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The Chief Executive's Office (CEO) today appealed to members of the public for heightened vigilance against online deceptive advertisements purporting to be interviews with the Chief Executive. It recently noted some deceptive advertisements and webpages, which carry the Chief Executive's name and news photos, on online news portals and social media. Such advertisements lure users to click on them, then direct the public to suspicious transaction platforms. The CEO strongly clarified that it has never issued or authorised such advertisements, and that the Chief Executive has never conducted the so-called interviews as claimed by the advertisements and the remarks in them are all fictitious. It urged the public not to visit any suspicious websites via those advertisements or provide personal information to unknown websites. The CEO has reported the incident to Police for investigation.
A man was fined $8,000 by the Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts today for breaching regulations under the Vaccine Pass’ red code function. It is the first court conviction for such a violation since the red code was introduced. The 18-year-old was notified of his positive COVID-19 test result on August 30. However, during the period when a red code was displayed in his Vaccine Pass, he left his residence, took public transport and attempted to enter a catering premise under the pass on September 3. He was charged with contravening section 32(1) and 32(3) of the Prevention & Control of Disease Regulation, incurring an $8,000 fine. Under the regulation, people shall not, knowing that they have acquired a specified infectious disease, expose others to infection risk by their presence or conduct in any public conveyance or any street, public place, place of entertainment or assembly, club or hotel. A breach of the regulation constitues a criminal offence and offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for six months. In addition, red code holders who go to catering premises or specified premises under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Requirements & Directions) (Business & Premises) Regulation commit an offence and are subject to a maximum fine of $10,000. The Department of Health said the sentence sends a clear message to the community that it is a criminal offence to expose the public to infection by leaving the designated place of isolation without permission during the period of confirmed COVID-19 infection. It will co-operate with other departments to stringently follow up on non-compliant cases and will consider prosecution based on investigation results and evidence. The Government said it will not tolerate violations and again reminded the public to comply with the relevant regulations.
Commissioner of Customs & Excise Louise Ho today signed a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia Customs to strengthen intelligence exchanges between Hong Kong and Cambodia to combat cross-border crimes. Signed with Director General of the General Department of Customs & Excise of Cambodia Kun Nhem, the MOU is the first agreement signed digitally by Hong Kong Customs in a virtual meeting with another customs administration. The MOU steps up information sharing to promote closer ties in trade facilitation and creates a business-friendly environment for legitimate trade activities, the Customs & Excise Department said. Currently, 29 similar co-operative instruments have come into effect between Hong Kong Customs and other customs administrations, including the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China and 28 overseas customs administrations.
The number of reported drug abusers in Hong Kong fell 24% year-on-year in the first half of 2022, the Action Committee Against Narcotics announced today. According to the latest Central Registry of Drug Abuse figures, the number of reported drug abusers aged under 21 declined 25% during the period. The most common types of drugs abused in the same period were heroin, cocaine and cannabis, while the most common types among those aged under 21 were cannabis, cocaine and ketamine. The committee's Chairman Dr Donald Li said the law enforcement agencies have spared no effort in combating drug problems in order to prevent drugs from endangering the health of citizens. In 2021, Police and Customs seized over 14,000 kg of drugs, representing a 150% increase compared to the 2020 figure. A total of 4,438 drug cases were detected, which increased 15% compared to the level in 2020. Dr Li pointed out that although the drug abuse and drug situation in the city is generally under control, the community must stay vigilant. He reminded teenagers not to take chances or believe in the fallacy that teenagers or students will not be held legally responsible for drug trafficking. The committee also noted that the numbers might have been affected by the COVID-19 epidemic and the relevant measures.
Customs today said it noticed a bakery chain suddenly announced last night that it had suspended its business, adding the department is highly concerned about the closure and has set up a dedicated team to follow up. The department noted that consumers who had purchased cake coupons or gift vouchers could not redeem the products as a result of the bakery chain closing down. As at 5pm today, Customs had received one complaint regarding the bakery chain. It has contacted the complainant for case details in order to start an investigation. Those who have purchased cake coupons or gift vouchers from the bakery chain should contact Customs as soon as possible. The department said it will continue to closely monitor the situation and take enforcement action should there be any violation of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. Traders are reminded to comply with the ordinance, while consumers are advised to procure cake coupons or gift vouchers at reputable shops and think prudently before consumption with a prepayment. People may report suspected violations of the ordinance by calling Customs' 24-hour hotline at 2545 6182 or sending an email.
Police and the Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to drive digital policing and nurture innovation and technology I&T talent. The force and the HKSTP will collaborate on the application of innovative solutions over the next three years across five areas, including Natural Language Processing (NLP), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Simultaneous Localisation & Mapping (SLAM), Augmented Reality (AR), and search and rescue operations-related technology. Tech ventures can test their new tailor-made solutions for the force in real-life operating environments and adopt data validation via the HKSTP’s STP platform. Both parties hope that the collaboration can drive more organisations to adopt I&T and co-incubate potential tech ventures as well as improve service levels provided to the community. Secretary for Innovation, Technology & Industry Prof Sun Dong witnessed the signing of the MoU. In his opening remarks, Prof Sun thanked the force and the HKSTP for their commitment and effort in promoting I&T development, adding that he looked forward to seeing more collaboration between government departments and the I&T sector to further promote smart city and I&T development in Hong Kong. Commissioner of Police Siu Chak-yee noted in his opening speech that Police, being the Government's largest department, had long been supportive of its initiative to build Hong Kong into an international I&T hub. To drive I&T development, the force not only promotes a culture that encourages innovation and proactively nurtures I&T proficiency but also co-operates with the industry and academia to create a vibrant I&T ecosystem with high-performance software and hardware support so that a win-win situation can be achieved through joint collaboration, he added.
The Security Bureau announced that one more Hong Kong resident who had sought assistance from the Immigration Department safely returned to Hong Kong from Cambodia today. The individual concerned came back to the city with the assistance of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Chinese Embassy in the Kingdom of Cambodia and the bureau's dedicated task force. So far, 14 assistance seekers have returned to Hong Kong safely under the task force's co-ordination. The bureau urged people to contact the Immigration Department as soon as possible if they know or have received information of victims in need of assistance. They may use the WhatsApp hotline 5190 8909, contact the department's Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit at (852) 1868, call the 1868 hotline by network data via the department's mobile app or submit an Online Assistance Request Form.
The sixth-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government convened the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong SAR's first meeting today.     The committee was established in accordance with the National Security Law and is responsible for affairs relating to and assumes primary responsibility for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR. It is under the supervision of and accountable to the Central People's Government.      Chaired by Chief Executive John Lee, the committee's members comprise Chief Secretary Chan Kwok-ki, Financial Secretary Paul Chan, Secretary for Justice Paul Lam, Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung, Commissioner of Police Siu Chak-yee, Deputy Commissioner of Police (National Security) Edwina Lau, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang, Commissioner of Customs & Excise Louise Ho and Director of the Chief Executive's Office Carol Yip. A secretariat has been established under the committee with Sonny Au as Secretary General. National Security Adviser designated by the Central People's Government Luo Huining, who is Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR, sits in on meetings. The committee analyses and assesses developments in relation to safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR, makes work plans and formulates policies for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR. Its duties also include advancing development of the Hong Kong SAR's legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security as well as co-ordinating major work and significant operations for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR.
With the gradual easing of global challenges from the pandemic, now is the time to explore new opportunities and deepen co-operation through the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), which is the largest platform for international co-operation. From 2013 to 2021, the annual trade volume between China and countries along the Belt & Road expanded 73% from US$1.04 trillion to US$1.8 trillion, and new infrastructure contracts valued at US$1.08 trillion were entered during the same period. In respect of any trade or investment contract, there is always a possibility that disputes may arise. It would be prudent at the outset to give some serious considerations on how and where any such dispute may be resolved. On this occasion, I would like to share my views on how the full-fledged legal and dispute resolution services in Hong Kong can provide strong support for investors and the dispute resolution sectors in navigating new opportunities along the Belt & Road. Hong Kong flourishes under ‘one country, two systems’With its strategic geographical location in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong is well placed to connect with the rest of the world, and Hong Kong is indeed the main gateway to Mainland China. As emphasised by President Xi Jinping at the meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland on July 1, 2022, the Central People’s Government (CPG) fully supports Hong Kong in its effort to seize historic opportunities offered by China’s development and actively dovetail itself with the 14th Five-Year Plan and other national strategies such as the development of the Greater Bay Area and, of course, the BRI. In his address, President Xi underscored that the CPG fully supports Hong Kong in maintaining the common law system, being one of its distinctive advantages. More importantly, he confirmed that the principle of “one country, two systems” must be adhered to in the long run. This means that our legal system including its independent judiciary, as well as law and practice familiar to the international commercial community, shall and will continue, thereby dispelling any previous doubt about the future of Hong Kong. In the past 25 years, nine arrangements on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters have been signed between the Mainland and Hong Kong. Three arrangements are arbitration-related to facilitate reciprocal recognition and mutual enforcement of arbitral awards and interim measures for protection of property, evidence and conduct preservation. The latest addition is the Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition & Enforcement of Judgments in Civil & Commercial Matters, which will soon be implemented. It aims to provide a comprehensive mechanism for reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments between the Mainland and Hong Kong, which covers around 90% of cross-boundary civil and commercial cases. These arrangements enable people doing business in and with the Mainland to enjoy the legal protection offered by the Hong Kong legal system. International collaboration in dispute resolutionWith the staunch support from the CPG, we welcomed the establishment of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Centre (AALCO HK Centre) as our new Legal Hub tenant in May this year. Together with five other regional arbitration centres of AALCO, the AALCO HK Centre stands out by offering cutting-edge online dispute resolution services for the Asian-African region. As of 2022, 46 African countries have signed memorandums of understanding to be part of the BRI. Through fostering the development and promotion of international commercial arbitration in the Asian-African region, the AALCO HK Centre further strengthens Hong Kong’s unique role in building closer global connection with our African counterparts. Innovation in dispute resolutionThe pandemic has changed the way we work. While I believe everyone is pleased that physical events are gradually returning, the convenience of using legal technology, or lawtech in short, has found its way to stay by providing more efficient and cost-effective ways to resolve disputes, which in turn further enhances access to justice. One of the initiatives supported by the Government is the Hong Kong Legal Cloud, which offers secured, quick and affordable storage of and access to files and information for the legal and dispute resolution profession. The reach of lawtech extends beyond the local community. In April 2020, Hong Kong has opted into the APEC Collaborative Framework for Online Dispute Resolution of Cross-Border Business-to-Business Disputes (APEC ODR Framework), which encourages the use of online negotiation, mediation and arbitration by micro, small and medium enterprises in resolving business-to-business disputes. Our home-grown institution, eBRAM Centre, has launched the APEC Online Dispute Resolution procedural rules tailor-made for the APEC Collaborative Framework last year and has been listed in April 2022 as the first and only ODR service provider from Hong Kong under the APEC ODR Framework to serve the APEC economies. Funding options for arbitration in Hong KongDriven by growing market demand for flexible funding options for arbitration, and to facilitate meritorious claims and promote access to justice, the Government has been bringing forth supportive measures to facilitate arbitration users. In 2019, we have amended the Arbitration Ordinance to make it clear that third party funding of arbitration is permissible in Hong Kong. This year, we have introduced outcome related fee structures for arbitration (ORFSA) to provide sophisticated clients and commercial entities with additional funding options through diversified fee structures for arbitration. With ORFSA, clients and lawyers may enter into fee arrangements that best suit their financial and risk management needs. This enables Hong Kong to compete on an even playing field with other major arbitral seats where similar fee arrangements are allowed. The ORFSA (Amendment) Ordinance 2022 lays the legal framework for ORFSA, particularly by providing that certain ORFSA agreements are not prohibited by the common law doctrines of maintenance and champerty. Subsidiary legislation will be enacted to set out the more detailed regulatory framework and the particular safeguards to further protect the interests of arbitration users. We aim to fully implement the ORFSA regime by the end of this year. In respect of mediation, we work towards developing Hong Kong into an international investment law and investor-state dispute resolution skills training base by building up a team of investment mediators in Asia. This also complements the Mediation Mechanism for Investment Disputes established under the CEPA Investment Agreement between Mainland and Hong Kong, which encourages the use of Hong Kong’s mediation services by Mainland investors to resolve cross-boundary investment disputes. ConclusionAt the meeting of the Advisory Council of the Belt & Road Forum for International Cooperation last December, State Councillor Wang Yi said that “the BRI has never been a geopolitical strategy, but a road of development that helps to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and drives shared progress and prosperity”. As we move gradually to post-pandemic days amidst global economic headwinds, the BRI has become truly a path of hope bolstering resilience and optimism for what lies ahead. With the steadfast support from the CPG, together with its unique strengths including a robust legal system and fine common law tradition, Hong Kong, as part of China - the largest market in the world - stands out from its global competitors. Hong Kong is committed to improving its legal regime continuously to better serve the international community, as well as offering users a buffet of dispute resolution options catering to the diversified needs of different clients from around the world. Whatever you need, you will find it here in Hong Kong. I hope that this summit will reassure you that Hong Kong will continue to flourish and remain as the prime platform for businesses and practitioners to seize the golden opportunities that lie ahead along the Belt & Road. Secretary for Justice Paul Lam gave these remarks at the Belt & Road Summit thematic breakout session titled International Dispute Resolution: Hong Kong as a leading centre for resolving disputes along the Belt & Road on August 31.
Police today held the Bank Staff Recognition Ceremony to commend the efforts of banks and their frontline staff in assisting the force to combat deception cases. Addressing the ceremony, Commissioner of Police Siu Chak-yee said the force works in close collaboration with the banking sector to tackle deception cases and noted the fact that fraudsters employ different defrauding tricks to commit crimes with the use of phones and the Internet. Since its establishment, the Anti-Deception Co-ordination Centre has successfully prevented 1,760 scam cases from happening with the joint efforts of Police and the banking industry. Among them, some 460 cases were detected by bank staff and as a direct result, 571 fraudsters were arrested and over $10.7 billion was intercepted. Mr Siu praised the frontline bank employees for their vigilance and professionalism which had successfully prevented scams from taking place. Additionally, he expressed the hope that Police would deepen its collaboration with the banking sector to intercept payments to fraudsters in a round-the-clock manner and added that the force hoped the trade could make use of RegTech (regulatory technology) in crime detection and prevention. At today’s ceremony, both individual and co-operate awards were presented in recognition of the banks’ contribution in the prevention and inspection of deception cases. In the past year and a half, 192 frontline bank staff assisted Police in identifying 290 such cases and reported them to the co-ordination centre. Police also pointed out that one bank, which was given the Effective Application of RegTech award, had detected at least 26 ongoing deception cases by applying such regulatory technology.