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It gives me great pleasure to be speaking at this online briefing session of the China Development Forum (CDF). Last year, for the first time, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was invited to attend and speak at CDF's annual forum held in Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. That was a privilege for me and interacting with many multinational companies was a real opportunity for promoting Hong Kong. Subsequent to that, with the support of CDF, Hong Kong was supposed to have a special session in this year's forum which unfortunately could not materialise because of COVID-19. At the forum in March last year, I talked about the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area on which an Outline Development Plan was promulgated just a month before then. It was some 15 months ago, but it felt like more distant past because it has been so eventful for Hong Kong since then. I believe that this is an opportune time for me to give you an update about our city. Significant development The most significant development in Hong Kong recently is no doubt the National People’s Congress’ decision to establish and improve legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security, which is also the theme of today’s briefing session. This decision, which is the first one made by the National People’s Congress in respect of Hong Kong matters, is being hailed as the most significant development in the relationship between the central authorities and the Hong Kong SAR since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland 23 years ago. Its significance is multifaceted. It shows that the central government is determined to restore stability in Hong Kong, after a year of escalating violence and riots since last June. It shows that the central government is determined to protect the vast majority of law-abiding citizens in Hong Kong from the minority who attempted to undermine national security. It also shows that the central government is determined to preserve and better “one country, two systems”, a principle underlying Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity since the Hong Kong SAR was established 23 years ago. As you all know, national security is a matter under the purview of the central authorities, whether it is in China or in any other countries in the world. As the highest organ of state power in China, and Hong Kong SAR being an inalienable part of China, the National People's Congress no doubt has the power under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China to enact legislation for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security. It is true that as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong SAR has been given the duty and obligation to enact local legislation to safeguard national security. But this act of faith in the SAR does not mean that the central authorities have given up their constitutional power, nor should they continue to tolerate risks posed to the nation's sovereignty, security and development interest as a result of a legal vacuum in the Hong Kong SAR. After all, national security is not only about the 7.4 million people in Hong Kong, it affects our country's 1.4 billion population. As the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR, directly accountable to the Central People's Government and the Hong Kong SAR, I have to acknowledge and confess the hard fact, that is, the Hong Kong SAR is unable to enact laws in relation to national security under Article 23 of the Basic Law under the present circumstances. The almost malfunctioning of the Legislative Council, the anti-establishment camp's open resistance of any national security legislation and the demonisation of Article 23 over the years render it almost impossible to complete the task in the foreseeable future. Without the necessary legal system and enforcement mechanisms in place, Hong Kong has become a gaping hole in national security. This has become intolerable when our city has been traumatised by the escalating violence fanned by external forces since last June. The emergence of various incidents involving explosives and firearms has posed the risk of terrorism, seriously jeopardising public safety. During this period, organisations advocating Hong Kong independence and self-determination incited protesters, especially young people, to desecrate and burn the national flag openly, vandalise the national emblem and storm the Central People's Government's office in Hong Kong. These acts smeared the implementation of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong and challenged openly the authority of the central government and the Hong Kong SAR Government. Further, some of the political parties' members proclaimed many times that they would paralyse the Hong Kong SAR Government. Some other people begged for foreign governments to interfere with Hong Kong's affairs or even to impose sanctions on Hong Kong. This kind of behaviour has crossed the baseline of "one country", sabotaging the relationship between the Central People's Government and the Hong Kong SAR, threatening China's sovereignty and national security and challenging the authority of the central government and the Basic Law. It is impossible to expect the central government to turn a blind eye to all these. So, the National People’s Congress’ decision to enact legislation for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security is a strong and direct response to the situation in Hong Kong. It is a decision not taken lightly, and is a decision which is urgently needed to restore stability in Hong Kong and to protect the people's interests. Reassuring provisionsGiven the significance of the National People's Congress decision, it is only natural for people to be eager to know its impact and implications on Hong Kong's future. For many multinational companies which have presence in Hong Kong, I believe that your key concern would be whether Hong Kong will continue to be the ideal place for your companies to thrive. To this, my response would be a resounding yes. First, the legislation only targets acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security. Obviously these are not acts and activities that law-abiding companies or citizens will be engaged in. The vast majority of people, including the law-abiding multinational companies, should welcome the return of stability and law and order which have made Hong Kong one of the world's safest cities for many years. Second, the National People’s Congress has made it clear in its decision and the relevant explanatory statement that the legislation will be guided by a number of fundamental principles. These principles include firmly safeguarding national security; upholding and improving "one country, two systems"; adhering to governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law; resolutely opposing external interference; and substantially safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents. From the summary of the explanatory statement to the draft legislation presented to the National People's Congress Standing Committee on June 18, which was carried in a Xinhua report released on June 20, these fundamental principles are clearly enshrined in the proposed legislation which embraced important legal concepts as well as the protection of the legitimate rights and freedoms of individuals. Enactment of national security legislation will not change the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by the Hong Kong SAR; it will have no impact on the Hong Kong SAR’s judicial independence, including that of final adjudication as enshrined in the Basic Law. I believe that both businesses and Hong Kong people should find these provisions very reassuring. When you read some overseas media reports or comments by foreign governments and politicians, you might feel this was not the impression you got. There are allegations that Hong Kong is facing a death knell or the principle of "one country, two systems" is proclaimed dead. But let us pause for a moment and ask: who has the greatest stake in ensuring the continued success of "one country, two systems"? And who has been supporting Hong Kong over the past 23 years to ensure its stability and prosperity? The answer should be obvious. Under the "one country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong's capitalist system, free economy and trusted legal system remain as robust as ever, and the free flow of capital within, into and out of Hong Kong is guaranteed. Hong Kong continues to thrive as an international financial centre, and as a gateway between the Mainland and the world. In short, "one country, two systems" has proved itself to be the best constitutional arrangement for the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. Both the central government and the people of Hong Kong are determined to uphold "one country, two systems". Since the decision has been made, the Hong Kong SAR Government has been fending off quite a lot of unfair criticisms against it, including those from foreign governments. My observations on those behaviours could be summed up by two terms - one is double standards and the other is hypocrisy. On the former, all those countries which have pointed their fingers at China have their own national security legislation in place. And their governments have been using national security reasons to justify many of their awkward acts and decisions. Hong Kong is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China and why would it be inhibited from enacting legislation to protect its own soil and its own nationals? On point about hypocrisy, we have heard vocal remarks about granting citizenship to Hong Kong people or threatening sanctions in order to stand with the people of Hong Kong. We await the likely outcome of these gesturing rhetoric when their own people or domestic politics render those acts unpopular at home. On our part, we are not unduly worried by such unilateral threat of sanction. Hong Kong will continue to rely on her fundamental strengths of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, free and open trade policy, level playing field, free flow of capital, etc. Hong Kong will remain a welcoming, resilient and competitive global economy, playing an irreplaceable role in bringing international and Mainland markets and companies together. But I will not shy away from acknowledging the damage done to Hong Kong's competitiveness and international reputation by the escalated violence and perceived insecurity since last June. Since early this year, we lost a few world laurels: the Washington-based Heritage Foundation ranked Hong Kong second in the world in its latest Index of Economic Freedom. The result, after a quarter century of topping the index, was disappointing but not unexpected. The drop in our score was mainly due to security issues which brought down Hong Kong's score in investment freedoms. In the latest Global Financial Centres Index, Hong Kong dropped from third to sixth, but our strengths on the financial services aspects remain obvious, which cover our freely convertible currency, our world-class banking system and stock market and the professionals who power our financial sector. It helps that Hong Kong again topped the world last year in funds raised through initial public offerings, taking in some US$40 billion. This year, despite an exceedingly challenging environment, we are optimistic as the Hong Kong Exchange has welcomed a couple of major Mainland firms which are listed in the United States to come to Hong Kong for secondary listing. Just a week ago, the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development released its annual World Competitiveness Yearbook ranking. Hong Kong placed fifth, still ahead of such nations as Sweden, Canada, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. While that was down from second last year, our rankings in government efficiency and business efficiency remained unchanged, at first and second respectively. Moreover, our rankings rose from second to first globally in the legal and regulatory framework indicator, and from 19th to first in exchange rate stability. Such top-of-the-world ratings only reaffirm Hong Kong's institutional strengths, particularly in legal and monetary affairs. Talking about exchange rate stability, I would like to take the opportunity to squash any rumour surrounding Hong Kong's Linked Exchange Rate System, which ensures that the Hong Kong dollar's exchange rate remains stable with respect to US dollar. The system has served Hong Kong and the world well since it was implemented in 1983, and it will continue to do so. We do not need the United States' approval to implement the system, and we have no plan to change it. We also have the ability to defend it from any malicious attack, given the robust health of the Hong Kong banking sector, and the US$440 billion in our foreign exchange reserve. That, by the way, is more than twice our monetary base. Unique advantagesFurther to our fundamental strengths, we continue to enjoy unique advantages brought about by the continuous opening up of the Mainland economy, and our active participation in major national initiatives including the Belt & Road and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Also, in recent years, we have been doubling our efforts in diversifying our markets, including more focus on the fast-growing ASEAN economies, which as a whole was Hong Kong's second largest trading partner and destined to grow. So Hong Kong does have a lot of opportunities going forward. What we need most now is for the society to get back to normal. This is not only about what the national security legislation aims to achieve that I mentioned at length, but also about the COVID-19 epidemic. So far, our response has worked well. Hong Kong has never had a complete city lockdown or entirely closed our borders; except the suspension of classes for over four months and the practice of work from home by the Hong Kong SAR Government and many private enterprises, Hong Kong people are generally able to move around. Hong Kong has been among the global communities least affected by the virus in terms of the total number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths, which stood at 1,177 and six respectively. This is due to a collective coming together, with all sectors of the Hong Kong community doing our part for the common cause. Since a month ago, we have moved into the state of relaxation under the suppress and lift strategy. Most of the social distancing measures have been eased, transit and passenger transfer services at the Hong Kong International Airport resumed, theme parks reopened, and students back to school. Subject to the necessary precautionary measures, basically all business premises can operate now. Hopefully the easing of the social distancing measures would inject some much needed impetus to the economy. Our economy plunged 8.9% in the first quarter year-on-year, which was a record collapse. Unemployment recently soared to 5.9%, which was the highest in more than 15 years, and the reality is that the figure may go further up, amid hopefully at a slower pace. The latest forecast for 2020 is negative growth of 4% to 7%. In view of the unprecedented challenge, my Government has taken some exceptional measures to support our enterprises and our people. These measures involve a total of US$37 billion, including the establishment of an Anti-epidemic Fund of over US$20 billion. One of the measures is the Employment Support Scheme, which offers a 50% wage subsidy to employers for a period of six months up to November this year with a view to retaining the jobs of the employees. In short, we are determined to mitigate the economic fallout of the epidemic, to safeguard businesses and employees as best we can in the short term. In doing so, we hope to ensure Hong Kong's long-term economic recovery. Hong Kong's advantages and the many national initiatives that I talked about just now will serve us well down the road. Above all, Hong Kong people's resilience and our Lion Rock spirit will continue to ensure our success. To conclude, Hong Kong is determined to conquer the political, social and epidemiological crises that have so harmed our economy and shaken our community over the past year. The national security law is our antivirus software and a beacon of hope. It will guide us to a better future and restore our glory as the Pearl of the Orient, a proud Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the online briefing session of the China Development Forum on June 23.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng today said she will lead the Department of Justice to provide full support to the legislative work for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Ms Cheng made the statement in response to the summary of the explanatory statement by an official of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the 19th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th NPC on June 18 on a draft law on safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR. She stated the passage of the decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security by the NPC on May 28, and the enactment of the legislation by the Standing Committee of the NPC for inclusion in Annex III of the Basic Law to be promulgated by the Hong Kong SAR are premised on constitutional and legal grounds. The legislation only aims to prevent, curb and sanction an extremely small minority of criminals who threaten national security, so as to safeguard the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the implementation of "one country, two systems". Ms Cheng noted that Article 4 of the decision stipulates that the Hong Kong SAR must establish and improve institutions and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security to strengthen enforcement power and the enforcement work on national security. It is also set out in the explanatory statement that a commission for safeguarding national security should be set up by the Hong Kong SAR. Ms Cheng explained that the Department of Justice, as one of the government departments which shoulder the major responsibilities in implementing the relevant enforcement work, will establish a dedicated unit to handle prosecutions in relation to national security. She also stressed that Hong Kong has experienced social unrest with frequent violence over the past year and that there is even advocacy of independence. Ms Cheng emphasised that in view of the serious situation Hong Kong is facing in relation to national security and the difficulty of the executive and legislative authorities to complete their own legislation for safeguarding national security in the foreseeable future, there is a need and emergency for the NPC to improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security at the national level. “The explanatory statement clearly points out that the Hong Kong SAR, in safeguarding national security, should respect and protect human rights and freedoms which are applicable in Hong Kong under the Basic Law, the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights.” The provisions should be able to address public concerns, Ms Cheng added.
Secretary for Security John Lee and the heads of six disciplined services departments fully support the legislative work for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. An official of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) made an explanatory statement at the 19th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th NPC on June 18 on a draft law on safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR of the People's Republic of China. In a statement today, it said Mr Lee, Commissioner of Police Tang Ping-keung, Commissioner of Customs & Excise Hermes Tang, Director of Fire Services Joseph Leung, Commissioner of Correctional Services Woo Ying-ming, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Controller of the Government Flying Service Wu Wai-hung fully support the enactment of the legislation by the central authorities to safeguard national security in the Hong Kong SAR. Mr Lee will lead the disciplinary forces to discharge their duties, ensuring the effective implementation of the relevant law in Hong Kong for safeguarding national security. It noted that the Hong Kong SAR Government agrees that, as proposed in the draft law, the Hong Kong SAR should establish a commission for safeguarding national security to be chaired by the Chief Executive, as well as set up dedicated units in the Police Force and the Department of Justice which will shoulder the major responsibilities in implementing the relevant enforcement work. The Security Bureau will render its full support and is undertaking the relevant preparatory work. The statement pointed out that the enactment of the legislation for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security aims to prevent, curb and sanction criminal acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces which endanger national security. It will only target an extremely small minority of criminals who endanger national security, while the safety and basic rights of the vast majority of law-abiding Hong Kong citizens will be protected, and safeguarding the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. The draft law requires the protection of the rights of suspects, as well as the legitimate rights enjoyed by members of the public, legal persons or organisations in accordance with the Basic Law. It stressed that the legislation will not affect the various rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents under the law. Mr Lee said each country has its national security laws and specific enforcement agencies and it is the duty of every responsible government to have such laws. “Safeguarding national security and the rule of law in Hong Kong is the cornerstone to maintain 'one country, two systems', ensuring the long-term stability and safety of Hong Kong. “People can enjoy a peaceful life, society restores peace, people's livelihood and the economy resume development, and Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability are preserved."
Secretary for Security John Lee visited Macau today to learn about the city's work in safeguarding national security and its latest developments. He met Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng, who briefed him on the legislative process, considerations and experiences concerning the city’s enactment of the national security law. Mr Lee then met Macau Secretary for Security Wong Sio-chak to exchange views on Macau’s experiences regarding its implementation of the national security law since 2009. Macau has put in place effective measures at the policymaking and implementation levels to safeguard national security, including the establishment of the National Security Committee in 2018 to formulate policies and co-ordinate initiatives. Macau authorities are planning to set up new government departments and divisions to strengthen enforcement of national security. According to the National People’s Congress’ decision, the introduction of the national security law applicable to Hong Kong aims to prevent, stop and punish acts and activities seriously endangering national security. During the exchanges, Mr Lee learnt about Macau authorities’ experiences in such areas, including the importance of preventative work in reducing threats to national security. Since Macau enacted the national security law, its society has become more stable and the economy has developed desirably. In 2019, its gross domestic product was 2.5 times as much as before the law became effective, while that year the unemployment rate marked a record low and the number of inbound travellers has since risen by 80%. This shows that the law has had a positive impact on Macau’s society and has enabled a more robust economic development. Macau’s example shows that national security is an important prerequisite and foundation for maintaining the prosperity and stability of society. Mr Lee stressed that introducing the national security law to Hong Kong ensures its long-term security and helps continue the development of its economy and people’s livelihoods.
The subject of privation prosecution has attracted some media interests recently. Noting that the legal proceedings of some private prosecutions are reportedly taking place, I am mindful of refraining from giving substantive comments but outlining the basic principles concerning private prosecution. The practice of private prosecution was a common practice in days immemorial before a public body that oversaw public prosecution was set up. This right of an ordinary citizen remains notwithstanding the establishment of public prosecution bodies in modern times. In the past 10 years, the number of private prosecutions brought to the attention of the Department of Justice (DoJ) was limited. The Secretary for Justice had intervened. Yet in recent times some have availed themselves of such right and it is pertinent that the procedures and principles are properly understood to avoid abuse of process, wasting of judicial resources and most importantly jeopardising the administration of criminal justice. There are apparently no express rules governing the court procedures applicable to private prosecutions. Some principles are laid down in the Prosecution Code as a guidance but they do not represent the full ambit of the law or the pertaining legal principles. At the moment, based on the cases, a private prosecution is instituted when a complainant submits evidence to the court for consideration on whether or not to issue a summons to the defendant. There are no set procedures on whether a hearing must be convened, whether the DoJ should be notified, allowed to participate as an observer or allowed to make representations. From the practice, it is observed that any oral hearing, if held, will be conducted ex-parte, that is, only the complainant is present. However, a complainant is generally not entitled to obtain witness statements or other investigatory materials from Police. If a complainant intends to exercise the right to institute private prosecution, the complainant would be responsible for gathering evidence. In considering whether or not to issue a summons, the magistrate has to consider whether the allegation is of an offence known to the law, and if so, whether on the face of it, the essential ingredients of the offence are present. In other words, the court has to decide if a prima facie case has been established by the evidence presented to it. By prima facie, one means generally that taking the evidence presented to the highest, whether a reasonable and properly directed jury will be able to convict. After the institution of the proceedings and whatever procedures that are adopted by the magistrate, the court will decide if a summons will be issued to the defendant to state the matter of the complaint and to summon him to appear before the court on a particular day to answer the complaint or information. There is no requirement for the magistrate to give a written reason for the decision to issue a summons. The decision of the magistrate is amenable to judicial review irrespective of the steps that would be taken by the Secretary for Justice. Section 14(1) of the Magistrates Ordinance states that: A complainant or informant who is not acting or deemed to act on behalf of the Secretary for Justice may if he so wishes and without any prior leave conduct in person or by counsel on his behalf the prosecution of the offence to which the complaint or information relates but the Secretary for Justice may at any stage of the proceedings before the magistrate intervene and assume the conduct of the proceedings and may within the time limited by section 104 for applying for a review intervene for the purpose of applying for or being made a party to any review. Section 14(2) of the Ordinance stipulates that as from the date of any such intervention the Secretary for Justice shall be deemed to be a party to the proceedings or the review in lieu of such complainant or informant. Once the magistrate has issued a summons, at any stage of the proceedings, the Secretary for Justice is entitled to intervene in the private prosecution to assume the conduct of those proceedings. The Secretary for Justice may prevent the prosecution from continuing by withdrawing the summons, declining to sign the charge sheet or indictment, or take over and continue the prosecution, or let the private prosecution continue. In short, the Secretary for Justice can intervene to withdraw the charge, to apply for a permanent stay of proceedings or to offer no evidence against the defendant. The Secretary for Justice should consider a number of factors when deciding whether or not to take over a private prosecution and what steps to follow after such intervention. A number of factors by way of example have been set out in the Prosecution Code to guide the work of the Department of Justice. Important principles have been laid down by some precedent cases. Similarly, the decision of the Secretary for Justice whether or not to take over may be judicially reviewable. The right to institute a private prosecution is an important feature of the common law system. However, it might be open to abuse. Private prosecutions which are groundless or frivolous or brought out of improper motives or political considerations should not be condoned. As the Department of Justice has the constitutional duty to control criminal prosecutions under Article 63 of the Basic Law, we have an obligation to intervene in and discontinue a private prosecution which is considered to have no reasonable prospect of conviction, be contrary to the public interest, be brought out of improper motives, or constitute an abuse of process, etc. Indeed, where proceedings would amount to an abuse of process, the Department of Justice should ask the court to order that those proceedings be stayed. The abuse of such process is also pertinent when considered in this perspective. A private prosecutor brings a case on a prima facie standard, a summons was issued by the magistrate. The trial continues and the private prosecutor is not able to discharge the burden of proof to a standard of beyond reasonable doubt and the defendant is discharged. The defendant will not be able to be prosecuted again in light of the principle against double jeopardy. Hence speed in bringing forth a private prosecution is not always advantageous and indeed may result in extremely unfair result. It is exactly for these and other reasons that the Secretary for Justice has the right to intervene to ensure that justice is administered. As a reminder, if a complainant institutes an unmeritorious private prosecution and fails, the complainant may be liable to pay costs to the defendant. If the prosecution is brought maliciously, the complainant may even face civil liability to pay compensation to the defendant. If the matter is taken to judicial review, then issue of costs will arise too. We are determined to promote fair, just and consistent decision-making at all stages of the prosecution process. Any wrong decision in prosecutions will inevitably damage the confidence of the community in the criminal justice system. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for the Department of Justice to strike a balance between the right of private prosecutions and shouldering our responsibility of avoiding unnecessary and unjustifiable prosecutions. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on June 16.
(To watch the whole media session with sign language interpretation, click here.) Chief Executive Carrie Lam today reiterated that the National People's Congress (NPC) will be guided by five main principles in drafting the national security legislation for Hong Kong. Speaking ahead of the Executive Council meeting this morning, Mrs Lam said: "About comments made by the deputy director of the Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office yesterday on an occasion to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law, without the details about the provisions in the legislation and how they are going to be applied, it is not possible for me - and not appropriate because I am not party to the lawmaking institution - to comment on the individual comments made by my Mainland counterparts." She pointed out that the important principles guiding the lawmaking process are laid down in the explanatory statement to the draft decision discussed by the NPC leading to the approval on May 28. "Included in the five main principles are the principles to ensure that there is full compliance with this very important principle of 'one country, two systems', that everything has to be done in accordance with the law, and the legitimate rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people are being safeguarded and protected." Mrs Lam added that subsequent to the explanatory statement, the Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office issued on May 29 another statement elaborating on the important principles and reiterating that the legislation will not change Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and will not affect judicial independence, including that of final adjudication.
Police today urged members of the public to avoid joining unauthorised assemblies and prohibited group gatherings. The force said that an organiser had filed a notification to hold a public meeting and procession on Hong Kong Island this afternoon. It regarded the public meeting and procession to be high-risk activities, adding that any group gatherings taking place during the ongoing pandemic can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. To maintain public order and safety, and protect the rights and freedom of others, Police had issued a letter of objection to the organiser. The force reiterated that anyone participating in such events may be found guilty of taking part in an unauthorised assembly in accordance with the Public Order Ordinance and liable to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. By engaging in such events, people may also violate the prohibition of group gatherings under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation, the force said. Police stressed that they do not condone illegal acts and will take resolute action to enforce the law. Additionally, such unauthorised assemblies and prohibited group gatherings will likely cause serious obstruction to traffic on Hong Kong Island, potentially leading to delays in emergency services, Police said. The force will take into consideration different traffic conditions and implement temporary route diversions as well as traffic control measures accordingly.
The Government today announced the mechanism for legal practitioners providing necessary professional services in relation to important and large-scale commercial transactions to apply for exemption from the compulsory quarantine arrangement. The Department of Justice (DoJ) has started processing applications. Legal practitioners should submit the completed application form with all required supporting documents to the DoJ by email. Under the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation, the Chief Secretary may designate any person or category of people for exemption from the quarantine arrangement if their travelling is necessary for purposes relating to the provision of professional services in the interest of Hong Kong's economic development. The Chief Secretary has recently exempted qualified legal practitioners who travel from the Mainland, Macau or Taiwan to Hong Kong to provide legal services that require on-site physical presence in relation to important and large-scale commercial transactions from compulsory quarantine. Legal practitioners who return to Hong Kong from the Mainland, Macau or Taiwan after provision of legal services that require on-site physical presence in relation to such transactions are also exempted. After arriving in Hong Kong, the exempted person will be subject to medical surveillance arranged by the Department of Health for 14 days. Currently, travellers to the Mainland and Macau would still be subject to the 14-day compulsory quarantine requirement imposed by authorities in those places. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is discussing with Mainland and Macau authorities about mutual recognition of COVID-19 testing results conducted by recognised medical laboratories to exempt the quarantine requirement for Hong Kong travellers to those places. Click here for details.
Many have made their suggestions to the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in respect of the work by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) and some made their points or letters public. Last Friday, I noticed one of the bodies representing a branch of the legal profession made some suggestions in an open statement. Yet the proprietary or feasibility of such opinions or suggestions must be viewed in context of the legal and constitutional structure of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and with the proper background and understanding of the nature of the decision and the legislation to be enacted. Pursuant to the authorisation set out in Article 6 of the decision passed by the National People’s Congress (NPC) on May 28, the national security law is to be enacted by the NPCSC, and after consulting the Basic Law Committee and the Government of the Hong Kong SAR, it will be added to Annex III of the Basic Law to be promulgated by the Hong Kong SAR and applicable to the Hong Kong SAR. It will also be in Annex III and part of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has two legal systems, the civil law system and the common law system. It is impracticable and unreasonable to expect that everything in a national law, the national security law, will be exactly as what a statute in the Hong Kong SAR common law jurisdiction would be like. Yet of course, the legislation should be clear and understood in the Hong Kong SAR. As I have stated on many occasions with various media, there are a number of commonalities between the civil and common law systems respectively in the Mainland and the Hong Kong SAR, such as retrospectivity, presumption of innocence, burden of proof and standard of proof, legal certainty etc. This point was similarly made with more details on PRC law, by the Deputy Director of the Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, Mr Zhang Xiaoming, in his speech on June 8 in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law. His speech and that of the Vice-Chairperson of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee under the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Mr Zhang Yong, are available here. Discussions generated on a sunset clause are also interesting. The NPCSC has the power to add or delete from the list of laws in Annex III after consulting the Basic Law Committee and the Government of the Hong Kong SAR, and as such there is indeed no need for what has been described as a “sunset clause”. To properly embark on such discussions, it may be useful to remember that the national security law to be enacted by the NPCSC is a national legislation providing for the legal framework and enforcement mechanism from a national level. In Article 3 of the decision of the NPC, it also stated that the Hong Kong SAR should as soon as possible complete the legislation that has to be done for national security in accordance with the requirements of the Basic Law. Such legislation to be passed in the Hong Kong SAR will be dealing with national security from the perspective of the SAR and may well not be the complete ambit of national security that affects 1.4 billion people. In summary, the decision of the NPC and the enactment of the legislation by the NPCSC for inclusion in Annex III of the Basic Law to be promulgated by the Hong Kong SAR are premised on constitutional and legal grounds. The circumstances facing Hong Kong and indeed as more clearly evidenced by the uncalled for reactions of some countries really reinforce the need and urgency for the same. Finally, it was stated clearly in the decision, “safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, upholding and improving the ‘one country, two systems’ regime, maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents.” Therefore, the legislation to be enacted for the Hong Kong SAR only aims to prevent, curb and sanction an extremely small minority of criminals who threaten national security, so as to safeguard the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the implementation of "one country, two systems". Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on June 14.
Police today urged the public not to take part in unauthorised assemblies and prohibited group gatherings. The appeal came as some people have called on members of the public to participate in public events in multiple districts throughout Hong Kong tonight. Police reiterated that anyone who participates in such events may be found guilty of taking part in an unauthorised assembly in accordance with the Public Order Ordinance and liable to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. They emphasised that engaging in public gatherings will also increase the risk of transmission of the virus in the community and those doing so may commit certain offences under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation. Police stressed they do not condone any illegal or violent acts and will take resolute action to enforce the law, including making arrests.