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The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government strongly opposes the unfounded and ridiculous allegations against it made by foreign countries through various reports. The Hong Kong SAR Government made the statement today in response to the remarks on Hong Kong in the UK’s Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong and the US Hong Kong Policy Act Report. The Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China, is a local administrative region that enjoys a high degree of autonomy under “one country, two systems” and comes directly under the Central People's Government. The system to be adopted in the Hong Kong SAR, as well as how to implement the PRC's basic policies regarding Hong Kong, is purely within the ambit of the sovereignty of the PRC and an internal matter of the country. The Hong Kong SAR Government urges foreign countries to stop interfering in the internal affairs of China through issues related to Hong Kong. Regarding the 2021 Legislative Council General Election, the statement pointed out that the poll was an important election held after the improvements to the electoral system of the Hong Kong SAR which fully implements the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. “The election was conducted in accordance with the law, and was open, fair, honest and efficient. “The seventh-term Legislative Council was formed smoothly through elections. With over 1.3 million voters casting their ballots to elect 90 members from 153 candidates of different backgrounds and political views, it manifests the broad representation, political inclusiveness, balanced participation and fair competition of the new electoral system.” The Hong Kong SAR Government takes great exceptions to the unfounded allegations against the National Security Law (NSL). It said following the implementation of the law, chaos stopped and stability has been restored in Hong Kong. It reiterates that all law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies under the National Security Law, or indeed any local legislation, are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the persons or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation. With respect to judicial independence, the statement said: “the Hong Kong SAR is proud of its unwavering commitment to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, which underpin the city's success as an international business and financial centre. “Judicial independence in Hong Kong after the implementation of the NSL remains as robust as ever. The independence of the judiciary is constitutionally guaranteed under the Basic Law.” The statement also noted that since the city's reunification with the motherland, the Hong Kong SAR Government has been firmly committed to safeguarding the freedoms of the press and speech, both of which are protected under the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. The Hong Kong SAR Government also pointed out that the media landscape in Hong Kong is as vibrant as ever. A total of 211 media organisations, be they based locally, in the Mainland or overseas, are registered with the Information Services Department's Government News & Media Information System at present, showing an increase after the implementation of the NSL. “As always, the media can exercise their right to monitor the Hong Kong SAR Government's work, and their freedom of commenting on or even criticising government policies remains uninhibited as long as this is not in violation of the law.”
At times, there have been discussions in the international community on judicial independence. Most people tend to focus only on the outcome of judgements. Yet, it is the solid infrastructure and the judicial practice on which judicial independence is premised that play the pivotal role. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and it is a timely occasion to remind ourselves of the fundamentals of judicial independence. In Hong Kong, judicial independence is constitutionally guaranteed by the Basic Law. Articles 2, 19 and 85 of the Basic Law expressly provide that an independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, is exercised by the Judiciary, free from any interference. Judges enjoy security of tenure and immunity from legal action in the performance of their judicial functions, and can only be removed for inability to discharge duties or for misbehaviour as set out in Article 89. These safeguards ensure that our judges, who took the judicial oath upon their appointments, administer justice without fear or favour and without bias, based only on the law and evidence before them. The appointment process also forms an integral part of the solid infrastructure. As set out in Article 92 of the Basic Law, the only criteria upon which judges are appointed is their judicial and professional quality, and their appointment by the Chief Executive is based on the recommendation of an independent statutory commission comprising nine members including three eminent and respected members in society not connected with the practice of law. Article 92 also stipulates that judges may be recruited from other common law jurisdictions. Hence, unusually, there is no nationality requirement for judges of all levels of courts. There is also no political vetting in the judicial appointment process. Following the enactment of the National Security Law on June 30, 2020, there have been unfair criticisms with regard to the formation of a list of designated judges who handle cases of endangering national security. Some even falsely claim that the Chief Executive could handpick judges to preside over national security cases. These accusations are not only baseless but also factually incorrect. First of all, the designation of judges by the Chief Executive only establishes a list or panel of judges for dealing with national security cases. Secondly, the listing and handling of cases, as well as the assignment of which judge or judges are to handle cases have always been judicial functions to be exercised by the Judiciary independently. Thirdly, it is not uncommon for courts to designate specialist judges dealing with a particular area of law. In Hong Kong, there are judges who are in charge of construction and arbitration list, commercial and admiralty lists, etc. Similarly, the English courts also have specialised divisions with specialist judges dealing with, for instance, commercial and admiralty matters. Through the provision of specialist judges who are more familiar with a particular area of law, there is a better chance to achieve predictability and certainty of law. This will also reduce the risk of erroneous or arbitrary application of law. All in all, it is conducive to the rule of law. Contrary to the inaccurate statements questioning the independence and impartiality of designated judges, a designated judge would decide cases independently and impartially. In other words, they are free to decide a case based only on applicable law and admissible evidence, free from any interference. A judge should have an open mind and remain impartial, not influenced by any extraneous matters or personal interest. The practice of this can be seen in the judgements delivered by the courts setting out the full reasons for arriving at the decision. The practice of open court hearings and judgements with reasons demonstrate to all objective and fair-minded observers that transparency and due process are observed with judicial independence honoured. If I may quote what the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal said at the ceremonial opening of the legal year 2022: “For those who are interested in finding out how the constitutional guarantee on judicial independence in Hong Kong is practised on the ground, our court hearings are open to the public, our judicial decisions are publicly announced, and the courts' reasons are published for everyone to study”. The constitutional bedrock upon which our judicial independence is premised will not be shaken. With a strong, robust and professional legal fraternity, our judicial system will continue to remain intact and robust. Whatever happens, it lies in all of us here in Hong Kong to ensure that the bedrock is preserved and judicial independence is honoured. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on March 30.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam today expressed regret at the resignations of Lord Reed of Allermuir and Lord Hodge as Non-Permanent Judges of the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.     Mrs Lam said: “We appreciate fully the valuable contribution of judges from other common law jurisdictions sitting on the CFA for the past 25 years, including serving UK judges appointed by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR pursuant to the above mentioned agreement.” The Hong Kong SAR Government noted with deep regret that the UK Government has decided to withdraw from the agreement reached in 1997 between the then Chief Justice Andrew Li and the then Lord Chancellor of the UK.     "We have no choice but acquiesced in the two eminent judges' decision to resign from the CFA following the UK Government's decision to discontinue an agreement that has been respected and has served both the Hong Kong and UK interests well for years, but we must vehemently refute any unfounded allegations that the judges' resignations have anything to do with the introduction of the Hong Kong National Security Law or the exercise of freedom of speech and political freedom in Hong Kong,” she elaborated.     The Hong Kong SAR Government said it wishes to reiterate its firm commitment to upholding judicial independence in Hong Kong as it has done unwaveringly over the past 25 years. The Chief Executive will continue to exercise her power to appoint judges, including overseas judges from other common law jurisdictions, on the recommendation of the statutory Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission chaired by the Chief Justice.     The judges of Hong Kong manifest the highest professional and judicial quality as well as impartiality through the reasoned judgments they deliver, demonstrating to all objective and fair-minded observers that first, due administration of the criminal justice system remains in compliance with human rights protection and principles of the rule of law, and secondly, judges have all along been handling cases strictly in accordance with admissible evidence and applicable laws, observing due process, it added.
The Mainland expert group on Chinese medicine today visited the Department of Health and inspected the community isolation facility in Hung Shui Kiu, Yuen Long. The expert group is led by the central authorities’ Mainland Chinese medicine expert group leader Tong Xiaolin. The expert group this morning visited the Department of Health to exchange views with Director of Health Dr Ronald Lam, relevant colleagues and other public health experts. They aimed to get a better grasp of the latest epidemic development and situation in Hong Kong, as well as the arrangements of close contacts under the StayHomeSafe Scheme. Dr Lam thanked the central authorities for again sending an expert group to support Hong Kong. He pointed out that the experts brought about professional expertise in fighting the epidemic through Chinese medicine and provided appropriate guidance on the role of Chinese medicine in the city’s anti-epidemic work. Joined by Dr Lam, the expert group then met the chairpersons of the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong and Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board, Jeanie Hu and Dr Wong Yu-yeuk, as well as other committee chairmen. They exchanged views regarding the current regulation and development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong and discussed in-depth on measures in fighting against the epidemic with Chinese medicine. The expert group also shared the anti-epidemic experiences in the Mainland. In the afternoon, the expert group proceeded to the community isolation facility in Hung Shui Kiu, Yuen Long. The facility is divided into two parts, one being used as a general-purpose isolation facility and the other serving as a holding centre for the elderly, with the former managed by the Security Bureau’s Anti-epidemic Task Force. Taking part in the visit, Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung briefed the expert group on the work of facility management. The task force has adopted a small-district and humanised management approach, making special arrangements for ethnic minority people under isolation such as special meal arrangements during Ramadan. In addition, every person under isolation will be provided with anti-epidemic supplies including anti-epidemic proprietary Chinese medicines, while the Hospital Authority has set up a free Chinese medicine advice service hotline for them.
The Immigration Department today clarified that there is no change in the rules on the loss of Hong Kong permanent resident status for non-Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents. Enacted on July 1, 1997 with no subsequent changes, the Immigration Ordinance stipulates that Hong Kong Special Administrative Region permanent residents of non-Chinese nationality will lose their permanent resident status if they have been absent from Hong Kong continuously for not less than 36 months since they ceased to have ordinarily resided in the city. In determining whether they are no longer ordinarily Hong Kong residents or are only temporarily away from Hong Kong, the department will take into consideration all circumstances of each case in accordance with section 2(6) of the ordinance. The factors include the reason, duration and frequency of any absence from Hong Kong; whether they have habitual residence in Hong Kong; whether they are employed by a Hong Kong-based company; and the whereabouts of their principal family members. For Hong Kong SAR permanent residents of Chinese nationality, unless the department has approved their application for renouncing Chinese nationality or declaring nationality change, they will still be regarded as Chinese citizens even if they have been absent from Hong Kong for long, the department added.
The second round of the Legal Talent Recruitment Scheme (Trainee Solicitors) (the Legal Talent Scheme 2022) will open for application on April 11 for six months, the Department of Justice announced. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng signed a memorandum of understanding today with Law Society of Hong Kong (Law Society) President Chan Chak-ming on the administration of the scheme. Funded by the Anti-epidemic Fund, the Legal Talent Scheme 2022 will continue to provide a monthly salary subsidy of $6,800 for a maximum of 12 months to each eligible law firm for one newly created job opening for a trainee solicitor, with up to 130 new job openings for trainee solicitors in total. The scheme will create new job opportunities during the pandemic and ensure a steady and sufficient supply of legal talent in alignment with the Government's policy objectives, the department explained. It added that the Law Society will be responsible for administering the scheme, including processing and assessing the applications, as well as arranging the subsidy’s disbursement. Ms Cheng said she was pleased to note that the scheme was well received by the industry after it was launched last year. She thanked the Law Society for its continuous support for the scheme, which will help nurture Hong Kong's young professionals and benefit the legal sector in general. Click here for more details.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Government announced that the operating hours of the Shenzhen Bay Control Point (SBCP) for passenger clearance will change to 10am to 6pm daily from tomorrow until further notice. As the local epidemic situation remains severe and the number of confirmed cases remains high, the governments of the Hong Kong SAR and Shenzhen agreed to change the operating hours of the SBCP for passenger clearance. Members of the public are advised to avoid unnecessary cross-boundary people flow while travellers should keep abreast of and comply with the latest quarantine and testing requirements of their destinations. Cargo clearance services at the SBCP will remain unchanged and continue to operate on 24-hour basis. Among the land control points, the SBCP and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port are still providing passenger clearance services.
The Correctional Services Department made a clarification today in response to media enquiries concerning the number of defendants in the 35+ case who are subject to separate confinement as punishment for having committed offences against prison discipline. The department explained that it, in general, does not comment on individual cases. However, to prevent people with malicious intent from making unfounded adverse allegations on the relevant case, seeking to discredit and smear the department and mislead the public, on the premise of not affecting the privacy of the persons in custody (PICs) concerned, the department is making this stern clarification to set the record straight. The department said 34 defendants involved in the 35+ case are detained in correctional institutions at present. Among them, 23 are segregated, with 21 of them having requested removal from association for protection on their own initiative. The department has therefore made such an arrangement according to their wish, and they can request the withdrawal of protection and resume association with other PICs at any time, while two people have to be isolated for quarantine purposes due to being infected with COVID-19. The department noted that none of the defendants involved in the 35+ case who are detained in correctional institutions are currently under separate confinement as punishment for having committed offences against prison discipline, or removal from association with other PICs for the maintenance of good order or discipline, as so ordered by the department empowered by the Prison Rules.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you about the situation in Hong Kong. Let me begin by taking you back to more than two years ago, to June 2019. It was the darkest time of Hong Kong. Citizens witnessed continuously violent riots across the city. Never before had our streets seen such violent and random assaults, thousands of petrol bombs being thrown, destruction of public property, and widespread blocking of traffic, let alone the vicious attacks on Police. Forces to incite Hong Kong's independence and foreign interference showed up blatantly. These unprecedented violence and disturbances threatened the security of our city so much that citizens were actually worried about their lives and safety. They were afraid even to talk about these evil acts of terror lest they might be targeted for retaliation by the perpetrators. Such violence, destruction and chaos was stopped effectively after the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress promulgated the National Security Law about a year later. The law filled the vacuum in national security because Hong Kong had no dedicated national security law before that. The National Security Law has restored peace and stability. People returned to their day-to-day life in peace and society resumed normal. Hong Kong's economy then staged a strong recovery in the following year - its gross domestic product grew by 6.4% in 2021. It should be pointed out that in the lead-up to and during the 2019 violence, the Legislative Council was also full of scenes of sabotage, physical confrontation, disorderly conduct and incessant procrastination with actions to paralyse the council, to obstruct the Government's governance and to deliberately make "one country, two systems" unsuccessful. You can visualise this from the fact that some of its former members are currently pending trials for offences endangering national security. No country will allow its legislative structure, parliament or congress to be filled up by treasonists, foreign agents or proxies of foreign forces. The Hong Kong electoral system must therefore be protected from exploitation and from foreign interference. The principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong" was therefore implemented to improve and protect it. Being patriotic is the minimum and common requirement for a person in any country to participate in its administration. Legislators under the improved electoral system are now required to satisfy two basic requirements. They are to bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and to uphold the Basic Law. Are not these two requirements very basic? They are not just basic - they are simply common and natural sense. The improved electoral system also provides much a broader and more balanced representation in society. Membership of LegCo is increased from 70 to 90 in number, with a much wider spread across different backgrounds and political spectrum. The subsequent LegCo election was successfully held in December 2021 in an open, orderly and fair manner. All seats were contested, unlike previously when seats in some subsectors may automatically be elected because only one candidate was running. A lot of new faces appeared, drawing in talents from a wide range of backgrounds, now that they would not have to work in the former ridiculous phenomena of mayhem, physical confrontations, insults and paralysis. The newly elected members have been displaying commitment to serve the interests of Hong Kong wholeheartedly. The quality of scrutiny and debates, as well as the efficiency of LegCo, has significantly improved. In about two months, we shall hold the sixth-term Chief Executive Election under the improved electoral system. An Election Committee, the membership of which has been increased by a quarter, will elect the sixth-term Chief Executive. This practice of electing the Chief Executive by the Election Committee has not changed since day one of the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR. I must point out to you that the democratic process of Hong Kong started after China resumed exercising sovereignty. No country has a monopoly on the model of democracy. The democratic development of Hong Kong is clearly defined under the Basic Law. It stipulates that the method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in Hong Kong, in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress, with the ultimate aim to select the Chief Executive by universal suffrage. Citizens' rights such as the right to vote and to stand for election and the freedoms of speech and of the press are well enshrined in the Basic Law. The exercise of these rights is well protected, in the same way as is covered in the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights applicable to Hong Kong. Before I close, I think you may know that Hong Kong is currently battling the fifth wave of COVID-19 attack. We have suffered from an exponential increase of infected cases and a record high of serious illness and deaths. Hong Kong seeks help and our Central People's Government comes to our help swiftly and without reservation. It provides help in building facilities, provides expertise and experience, and provides manpower assistance and materials of all kinds. Whatever Hong Kong requests, Hong Kong gets and gets it fast and in abundance. The unlimited support and help by the Central People's Government gives us very strong confidence that we shall beat COVID-19. The "one country, two systems" principle is guaranteed by our Constitution and the Basic Law. There is no change to the 160 articles in the Basic Law since its promulgation. The Basic Law guarantees Hong Kong people's freedoms and rights and Hong Kong's long-term stability and prosperity. With Hong Kong's full integration into our country's development plans, its opportunities are unlimited. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR. Our anniversary theme is "A New Era - Stability • Prosperity • Opportunity", to highlight the abundant opportunities of Hong Kong and the bright future ahead. I invite you to join us either in person or online in the activities and events that will be held and see for yourselves a city of doing business, success stories, diversity, harmony and fun. Chief Secretary John Lee gave this speech on March 16 at the online side event on Hong Kong-related issues organised by the Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva during the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Security Bureau today strongly condemned those spreading rumours about the collapse of a toilet in a community isolation facility. It explained that a photo was circulating on the Internet depicting a toilet with its ceiling collapsed in a community isolation facility. The bureau clarified that no collapse incident has happened in the toilets since the community isolation facilities in Tsing Yi, San Tin and on the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities Island of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge commenced operation.  It added that it strongly condemns the individuals who deliberately misled the public by publishing the inaccurate photo.