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The Judiciary today published the 2022 Guide to Judicial Conduct, an update to the 2004 edition. In the years since the judicial conduct guide was first published in 2004, the topic of judicial conduct has seen much discussion and development. Given the increasingly complex conditions in which judging takes place and the increased public interest in the work of judges and judicial officers (JJOs), the Judiciary considers it an appropriate time to review and update the guide. It has been revised to take into account the impact of the advancement in information technology, particularly the use of social media in daily life. The guidance on recusal and apparent bias has also been updated with reference to recent case law in this area. General principles on handling cases involving public controversies, as well as guidance on behaviour in court and making comments on parties and other people when performing judicial functions are also included. Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Andrew Cheung said: "I am confident that this new edition of the guide will continue to provide useful guidance to JJOs in maintaining the highest standards of judicial conduct and enable the public to better understand our judicial work and the uncompromised standards we set for ourselves."
Over the years, the use of technology has not only facilitated the day-to-day practice of the legal industry, but also strengthened Hong Kong’s position as the leading centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Department of Justice (DoJ) is always committed to encouraging and supporting the legal sector to strengthen lawtech capabilities as we move towards popularising lawtech in the long run. In this regard, I am glad to share with you the good news that the Electronic Business Related Arbitration & Mediation International Online Dispute Resolution Centre (eBRAM Centre) has been listed as one of the providers for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Collaborative Framework for Online Dispute Resolution of Cross-Border Business-to-Business Disputes (APEC ODR Framework). In August 2019, the APEC Economic Committee endorsed the APEC ODR Framework and model procedural rules, with micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as the major beneficiary. The APEC ODR Framework promotes the use of ODR by global enterprises, MSMEs in particular, to resolve low-value cross-border disputes. Hong Kong had opted into the APEC ODR Framework in April 2020. Representatives from Hong Kong, including experts from the eBRAM Centre, have been participating actively in the work under the APEC ODR Framework such as various APEC workshops and webinars as well as the APEC Economic Committee meetings. In June 2021, the eBRAM Centre launched the APEC ODR procedural rules tailor-made for the APEC ODR Framework, which aims to provide a fast and affordable resort to commercial disputes among the APEC economies to MSMEs through the use of electronic communications and other information technologies. In February 2022, the eBRAM Centre indicated to APEC its commitment to become an ODR service provider for APEC economies and certified its compliance with the APEC ODR Framework and its Model Procedural Rules. Earlier this month, the eBRAM Centre was officially listed by APEC on its website as one of the very first batch of ODR service providers under the APEC ODR Framework. This encouraging international development, together with the ongoing work undertaken by the Inclusive Global Legal Innovation Platform on ODR with support by the DoJ Project Office for Collaboration with UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) would further contribute to the international development and usage of ODR, which will, at the same time, strengthen the position of Hong Kong as a leading international dispute resolution centre. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on May 15.
The Government today stated that any law enforcement actions taken by the law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the people concerned, and have absolutely nothing to do with their profession or religion. It made the statement in response to media enquiries about five trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund arrested by Police's National Security Department. The Government said that no one is above the law, nor can anyone break the law without bearing responsibilities. No one enjoys privileges and if there is evidence that anyone has violated the law, he or she must face justice regardless of his or her status or background. Police investigations revealed that the arrested people are alleged to have begged foreign countries or external institutions to impose sanctions against Hong Kong, and are suspected of committing the offence of conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, in contravention of Article 29 of the National Security Law. The Government pointed out that acts and activities that endanger national security may have very serious consequences, and actions must be taken to prevent and suppress such acts and activities, to ensure that individuals endangering national security will face legal consequences. The Government stressed that the fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents are guaranteed under the Basic Law. Article 4 of the National Security Law also clearly stipulates that human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in Hong Kong; the rights and freedoms that Hong Kong residents enjoy under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong shall be protected in accordance with the law. The Government added it will continue to guard against any acts and activities endangering national security. Law enforcement departments will handle all people impartially in accordance with the law, regardless of their background.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng today spoke to lawyers on Hong Kong’s opportunities as an international and legal dispute resolution centre under the National 14th Five-Year Plan at a webinar. At the event attended by about 200 in-house counsel and lawyers in private practice, Ms Cheng pointed out that the 14th Five-Year Plan and the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area confirms the national policy to support Hong Kong to establish itself as the centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region. In this regard, measures rolled out by the Department of Justice, including the mutual recognition of and assistance to bankruptcy proceedings, matrimonial and family arrangements, and the soon-to-be enforced reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, provide a broad coverage of mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters between Hong Kong and the Mainland, facilitating the city’s integration into the country’s overall development. In the area of arbitration, she highlighted that following the signing of the interim measures arrangement with the Mainland, parties to arbitral proceedings seated in Hong Kong and administered by the six eligible arbitral institutions can now apply directly to the Mainland courts for interim measures. Besides, with the Outcome Related Fee Structures for Arbitration which will soon be in place, she is confident that the increasing client demand for pricing and fee flexibility will be met, hence reinforcing Hong Kong’s status as a leading arbitration centre. She also noted that the Regulations of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Co-operation Zone of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, as well as the Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on Providing Judicial Guarantee for the Building of Pilot Free Trade Zones demonstrate the feasibility for wholly owned Hong Kong enterprises to adopt Hong Kong law and choose for arbitration to be seated in Hong Kong. The department is now seeking a further liberalisation initiative for these enterprises with relevant Mainland authorities and striving to better implement such measures. On the support for online dispute resolution and lawtech, Ms Cheng announced that the eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre has been listed as one of the providers for the APEC Collaborative Framework for Online Dispute Resolution of Cross-Border Business-to-Business Disputes. Furthermore, the Hong Kong Legal Cloud has been launched to enable the provision of safe, secure and affordable data storage services for the local legal and dispute resolution sectors. In closing, Ms Cheng encouraged the legal practitioners to take part in the Second GBA Legal Professional Examination to seize the opportunities brought about by national policies, and advised them to capitalise on their strengths and complement national development.
Customs seized about 80,000 suspected counterfeit items with an estimated market value of more than $22 million and arrested five people during an operation against cross-boundary shipment and the local sale of fake goods. The seized goods included watches, mobile phone accessories, sunglasses and fashion accessories. Codenamed "Tracer II", the operation was conducted from April 26 to May 9. By gathering intelligence, Customs officers identified about 30 logistics companies in Yuen Long, Tsing Yi and Kwai Chung and performed strike-and-search operations. About 78,000 suspected counterfeit goods, worth an estimated value of about $21 million, were seized. After a follow-up investigation, the department believed that some of the suspected counterfeit goods would have been sold locally while the rest were for re-export to overseas destinations. It subsequently mounted two controlled delivery operations. During one of the operations on April 26, Customs officers raided a suspected counterfeit sports footwear retail shop in an industrial building in Kwun Tong. They seized about 880 suspected counterfeit items with an estimated market value of about $960,000 and arrested four men. Officers then arrested a female consignee in a Grade A office unit in Tsuen Wan on May 4 and seized 19 items of suspected counterfeit handbags, clothes and accessories with an estimated value of about $10,000. The five arrestees, aged 25 or 26, have been released on bail and an investigation is ongoing. Customs said it will continue to step up stringent inspections and enforcement to vigorously combat counterfeiting activities. People may call 2545 6182 or send an email to the department to report suspected counterfeiting activities.
Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung today said the Government will work on the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law as soon as possible. Speaking to the media at the Legislative Council Complex, Mr Tang explained that the consultation work on Article 23 has been postponed. “Originally, we were thinking that we should launch a public consultation on the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law in the first half of this year, but because of the COVID-19 epidemic situation, we have to focus on the fight against the virus.” He also noted that enacting the law is a complicated and serious matter. “We have to make sure that the new legislation is able to handle what happened in the past, what is happening in the current moment and also what will happen in the future. We have to be very cautious in working out a detailed and workable plan and we will try our best to do it as soon as possible.” Answering lawmakers’ questions this morning, Mr Tang pointed out there also practical needs to legislate on Article 23. He said since the reunification of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, there are deficiencies in the laws and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security. “In recent years, following the overall development of the state, many western countries regard China as a major competitor and even take a completely hostile position against it,” Mr Tang noted. Given Hong Kong's unique environment and lifestyles under the principle of “one country, two systems”, it is easy for external elements to infiltrate with malicious intention, or even attempt to foment “colour revolution”, subvert state power, as well as to promote and advocate Hong Kong independence, thus intensifying national security risks. Mr Tang said the Government will adhere to the principle of openness and transparency for publicity and explanatory work. He added that the work of formulating the legislative proposals is of a complicated nature and the Government will continue to proactively embrace challenges and handle the work proficiently.
Hong Kong’s law and order situation in the first quarter of this year remained stable, with a 6.2% drop in total crime cases compared to the same period last year, Police said today. A total of 13,866 crime cases were recorded in the period. Decreases were registered in robbery, burglary, wounding and serious assault, criminal intimidation, criminal damage, theft and serious drug offences. However, there were increases in cases of homicide, child abuse, deception and blackmail. The number of deception cases rose 29% to 5,378, over 70% of which were Internet-related. The rise was mainly driven by the upsurge of cases in online shopping, employment and investment fraud as well as telephone deception. There were less compensated dating and romance scam cases, but the pecuniary loss involved rose 31% to $14.3 million and $180 million. A total of 432 blackmail cases were recorded, an increase of 28.6% compared with the same period last year. The upsurge was mainly attributable to “naked chat” blackmail. As at March 31, Police arrested a total of 175 people in its efforts to enforce the National Security Law. Of that figure, over 110 people have been charged.
Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung today said the Government is considering the experience and methods of other countries and regions in tackling fake news and false information. Mr Tang told lawmakers the Home Affairs Bureau has commissioned a consultancy to study legislation enacted in overseas jurisdictions in recent years for regulating disinformation and provide recommendations regarding the ensuing legislative work. He pointed out that the laws of different places vary in terms of their legislative intent, application and execution, in addition, the topic of false information covers a wide range of issues. Not an instance has been found around the world where issues from the distribution of fake news, online false statements to false information for election manipulation can be collectively tackled by one single piece of legislation. Mr Tang said that the study will make reference to the legislation and enforcement experience of different countries and regions, with a view to working out a set of effective legal regulatory proposals appropriate to the local situations. He also noted that during the fifth wave of the epidemic, some members of the public claimed to have tested positive for COVID-19 on social platforms and flagrantly breached quarantine requirements and advocated COVID-19 confirmed patients to go around the city to spread the virus. Mr Tang said such inappropriate speech was made with an intention to undermine the Government's anti-epidemic work. The security chief emphasised that Police will not tolerate such acts and take appropriate enforcement action. As at April 30, 19 people have been arrested for inciting others to violate anti-epidemic measures, inciting others to vandalise government anti-epidemic facilities or disseminating false anti-epidemic messages.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng today signed a framework arrangement for collaboration with Chinese Institute of Hong Kong Executive Vice-President Prof Huang Ping who is authorised by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). Such an arrangement will enable exchanges and co-operation concerning rule of law research in an effort to continue fostering the building of Hong Kong's Rule of Law Database, which was officially launched in November last year. Under the arrangement, both sides will strive to strengthen, encourage and promote exchanges and co-operation in the area of rule of law research. The Chinese Institute of Hong Kong will also conduct dedicated studies on issues related to the rule of law and the building of a rule of law database with objective data. Under the co-ordination of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Chinese Institute of Hong Kong, the CASS may collaborate with experts in areas such as academic research. Ms Cheng said the CASS is a prestigious Mainland academic institution that focuses on the study of social sciences. As a branch of the CASS, the Chinese Institute of Hong Kong pools together academic and social resources in the city and the Mainland to initiate various types of research in social sciences. The signing of the framework arrangement for collaboration will be conducive to understanding the practice of rule of law based on analysis of objective data, she added. Hong Kong's Rule of Law Database is one of the important projects under the DoJ's Vision 2030 for Rule of Law initiative, collecting and collating objective data and research relating to the practice of rule of law.
The Fire Services Department (FSD) will thoroughly study the recommendations in the verdict of Coroner's Court concerning the fire-fighting operation of a No. 4 fire at Amoycan Industrial Centre in June 2016. It also conveyed its deepest condolences to the families of the two personnel who died during the operation. The department has implemented a series of improvement measures to enhance the safety and operational efficiency of frontline personnel after an interdepartmental task force formed after the No.4 fire made a number of recommendations. It has enhanced the operational procedures of breathing apparatus and established a team to provide logistical support in relation to the operation of such apparatus at incidents. Additionally, new ancillary equipment on breathing apparatus has been introduced such as the firefighter locator system and retractable personal lines to facilitate rescue operations. The department has improved the arrangement for rest areas at incidents, devised guidelines on frontline work and rest schedules under hot or inclement weather, stepped up training on staff awareness of heat-related illnesses and relevant preventive measures. It has also issued a safety alert on prevention of heat stroke and reminders upon the issuance of the “Very Hot Weather Warning” signal. The FSD has been working closely with other departments to conduct inspections and take enforcement action in mini-storage premises since June 2016. As at April 30 this year, the department had inspected 1,222 mini-storage premises and found 3,222 common fire hazards in 959 mini-storage premises. Notices were issued to the operators concerned requiring them to abate the fire hazards within specified periods, with prosecutions having been instituted against 221 operators for failing to comply. The Fire Safety (Industrial Buildings) Ordinance, implemented in 2020, mandates that owners and occupiers of pre-1987 industrial buildings upgrade the provision of fire service installations and equipment and fire safety construction, as per the instructions of the directors of the FSD and the Buildings Department. The fire safety standards of all premises inside the old industrial buildings, including mini-storage premises, are subject to the ordinance and have to comply with the direction to carry out fire safety improvement works.