kwok-hing and Director of Fire Services Andy Yeung are identified as close contacts. They are undergoing home quarantine but tested negative by RAT today. The relevant officials had made acting arrangements. Operations of the departments will not be affected.