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Secretary for Justice Paul Lam today expressed immense concern over the suspected criminal damage to the West Kowloon Law Courts Building and strongly condemned any violent acts intended to damage the due administration of justice. In a statement, Mr Lam noted that where the rule of law is upheld, no act of violent attack or intimidation against the courts or judicial officers will be tolerated. The Government will seriously pursue any offender who disrupts social order and undermines the rule of law and it will spare no effort in bringing the culprit to justice, Mr Lam said. “I am confident that the due administration of justice will be maintained and stay unaffected,” he added.
​The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government tonight sent a 59-strong search and rescue team to the quake-stricken areas in Türkiye to assist in the search and rescue work. Acting Chief Executive Chan Kwok-ki, Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung and Director of Fire Services Andy Yeung saw the search and rescue team off at the airport. Director of Health Dr Ronald Lam was also there to show support to the team. Led by Fire Services Department (FSD) Deputy Chief Fire Officer Yiu Men-yeung, the team comprises 49 members of the FSD's Urban Search & Rescue Team, which includes firemen, ambulancemen and fire services workshops personnel as well as officers from the Security Bureau, the Immigration Department and the Department of Health. The team is taking eight tonnes of equipment which includes life detectors, masonry cutting machines and the team's daily necessities. They left on Turkish Airlines flight TK071 and will join local rescue teams to start search and rescue work on arrival.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today said it strongly disapproved of and firmly rejected the scandalising of Hong Kong’s criminal justice process, including cases concerning the National Security Law, by some groups and members of the US Congress. Any attempt to interfere with the city’s judicial proceedings is a blatant act undermining Hong Kong’s rule of law, it said in a press statement. As guaranteed by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, all defendants charged with a criminal offence have the right to and will undergo a fair trial by the Judiciary. Specifically, Article 85 of the Basic Law guarantees that Hong Kong courts shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. The Hong Kong SAR Government stressed that the courts decide cases strictly in accordance with the evidence and all applicable laws, adding that cases will never be handled any differently owing to the profession, political beliefs or background of the people involved.
Acting Chief Executive Chan Kwok-ki inspected Lo Wu Control Point today, the first day of the full resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Mr Chan noted that since normal travel between the two places resumed, all boundary control points (BCPs) have commenced operation without any prescribed daily number of people or pre-departure nucleic acid test requirements imposed. As at noon, around 83,000 passengers travelled through the boundary control points, with 50,000 of them departing from Hong Kong and 33,000 entering the city. With the full co-operation of relevant sectors and close liaison with the authorities of the central government as well as the Guangdong and Shenzhen governments, all seaborne, land and air BCPs including the newly opened ones are operating in an orderly manner, he said, adding that arrangements have been put in place on local transport connecting such points. Mr Chan received a briefing by the relevant departments at Lo Wu Control Point on triage procedures, immigration clearance and customs clearance arrangements for travellers. He was pleased to learn that the control point is running well and instructed such departments to monitor the passenger flow closely and conduct proper crowd management control, especially on weekends and holidays when there is larger number of cross-boundary travellers. On transport arrangements, Mr Chan directed the relevant departments to maintain close contact with public transport operators to ensure sufficient transport services to carry travellers to and from the BCPs during opening hours. He also reminded them to closely co-operate with the MTR Corporation and monitor the people flows at the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line control points.    The Acting Chief Executive spoke with some of the passengers and was glad to hear that they are satisfied with the smooth arrangements they experienced. He instructed the staff manning the control point to provide necessary information and assistance for travellers such as assisting them with completing the health declaration form that is required by the Mainland before crossing the boundary. While expressing gratitude to all the personnel for their hard work on the full resumption of normal travel with the Mainland, Mr Chan stressed that the Co-ordination Group on Resumption of Normal Travel will monitor such travel with the relevant bureaus, departments and organisations. Close liaison with the relevant authorities of the central government as well as the Guangdong and Shenzhen governments will also be maintained to ensure the smooth implementation of normal travel with the Mainland, he added.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) today announced the establishment of a steering committee headed by Secretary for Justice Paul Lam to strengthen the rule of law education and training in Hong Kong. Noting that the launch is one of its key policy initiatives in the 2022 Policy Address, the department said it seeks to convene the first meeting of the Steering Committee on Rule of Law Education in February. The committee will work with representatives from relevant bureaus, the judicial and legal sectors and the law schools to co-ordinate and collaborate in promoting the awareness and proper understanding of the rule of law. It will advise and assist the DoJ on the strategy and programme for promoting the rule of law education, including the launch of a programme that aims to train instructors in various sectors to enhance their capability for and the effectiveness of promoting consistent and correct messages relating to the rule of law. The programme will complement and supplement existing initiatives relating to rule of law education and develop teaching materials for the trainers. Mr Lam said: “To strengthen the community’s trust in the legal and judicial system, continual and dedicated efforts should be made to enhance the rule of law education, so that the public can have a proper understanding of Hong Kong’s common law system and the rule of law under ‘one country, two systems’.’’    He also said he looked forward to working with the steering committee members in implementing the Rule of Law Education Train-the-Trainers Programme. The trainers are expected to reach out to the community in the latter half of 2023 to start work on promoting the rule of law to young people and the general public.
The Government today announced that the Pilot Scheme on Immigration Facilitation for Visitors Participating in Short-term Activities in Designated Sectors will be expanded from tomorrow to cover two new sectors and include about 50 additional authorised host organisations. Launched in June 2022, the scheme aims to facilitate business, promote the development of relevant sectors and raise Hong Kong's international profile. Under the scheme, host organisations authorised by relevant government bureaus or departments can issue invitation letters to non-local talent in their sectors. The invitees may come to Hong Kong to participate in specified short-term activities as visitors without the need to apply for employment visas or entry permits from the Immigration Department. The invitees are talent in shortage or whose participation in specified short-term activities in Hong Kong is conducive to economic development or achieving relevant policy objectives. They may participate in such activities for up to 14 days upon each arrival and receive remuneration for the activities concerned. As of December 2022, the scheme has benefited more than 800 non-local talent who came to Hong Kong as visitors to take part in various events, such as the Hong Kong Sevens and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performance. The Government said it decided to expand the scheme after completing a review at end-2022. Aside from the existing 10 designated sectors, the finance and development and construction sectors will also be covered, with the addition of more authorised host organisations and specified short-term activities. After the expansion, the scheme will cover a total of 12 sectors involving some 400 authorised host organisations. Such sectors are medical and healthcare, higher education, arts and culture, sports, heritage, creative industries, innovation and technology, the Hong Kong Laureate Forum, aviation, international or mega events, finance as well as development and construction. More international events and mega activities, including the Asian Financial Forum and international horse racing events, will also be covered. The Government pointed out that following the progressive, orderly and comprehensive resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland, the expansion of the scheme is conducive to bringing together talent worldwide for exchanges in Hong Kong, giving full play to the city's strength as a place to connect and excel under "one country, two systems" and illustrating to the world that Hong Kong is back on the international stage.
The Customs & Excise Department today announced that new legislative control of cannabidiol (CBD) will come into effect on February 1, thereby placing CBD under the same strict control as other dangerous drugs under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance from that day. It explained that starting February 1 onwards, the importation of such products, including food or drinks containing CBD, into Hong Kong will be prohibited unless the relevant provisions in the ordinance are complied with. As such, the public is advised not bring any cannabis products or products containing CBD into the city. To avoid breaching the law inadvertently, people should refrain from buying any CBD products and take notice of whether the products' packaging and labels contain wordings of CBD or tetrahydrocannabinol when making such purchases. Noting that vigorous enforcement action will be taken to combat the related drug trafficking activities, the department said it will step up enforcement action to intercept the import and transit movements of CBD products via various channels. It stressed that it will continue to apply a risk assessment strategy when selecting passengers, cargoes and postal packets for clearance in an effort to combat transnational drug trafficking activities. Apart from reminding people that they must not accept hiring or delegation from another party to carry controlled items into or out of Hong Kong, the department added that they should also not carry unknown items for other people, nor release their personal data or home address to others for receiving parcels or goods. Suspected drug trafficking activities should be reported to Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 or emailed to its dedicated crime-reporting email account.
The Immigration Department today announced that the deadline for applying for new smart identity cards at the smart identity card replacement centres will be extended from February 11 to March 3 as a number of citizens have recently returned to Hong Kong for identity card replacement. The identity card collection service will be maintained through to March 3, it noted. Starting tomorrow, people may make appointments for identity card replacement for February 11 onwards. As the centres will cease to operate from March 4, eligible people who have yet to apply for or collect a new smart identity card by March 3 should do so at a Registration of Persons Office. Relevant details and appointment arrangement will be announced in due course. Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents who are unable to have their identity cards replaced on or before March 3 due to being absent from Hong Kong do not need to rush back to the city. They can apply for identity card replacement at a Registration of Persons Office within 30 days upon their arrival in Hong Kong. If they return to Hong Kong and stay for less than 30 days, they will not violate the relevant law for not having their identity cards replaced during that period. For Hong Kong residents reaching the age of 11 or 18, they should register for an identity card within 30 days following their 11th or 18th birthday at a Registration of Persons Office. Those who are absent from Hong Kong can also make an appointment at a Registration of Persons Office within 30 days of their future return to Hong Kong. The department also said that the On-site Identity Card Replacement Service will not be affected by the cessation of the centres' operation. Immigration officers will continue to visit eligible residential care homes to provide on-site identity card replacement services and deliver new smart identity cards to all eligible residents who have yet to replace their identity cards, it added. Bookings for identity card replacement can be made online, via the department's mobile app or by calling the 24-hour hotline at 2121 1234. Call 2824 6111 for enquiries. 
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today strongly condemned the untruthful remarks, vilification and smearing by Consul General of the US to Hong Kong Gregory May regarding the National Security Law (NSL), and the rule of law, rights and freedoms of Hong Kong at a forum held by a US think tank. In a press statement, it also firmly opposed biased comments made against the Hong Kong SAR Government’s work in safeguarding national security. Mr May’s untruthful and unfounded allegations against the implementation of the NSL were clear attempts to make trouble out of nothing and amounted to scaremongering, the Hong Kong SAR Government stressed. When Hong Kong suffered from the widespread black-clad violence in 2019, the US Government and politicians did not point out that those acts had caused severe damage to society, the economy and business environment, and seriously harmed the interests of enterprises in Hong Kong. Instead, since the enactment of the NSL in June 2020, they have been repeatedly exploiting different incidents and occasions as well as creating excuses to slander the NSL and attack Hong Kong in its dutiful, faithful and lawful implementation of the NSL. As to Mr May’s skewed accusation and smearing against the interpretation of the NSL given by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress last year, the Hong Kong SAR Government solemnly stated that the standing committee exercises the power of interpretation in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the NSL, which is a fundamental aspect of “one country, two systems” and a manifestation of the rule of law. The interpretation stemmed from the controversial question of whether overseas lawyers who are not qualified to practise generally in Hong Kong may be admitted on an ad hoc basis to participate in cases concerning national security. Through the interpretation of Articles 14 and 47 of the NSL, the standing committee provided clear guidance for the Hong Kong SAR to resolve the issue by itself. Separately, on matters related to co-operation between the US and Hong Kong raised by Mr May, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the city has been proactively maintaining extensive ties and facilitating co-operation with different countries and regions in accordance with the Basic Law, on the proviso that those states must respect “one country, two systems” and must not smear or slander its successful application. Any attempt by foreign countries or external forces to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability will only expose their own weakness and faulty arguments and be doomed to fail, the Hong Kong SAR Government emphasised, adding that it will continue to discharge its duty to ensure the successful implementation of “one country, two systems” to better serve citizens and foster the city’s development. The US Government should immediately stop acting against the basic norms governing international relations, and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, the Hong Kong SAR Government reiterated.
Principal officials of the Government today continued to participate in the Chinese New Year Home Visit Programme co-ordinated by the Home Affairs Department to distribute blessing bags to grassroots families in Wong Tai Sin District. Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan and Secretary for Home & Youth Affairs Alice Mak visited a grassroots family, an elderly singleton and elderly doubleton living in Lok Fu Estate in the district. Secretary for Health Prof Lo Chung-mau and Acting Secretary for Innovation, Technology & Industry Lillian Cheong also called on elderly singletons at the estate. In addition to chatting with the residents to understand their daily needs, the principal officials brought them Lunar New Year blessing bags in celebration of the festival.