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The ceremonial opening of the legal year 2020 was held at City Hall in Central today. Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma inspected the Ceremonial Guard mounted by the Hong Kong Police. In a speech, he said that he was aware of the volume of cases that are before the courts relating to the events of the past seven months, adding that the vast majority of cases are at this moment simply not ready for trial. “In order to cope with the expected high volume of cases, the Judiciary has made plans to deal with such cases (at whatever level of court) expeditiously. “A task group has been set up for some time now to look into how best and how expeditiously our courts can cope with these cases. Relevant stakeholders will be consulted on suggested measures. These include proposals to sit extended hours. “I must, however, emphasise that while expedition is desirable and we will do our best to achieve this, it is important to bear in mind the overall importance of a fair trial.” Mr Ma also noted that anyone is entitled to criticise and comment on the work of the courts, but they must be on an informed basis. So far as the cases related to recent events are concerned, one must bear in mind the constitutional requirement of a fair trial, he added. Also speaking at the event, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said the state of turmoil in Hong Kong in 2019 has put us through the most difficult times. She added that many of Hong Kong’s core values have been under challenge and the core value closest to our hearts, the rule of law, is no exception. “In ordering the continuation of an interim injunction to restrain doxxing and harassment against police officers on an internet-based platform, the High Court reminded that ‘the promotion and maintenance of the rule of law is not sensibly or rationally pursued by repeated and escalating breaches of the law’, and ‘persons who commit such crimes are simply, and properly described as, 'criminals'. “Criminal activity does not cease to be criminal activity simply because the actor believes himself or herself to be acting for a particular, perhaps higher, cause". Given that this was the final occasion that Mr Ma would address the Opening of the Legal Year before his retirement in January next year, Ms Cheng conveyed her sincere appreciation for his contribution to the rule of law, and efforts in retaining and attracting talent of the highest professional quality for the Judiciary to administer justice.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung today officiated at the Kick-off Ceremony of Celebration Events & Carnival for 100th Anniversary of the Correctional Services Department. The event was held at Tai Kwun, Central to mark the start of a series of events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the department’s establishment. A dance performance was presented to show the transformation of correctional services over the century, from emphasising safe custody, to focusing on custodial and rehabilitative services. The ceremony also featured game booths and an old uniforms demonstration by correctional staff. An augmented reality booth allowing the public to create photos of themselves wearing vintage uniforms and a 3D special effects photo booth highlighting illustrations of the department’s development were also set up. Addressing the ceremony, Mr Cheung said the department has kept up with the times since its establishment in 1920. He noted that the department has strived to maintain highly disciplined correctional facilities in a secure, safe and professional manner, while it implemented a wide variety of schemes and programmes to promote community rehabilitation. He pointed out that over the past century, the department progressed with the times by working diligently behind the scenes and making an enormous contribution to public safety and crime prevention in Hong Kong. Mr Cheung also commended the department for their relentless efforts in encouraging the public to accept and treat rehabilitated people kindly and promoting messages on law-abiding and inclusive values. Click here for details of the celebration events.
Immigration officers arrested 25 suspected illegal workers and nine suspected employers in citywide raids from January 6 to 9. The offenders were arrested at 31 locations including commercial buildings, a construction site, a hair salon, massage parlours, premises under renovation, restaurants, stores and a watch maintenance centre. Two workers were holders of recognisance forms that prohibit them from accepting employment. Another seven were suspected of possessing and using forged Hong Kong identity cards. The department reminded employers not to hire illegal workers and warned visitors not to take up employment in Hong Kong without permission from the Director of Immigration. Illegal immigrants or those subject to removal or deportation orders should not take up any employment or establish or join any business, it added.
Customs have smashed four fitness centres and arrested 16 people for engaging in unfair trade practices in contravention of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance in an operation over the past two months. The arrestees, aged between 22 and 56, had allegedly engaged in aggressive commercial practices when selling fitness services involving $660,000 in service contracts. Of them, seven are directors and seven are salespeople at the fitness centres in Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei. In some cases, victims were even taken to another retail shop for high-value consumption. Report unfair trade practices via the Customs & Excise Department’s hotline 2545 6182 or its crime-reporting email account.
The Government issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert today on Iran due to the latest situation there. It said Hong Kong people should avoid non-essential travel to the country, while those who are already there should monitor the situation, exercise caution, attend to their personal safety and avoid large gatherings. Hong Kong residents in Iran who need assistance can call the Immigration Department at (852) 1868 or the Chinese Embassy in Iran at (98) 912-2176035. The Security Bureau will closely monitor the situation and will issue updates through the media and the bureau's mobile app and webpage. Hong Kong people can use the Immigration Department’s online Registration of the Outbound Travel Information service to register their contact details and itinerary when outside Hong Kong. The department will disseminate information through SMS when necessary.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today reiterated that foreign governments should not interfere in the city’s internal affairs. The Hong Kong SAR Government issued the statement in response to media enquiries concerning a United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China report. The statement expressed strong opposition to the enactment of the Hong Kong Human Rights & Democracy Act in the US, noting that it clearly intervenes in Hong Kong's internal affairs. The act is unwarranted, sends an erroneous signal to violent protesters, and harms the relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the US, it said. The SAR Government expressed deep regret that the US has disregarded genuine concerns it repeatedly raised about the act. The statement pointed out that since the return to the Motherland, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has been exercising “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law. The “one country, two systems” principle has been fully and successfully implemented and the SAR Government will continue to implement the principle in accordance with the Basic Law. The statement added that the HKSAR attaches great importance to human rights and freedoms and is determined to safeguard them. The Basic Law stipulates that the city's permanent residents shall have the right to vote and stand for election in accordance with the law. At the same time, the SAR Government has a duty to implement and uphold the Basic Law and ensure that all elections will be conducted in accordance with the Basic Law and relevant electoral laws. There is no political screening. The statement also said the Basic Law clearly stipulates that the HKSAR is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Any suggestion for Hong Kong independence is a blatant violation of the Basic Law and a direct affront to the PRC’s national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. As for constitutional development, universal suffrage of one person, one vote for selecting the Chief Executive and electing all members of the Legislative Council is enshrined as an ultimate aim in the Basic Law. To achieve this aim, the community needs to engage in dialogue, premised on the legal basis and under a peaceful atmosphere with mutual trust, with a view to narrowing differences and attaining a consensus on all sides. The SAR Government will assess the situation carefully and take forward constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law and the National People's Congress Standing Committee's interpretation and decisions. In respect of the Fugitive Offenders & Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, the Chief Executive announced on June 15 last year that the bill was suspended and later made it clear that all legislative work had come to a halt. The Chief Executive further announced on September 4 last year that the SAR Government would formally withdraw the bill and the Secretary for Security withdrew the bill at the council last October. The statement asserted that it is incorrect for the report to say that the bill would empower the Chief Executive to make decisions on fugitive arrangements on a case-by-case basis. According to the now-withdrawn bill, the Chief Executive could not bypass the court to surrender a fugitive to any requesting party. The SAR Government regrets the report’s inclusion of this inaccurate statement. From June 2019, there have been over 1,000 public demonstrations, processions and public meetings in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, many ended in violent and illegal confrontations. All these have seriously endangered personal safety, public order and public safety, it said. Police have been carrying out enforcement action in strict accordance with the law to protect life and property and restore order to society. It said Police have stringent guidelines for the use of force and police officers only use appropriate force when necessary. The SAR Government explained that it is committed to safeguarding the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong. The Basic Law entrenches the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence. The conduct of all criminal prosecutions of the Department of Justice is free from any interference. Decisions to prosecute or not must be based on an objective and professional assessment of the available evidence and the law. In addition, the SAR Government has been combating Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and proactively enhancing the protection of foreign domestic helpers. It established in March 2018 a high-level steering committee chaired by the Chief Secretary and enacted an action plan to enhance protection of foreign domestic helpers. The SAR Government also allocated over $62 million in additional annual funding to create nearly 100 new civil service posts dedicated to fighting against TIP.
The Government today announced that Hong Kong recorded more crimes in the first 11 months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018 and cautioned the public against turning a blind eye to rioters’ violent acts. Speaking to legislators, Secretary for Security John Lee said that crime figures in the first half of 2019 showed a downward trend, but the numerous processions and demonstrations and rioters’ violent acts since June had led to a deterioration in the city’s law and order situation. From January to November last year, 52,250 crimes were recorded, representing an increase of 4.2% over 50,122 crimes recorded during the same period in 2018. The overall crime detection rate in the first 11 months of 2019 was 36.1%, lower than the rate of 42.9% during the same period in the preceding year. Mr Lee said Police devoted considerable manpower to handle more than 1,200 public order events and rioters’ violent acts in the past six months. Routine policing work such as crime prevention and patrols was affected as a result. Maintaining good public order relies on police officers’ efforts and citizens abiding the law, Mr Lee said. “If members of the public turn a blind eye to violent acts of rioters and refuse to co-operate or even obstruct Police's law enforcement operations, or condone even further assaulting against police officers, deterioration in public order is the price we have to pay.” The Security Bureau has been co-ordinating the work among disciplined services to stop violence and curb disorder, he added.
Customs today rejected online rumours claiming that Police arrested a customs officer following the seizure of arms in the officer's locker. The department expressed regret over the intentional spread of the confusing and unfounded rumours. Staff guidelines regulate moral and disciplinary matters, it said, adding that there are also strict requirements for officers' conduct and integrity. It stressed that follow-up action will be taken if there is any violation of laws and regulations.
The Government today strongly condemned rioters for breaching public peace on New Year’s Day. In a statement, the Government said rioters conducted violent and illegal acts during and after the public procession on Hong Kong Island on January 1. The procession was generally orderly at the beginning, but rioters took the opportunity to block roads, trash traffic lights, hurl bricks and petrol bombs and set fires. They also vandalised several banks and shops, endangering people at the scene. Taking public safety into consideration, Police ended the procession early and used appropriate and minimum force to disperse the rioters and make arrests. It is worrying that rioters have used peaceful participants of processions as their cover and conducted illegal and violent acts during or after processions, it said. The Government emphasised it respects the peaceful expression of views by members of the public and appealed to people not to condone violence. Some people even launched personal attacks and insults against a judge and defaced the High Court during the procession, the Government said, adding Police will take follow-up actions in accordance with the law. Judicial independence is an essential element of the rule of law as well as the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, it said. The Government pointed out that Hong Kong people respect the courts, judges and judicial proceedings and do not accept that anyone exerts pressure on judges or the courts. On the waving of flags advocating Hong Kong independence by some rally organisations and participants, the Government strongly condemned such acts, which are against the constitutional order of Hong Kong and the overall interest of society. “One country, two systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy are the established basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong. Advocating Hong Kong independence is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as stipulated in the Basic Law. Some procession participants also waved flags of foreign countries, the statement noted. The Government rejects interference by foreign countries in any form in the internal affairs of the city. It said members of the public should not encourage such countries to do so. The Government added that it will not turn a blind eye to unconstitutional acts and called on people to treasure Hong Kong’s unique advantages under "one country, two systems" and not do anything that would hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.
Police today cited public safety as the reason behind its decision to cut short a public procession on New Year’s Day. During a press conference in the afternoon, Police Public Relations Branch Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen said Police maintained close communication with the procession organiser. He said: “It was evident that the organiser soon lost control of how the event would develop as it was hijacked by rioters to wreak havoc along the route. “So we asked the organiser to cut short the procession at 5.30pm and gave them time to disperse the crowds peacefully. “This decision was certainly in the interest of public safety. The violence that broke out at various locations would have posed a grave threat to the safety of all participants.” He pointed out that Police gave multiple warnings and sufficient time for people to leave before using force, including tear gas to disperse remaining participants. “Our repeated warnings fell on deaf ears and that is why our intervention was necessary. “We must reiterate that no one has the privilege to stay in a riot when police officers have given repeated warnings for people to leave. “You can claim to be a first aider, a human rights observer, you name it. But this does not give you any exemption from the legal liability of taking part in a riot.” Police intercepted 464 people and released about one-third of them after initial investigations, he added.