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In response to an untrue report, the Immigration Department today stressed it strictly follows relevant provisions under the Immigration (Treatment of Detainees) Order to ensure that detainees are treated fairly and properly. The department expressed deep regrets over the report on the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre. In a statement, the department said all detainees at the centre can be visited by relatives and friends. During the visits, detainees at the centre can receive hand-in articles, including food, daily necessities, private clothes, and magazines. The centre also provides adequate food for detainees free of charge. Currently, 11 detainees at the centre continue to not collect meals. A handful of them had at one point stopped consuming milk tea, milk and water provided by the centre but all of them have now resumed taking the beverages. The department's staff have been closely monitoring the health conditions of the detainees concerned. Medical professionals on duty round the clock have conducted medical examinations on them. So far, most of the detainees' blood glucose levels are normal and they are emotionally stable. The department strongly condemned those who have repeatedly fabricated groundless and unfair accusations alleging that its staff have inhumanely treated detainees. It pointed out these allegations are void of objective facts and justifications to challenge the legality of the detention decision and have no regard to the fact that some of the detainees may pose security risks to the community.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today issued a severe reprimand against the US administration for its unilateral decision to suspend or terminate three bilateral agreements with Hong Kong. The bilateral agreements concerned are the Agreement on the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders (SFO), the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (TSP) Agreement and the Agreement concerning Tax Exemptions from the Income Derived from the International Operation of Ship signed between the Hong Kong SAR Government and the US Government. The severe reprimand was issued in response to the suspension or termination of these three agreements announced by the US Department of State on August 19 as part of the so-called ongoing implementation measures following the US President Donald Trump’s executive order issued in mid-July. The Hong Kong SAR Government said the agreements are not US' preferential treatment for Hong Kong, but instead are those negotiated in good faith to benefit people and businesses of both sides in areas of law and order, shipping and tax treatment. The US' unilateral decision reflected its disrespect for bilateralism and multilateralism under the current administration and should be condemned by the international community. It strongly objected to and deplored the US' action which is widely seen as a move to create troubles in the China-US relationship by using Hong Kong as a pawn. On the suspension of the SFO Agreement, the Hong Kong SAR Government pointed out that with its assistance, the number of fugitive offenders successfully surrendered to the US upon request amounted to a total of 69, which is much higher than the total number of 23 fugitive offenders surrendered to Hong Kong from the US. It is expected that suspension of the agreement will have greater impact on the US' enforcement operation and will allow criminals of serious crimes to evade legal sanctions and thus failing to uphold justice for victims. Regarding the TSP Agreement which allows sentenced people to return to their places of origin to serve their sentence, the Hong Kong SAR Government commented that the US' decision to terminate the agreement would eliminate the possibility of such transfers and defy values of humanitarianism. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong SAR Government pointed to the fact that it has not approved any application for transfer of sentenced people from Hong Kong to the US since 2012 due to doubts on the US' system of continued enforcement of sentences. As for the termination of Agreement concerning Tax Exemptions from the Income Derived from the International Operation of Ship, the Hong Kong SAR Government explained that it would increase the operating costs of US and Hong Kong shipping companies, in particular the US ones as they will be subject to double taxation, adding that it would also hamper the development of the shipping sector between Hong Kong and US and is to nobody's interest. Additionally, the Hong Kong SAR Government said it will take action against the US for its new rule on origin marking of Hong Kong products exported to there under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism, and that the Geneva Economic & Trade Office will follow up the case in accordance with the WTO processes. It also urged the US administration to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and retract its baseless allegations against the National Security Law.
The Customs & Excise Department today announced that it smashed a cross-boundary frozen meat smuggling and money laundering syndicate and seized about $190 million worth of meat and assets involved. The total value of the items seized is the highest among similar cases in the past five years solved by the department. In an enforcement action on August 13, customs officers intercepted a barge and a tugboat in the waters off Lung Kwu Chau and seized a batch of smuggled frozen meat on board the barge. After a follow-up investigation, the officers raided 13 premises across Hong Kong, including residential premises, offices, a wharf and a container yard. Thirteen people, aged between 40 and 65, were arrested in connection with the case. They included the syndicate mastermind and directors of the companies involved. The seized frozen meat, weighing about 160 tonnes, carries an estimated market value of $25 million. Assets of the syndicate worth about $18 million were also seized, including cash and valuables. The department has made arrangements to freeze $27 million in deposits at 76 bank accounts held by the syndicate members. It noted that it is also pursuing an investigation into the aspects of money laundering and criminal proceeds according to the Organized & Serious Crimes Ordinance. Upon conviction, it will consult the Department of Justice and apply to the court for confiscation of eight properties and three parking spaces under the syndicate members' names worth about $120 million. Members of the public may report suspected smuggling or money laundering activities to the Customs' hotline 2545 6182 or email email@example.com.
There is a need to postpone the seventh-term of the Legislative Council election, amid the third wave of COVID-19, to ensure that public safety is protected as well as a fair and open election can be conducted. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) has made a decision that the sixth-term LegCo be extended for no less than a year to address the lacuna in the LegCo operation caused by the postponement. When the epidemic is still widespread in the community, if the election is held as scheduled, group gatherings caused by electioneering activities by candidates would raise the risks of the spread of COVID-19. Yet while the regulations on the restrictions on group gatherings are still effective, the electioneering activities could not be conducted properly by candidates. Further, with four million voters all gathering to vote at polling stations on the same day, it might cause an outbreak in the community. Elderly voters might refrain from voting due to health consideration. Another phenomenon is that there are a large number of voters in the Mainland and stranded overseas who could not return to Hong Kong to cast their votes due to boundary control. Reasons for postponing for one year include: the pandemic is unlikely to subside soon. It is unrealistic to invoke section 44 of the Legislative Council Ordinance to postpone the election for 14 days repeatedly. Secondly, postponing the election for one year, with a particular date identified, would give certainty to all parties concerned. Thirdly, voter registration exercise usually takes months to finalise. Those who are eligible but have not yet completed the registration would not be able to exercise their right to vote if the election is to be held in early 2021. Fourthly, the LegCo performs important functions and it is important to ensure its proper functioning. It considers the Chief Executive’s Policy Address from October to November and scrutinises the Budget from around February to May every year. Postponing the election for a year provides the certainty for the LegCo to continue to function according to its annual cycle. Last but not the least, existing LegCo members would not be able to conduct electioneering activities if the election is to take place in the middle of the cycle. The Chief Executive in Council decided to postpone the election so as to safeguard public interests in the light of the risk to public health and the emergency of the situation. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance allows the Chief Executive in Council to legislate speedily and effectively under such circumstances. Owing to the severe epidemic situation, the Chief Executive in Council invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to postpone the election for a year in order to protect public safety and public health as well as to ensure that a fair and open election can be conducted. The Chief Executive, as the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and being accountable to the Central People’s Government under Article 43 of the Basic Law, submitted a report and suggestion to the central authorities on July 28. On the following day, the State Council expressed its support to the resolution by the Chief Executive in Council and agreed to make a submission to the NPCSC for a decision. China is a unitary state and the constitutional structure stipulates that power comes from the central authorities. Matters relating to constitutional order should be handled by the National People’s Congress (NPC) in accordance with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The NPC and NPCSC are powered to make legal decisions or instruments. The decision by the NPCSC, which has been made in accordance with the PRC Constitution and the Basic Law, expeditiously resolved the problem that the Hong Kong SAR could not handle on its own from a constitutional perspective. The sixth-term LegCo would continue to function for no less than one year until the beginning of the seventh-term, thereby providing flexibilities and a solid legal basis to the Government. The decision also stated clearly that the seventh-term LegCo would have a term of four years as set out in Article 69 of the Basic Law, which obviates the need to amend the Basic Law. One must not forget that the Basic Law is a constitutional document and it is uncommon to amend it for a single one-off instance. The decision provides a legal basis which is binding and deals with the special situation. It is right and proper that the NPCSC resolved the constitutional matter by the decision. The rule of law is well established in Hong Kong. When the Government realises that it does not have the power to resolve issues related to the lacuna arising from the postponement of the election, it is necessary for the highest state organ of power to handle the matter in accordance with the PRC Constitution and the Basic Law. In a judgment of a judicial review delivered in 2018 (HCAL 1160/2018), the Judge accepted the expert evidence that the NPCSC’s decision has legal effect under the PRC law and is binding on governmental authorities in the Mainland as well as the Hong Kong SAR including Hong Kong courts, adding that Hong Kong courts have no power to determine the validity of the NPCSC’s decision under Hong Kong laws. The NPCSC’s decision followed the constitutional order and is applicable to the Hong Kong SAR. It is in line with “one country” and respects “two systems”. The power to deal with this constitutional lacuna caused by the postponement of the election is never within the autonomy nor jurisdiction of the Hong Kong SAR, whether one is talking about the Government or courts. The common law preserved in the Basic Law is not in any way affected. The suggestion that the decision means that Hong Kong no longer exercises the common law and the Basic Law is totally baseless. The fact that such fundamental issues are mistaken means that the constitutional structure, purpose and meaning of the constitution and the Basic Law are not fully appreciated and more has to be done to ensure that such issues are properly understood. Now that the postponement of the election and the constitutional lacuna are addressed, we must fight the COVID-19 pandemic in solidarity and focus on our economic development and improving people’s livelihoods so as to keep our society moving forward. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on August 16.
Hong Kong’s population reached 7,509,200 at the middle of the year, virtually unchanged when compared with that at mid-2019, the Census & Statistics Department announced today. There were 49,500 births and 48,900 deaths, resulting in a natural population increase of 600. There was also an inflow of 22,100 one-way permit holders and a net outflow of 20,900 other Hong Kong residents, resulting in a net movement of 1,200 people. As passenger clearance services at Lo Wu Control Point had been suspended since February 4 due to the epidemic, the inflow of one-way permit holders dropped significantly by 50.2% when compared with the 44,400 during the same period a year ago. The number of usual residents was 7,355,800, while that of mobile residents was 153,400.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today issued notices to the German Consulate General Hong Kong and the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong & Macau to suspend and shelve the agreements on surrender of fugitive offenders with the two countries. The Hong Kong SAR Government took the actions in accordance with the Central People's Government’s instruction. In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said it is an international practice to safeguard national security through enactment of laws. It pointed out that Germany and France have put in place relevant legislation, but have suspended the implementation of the surrender of fugitive offender agreement with the Hong Kong SAR and halted ratification of the relevant agreement with Hong Kong on a unilateral basis using the enactment of the National Security Law in the city among the excuses. Such moves are open interference in China's internal affairs and a violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. The Hong Kong SAR Government firmly objected to Germany and France’s moves, adding their wrongful acts in politicising juridical co-operation have damaged the basis of juridical co-operation between Hong Kong and the two countries. The Hong Kong SAR signed the surrender of fugitive offender agreement with Germany in May 2006, and that with France in May 2017. The agreement between Hong Kong and Germany entered into force in April 2009, while that between Hong Kong and France has not yet entered into force.
The Immigration Department today clarified that online media reports alleging that detainees who refused to collect meals at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre were treated inhumanely are completely untrue. The recent reports published through online media alleged the department indefinitely detained non-refoulement claimants, inhumanely treated the detainees who refused to collects meals and refused to provide them with suitable medical treatment. They also mentioned complaints against unsatisfactory hygiene conditions in the immigration centre. The department said these allegations are unfounded and stressed that all arrangements for detainees are made in accordance with the Immigration (Treatment of Detainees) Order (Cap 115E) to ensure they are treated fairly and properly. Detainees at the immigration centre are accorded the treatment provided by the order, such as medical examinations, exercise, personal hygiene, channels for lodging complaints, visits by justices of the peace and communication with legal advisers, etc. Any detainee who is dissatisfied with their treatment can lodge a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, justices of the peace or the department. The medical officer in the immigration centre has all along provided appropriate medical treatment to detainees, the department said. Since the incident in which some detainees refused to collect meals, the department’s staff have been closely monitoring the detainees’ health. Medical professionals on duty around the clock have conducted medical examinations for them. So far, detainees’ blood glucose levels are normal and they are emotionally stable. Most of the detainees concerned are taking milk tea and milk provided by the immigration centre and are exercising. Meanwhile, immigration staff have repeatedly persuaded them to resume collecting meals and have provided counselling services to them. Meetings have also been held with those who refused to collect meals to fully explain to them the reasons for their detention and provide information on the latest progress of their cases. As for the news report that alleged that a detainee was not drinking any water for seven days or was detained alone, the department pointed out that these allegations are inaccurate. When exercising its statutory power of detention, the department strictly follows relevant detention policies and fully considers all the circumstances of the particular case before making a decision. The media reports in question were void of sufficient justifications and failed to take into account the overall background of the cases, including the fact that each of the detainees is either an illegal immigrant or an overstayer in Hong Kong. Many of them also have a history of absconding or convictions of serious criminal offences, namely trafficking in dangerous drugs, wounding, blackmailing, committing indecent offences and so on. Regarding the allegation of unsatisfactory hygiene conditions in the immigration centre, the department emphasised that all detention facilities of the centre are cleaned and disinfected regularly every day. The centre has also strengthened the cleaning and disinfection work to maintain a hygienic environment during the COVID-19 epidemic. The department reiterated that it has been performing duties in accordance with the law and any malpractice would not be tolerated. It strongly condemned anybody making one-sided and unfounded allegations against the department without concrete facts, with intent to interfere with the discharge of its duties and coerce it into releasing the people concerned. The department will continue to strive to fulfil its duties in upholding the public interest and safeguard social security.
Police today stressed that yesterday's operation was conducted in accordance with the law to safeguard national security. It explained that nine men and one woman were arrested by officers of the Police National Security Department in a law enforcement operation for suspected collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, contravening Article 29 of the National Security Law and conspiracy to defraud. It noted that in respect of yesterday's operation, Police had applied for a search warrant from the court in accordance with the legal requirements and procedures and conducted searches at various locations to collect evidence of illegal acts in accordance with the authorisation of the search warrant. As the workplace of those arrested was a media organisation, Police conducted evidence collection at the media organisation. During the process, Police displayed the search warrant multiple times for examination by the media organisation's personnel and legal representatives. Police stressed that the operation was targeted at the alleged offenders' unlawful acts, not the media organisation. It emphasised that freedom of the press is an important cornerstone of Hong Kong and that Police always respect freedom of the press, speech and publication. It indicated that prior to yesterday's operation, police officers were specifically reminded to avoid going through news materials during the evidence collection process, which was also conducted in the company of the media organisation's personnel. Police expressed regret that some media deliberately discredited its search operation. Regardless of the identity or background of the suspects involved, Police stated that they will enforce the law professionally in accordance with the relevant legislation and actual circumstances. On press arrangement, Police reiterated that they always respect press freedom and the rights of the media in reporting. Without compromising operation effectiveness, Police have all along endeavoured to facilitate the media's reporting work. To meet operational needs, Police conveyed that it will set up cordoned-off zones during law enforcement operations and facilitate media in performing their reporting work outside the cordoned-off areas. In recognition of the public's concerns about a law enforcement operation in Tseung Kwan O yesterday, the Police Public Relations Branch actively communicated with the frontline commander in charge of the operation. Through the co-ordination of the Force Media Liaison Cadre at the scene, some media organisations including television, radio and newspapers gained access to the cordoned-off zones to cover the operation from a better vantage point, thereby enhancing the transparency of police work. Police added that they fully acknowledge that some media organisations or reporters have different views on this trial arrangement and will review and improve the measures in the future after listening to the media’s views.
The Department of Justice today said it welcomes the decision passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on authorising the State Council to implement pilot measures for Hong Kong and Macau legal practitioners. The measures will allow practitioners to obtain Mainland practice qualifications and practise as lawyers in the nine Pearl River Delta municipalities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The Department of Justice noted the decision will be conducive to the expansion of professional service by the local legal sector in the Greater Bay Area. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said she is grateful to the central government for launching such an arrangement, which allows eligible Hong Kong legal practitioners to practise in specific areas of Mainland law upon passing a special examination and obtain practice qualifications in the bay area. She pointed out that the move will further promote Hong Kong as an international legal and dispute resolution services centre in the bay area. She also indicated that she believes that more facilitation and opportunities will be available for Hong Kong's legal sector in the bay area upon the measure’s implementation. According to the Agreement Concerning Amendment to the CEPA Agreement on Trade in Services signed by the Mainland and Hong Kong in November last year, Hong Kong legal practitioners, upon passing a special examination, will be qualified to practise in specific areas to provide Mainland civil and commercial legal services in the bay area’s nine Pearl River Delta municipalities. The measure will be implemented on a three-year pilot basis. Under the liberalisation measures for early and pilot implementation in the bay area, the Department of Justice of Guangdong Province announced in July last year the Trial Measures of the Department of Justice of Guangdong Province on Hong Kong Law Firms & Macao Law Firms Operating in the Form of Partnership Association with Mainland Law Firms in Guangdong Province (2019 Revision). Further liberalisation measures relating to partnership associations set up between Mainland and Hong Kong law firms in Guangdong Province were implemented, including the removal of the minimum capital injection ratio of 30% by Hong Kong partner firms in the partnership associations set up between Mainland and Hong Kong law firms, as well as allowing Mainland and Hong Kong lawyers to be employed directly in the partnership associations' own name. There are currently 12 partnership associations in Guangdong Province. It is anticipated that more Hong Kong and Mainland law firms, especially small and medium-sized firms, will consider establishing partnership associations in the future to provide a one-stop shop of cross-jurisdictional legal services in the Mainland. By enabling Hong Kong legal practitioners to practise in specific areas of Mainland law in the bay area upon obtaining the qualification, more professional talents will be available for the partnership associations. The arrangement fully complements the trial measures. Ms Cheng noted that the liberalisation measures for early and pilot implementation are conducive to promoting the development of a multi-faceted dispute resolution mechanism based on wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, which is laid out in the Outline Development Plan for the bay area. She expressed her gratitude to the legal organisations and legal sector representatives, including the Small & Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong and the Law Society of Hong Kong, for their staunch support for the introduction of the special examination measure by reflecting the sector's opinions and providing suggestions.
The Security Bureau said today that no one is above the law and any person who violates the law must face justice regardless of their status or background. The bureau made the statement in response to media enquiries on Police's operation and relevant investigations. While stating it would not comment on operation details, the bureau emphasised that Police will not adopt a tolerant attitude and will take resolute enforcement action in accordance with the law. In respect of any illegal acts, Police have the responsibility to make their best effort to gather evidence and will act in accordance with the laws and procedures, the bureau explained. For evidence-gathering in premises, Police have applied for search warrants from the court in accordance with the law and relevant procedures, and will carry out searches according to the authorisation under the warrant obtained, it added. The bureau noted that Police always carry out search applications and operations based on investigation need, which is both lawful and reasonable. Upon the promulgation and coming into effect of the National Security Law, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government established the Police National Security Department and has been proactively implementing the legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security. The Security Bureau added that it staunchly pushes forward and supports the enforcement work of Police in taking lawful measures to prevent, suppress and punish acts and activities endangering national security with a view to safeguarding national security and bringing Hong Kong back on the right track.