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Acting Secretary for Security Michael Cheuk today said the Government is prepared to raise the penalties for non-compliance with the Directions and Fire Safety Compliance Orders for buildings as a deterrent effect. Responding to questions from legislator Lo Wai-kwok in the Legislative Council, Mr Cheuk noted that the Government is expediting the work on amending the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance to empower the Fire Services Department and the Buildings Department to carry out fire safety improvement works for the buildings whose owners have failed to comply with the ordinance's requirements and to recover the relevant fees upon completion of the defaulted works. He reiterated that timely and proper maintenance of private buildings is the responsibility of owners. “We propose to amend the ordinance and to arrange for defaulted works because we understand that some owners are facing genuine difficulties, and that empowering the Government to carry out defaulted works by way of amending the ordinance can assist those owners with genuine difficulties in enhancing the fire safety standards of those relevant buildings, providing better protection to them.” Acknowledging that there are views in the community that the deterrent effect of a penalty should keep up with the times, Mr Cheuk said with reference to penalties for offences of a similar nature or gravity, the Government is inclined to raise the penalties for non-compliance with the directions and compliance orders to a maximum of $100,000 and $200,000 respectively, as well as increase the corresponding daily fine. The amendments to the ordinance also include other different elements, such as introducing provisions against uncooperative owners to prevent anyone from intentionally obstructing an owners' corporation in complying with the requirements of the ordinance, empowering the Government to register instructions of the ordinance issued against the involved buildings or their parts in the Land Registry. The Government strives to submit the proposed amendment bill to LegCo for scrutiny in July. Mr Cheuk also hopes the measures will effectively strengthen the deterrent effect and encourage owners to comply with the ordinance, with a view to enhancing the compliance rate.
The Government said today it will instigate prosecution proceedings against building owners who ignore the Fire Safety Directions or make poor progress without reasonable excuse starting from this quarter. The Government continues to follow up on the fire incident at New Lucky House and the non-compliance issues with the Fire Safety Directions revealed therein. At present, there are about 9,000 buildings with expired directions and which have not yet complied with the directions. Excluding some thousands of buildings which have applied for government subsidies, the Government will prioritise handling of over 2,000 buildings without active progress from the remaining buildings that have not yet complied with the directions. The Buildings Department (BD) will focus on handling buildings aged 50 years or above. Other prioritisation factors include those without fire service installations and equipment, buildings with a single-staircase design, buildings with more guest houses or unauthorised subdivided flats, or with large scale illegal structures. For these 2,000-plus buildings, the BD and the Fire Services Department (FSD), upon the issuance of warning letters or the expiry of the directions respectively, will instigate prosecutions against owners of buildings lacking progress without reasonable excuse starting from the second quarter. The Government will provide active support for building owners who are willing to comply with the directions. The two departments, together with the Home Affairs Department, will deploy staff to attend meetings of owners' corporations and explain the requirements of the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance, as well as proactively liaise with the project consultants or registered fire service installation contractors engaged by the owners to offer appropriate assistance and advice. The Government will also strengthen support for subsidised buildings. Under the $5.5 billion Fire Safety Improvement Works Subsidy Scheme funded by the Government and implemented by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), a total of about 3,000 applications have been issued with Approval-in-Principle Letters in the first two rounds. The URA is processing around 1,300 applications received in the third round that meet the basic requirements, and will start issuing Approval-in-Principle Letters to applicants starting from the end of this month. As for the subsidised buildings, the URA will strengthen monitoring of their fire safety improvement works progress by urging building owners who have not yet appointed consultants to expedite the course of actions and tightening the applications for deadline extensions for those lacking progress without a reasonable excuse. The URA will revoke the approval of subsidies for cases that fail to meet the progress requirements despite reminders. The FSD and the BD will hold district briefings regularly to explain the details of compliance with the directions, with the most recent one in Tsuen Wan to be held on May 23. Meanwhile, the Government is expediting the relevant work on amending the ordinance to empower the FSD and the BD to carry out fire safety improvement works for owners who have failed to comply with the requirements of the ordinance, and to recover the relevant fees from them upon completion of the defaulted works. It will strive to submit the proposed amendment bill to the Legislative Council for scrutiny in July.
The Commerce & Economic Development Bureau today alerted the public to fraudulent WhatsApp messages purportedly sent by the Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development (SCED). The bureau and SCED have no connection with the fraudulent messages which have been reported to Police. Citizens are reminded to stay alert to suspicious messages and not to disclose any personal information.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has said it strongly condemns a “briefing” by the organisation “Hong Kong Watch” that makes untruthful, slandering and smearing remarks against Hong Kong’s Basic Law Article 23 legislation and requests the UK Government to impose sanctions on Hong Kong officials. In a press statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the briefing is intended to mislead the public and smear both the National Security Law and the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance. It asserted that the proposed sanctions amount to despicable political manipulation intended to intimidate Hong Kong SAR officials involved in safeguarding national security and interfere in China’s internal affairs, adding that they violate international law and the basic norms governing international relations. The Hong Kong SAR Government urged organisations with ulterior motives to stop smearing Hong Kong and interfering in its affairs, which are the internal affairs of China. It added that they should stop scaremongering and ensure their remarks about Hong Kong’s security laws are fair and just.  It also highlighted that Hong Kong Watch is a destabilising anti-China organisation that has repeatedly called for sanctions by foreign countries against officials of the Central People’s Government and the Hong Kong SAR Government. It said that members of the public in Hong Kong and the international community should therefore see the organisation in its true colours and not be misled by its skewed remarks. Stressing that it will not be intimidated, the Hong Kong SAR Government said it will continue to safeguard national security without fear, so that the city can focus its efforts on economic development, improving people’s livelihoods and maintaining long-term prosperity and stability.
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today with a 30-person delegation and began a two-day visit to the city to promote Hong Kong's legal and dispute resolution services and enhance co-operation between the two places. Mr Lam met legal and business sectors there during a lunch and networking reception, at which the participants were briefed on Hong Kong's unrivalled advantages of enjoying strong support from the motherland while being closely connected to the world under "one country, two systems". Mr Lam pointed out that as the only common law jurisdiction within China, Hong Kong's well-established legal system and top-notch legal and dispute resolution services give the city a unique edge which attracts business opportunities from across the globe. It is also an ideal gateway for the Middle East businesses and legal sectors to access the Mainland market, he added. Mr Lam then visited the office of a leading artificial intelligence software company born in Hong Kong to gain a better understanding of the business opportunities and challenges for the Hong Kong enterprises operating in Saudi Arabia. He also attended a dinner with Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chang Hua. The Secretary for Justice’s first-day programme included a tour of the At-Turaif District in ad-Dir'iyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Riyadh, which was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty.
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam will lead a delegation today on a five-day visit to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to promote Hong Kong's legal and dispute resolution services and enhance the city’s co-operation with the Middle East. The delegation comprises about 30 representatives from the Law Society of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Bar Association, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, Invest Hong Kong and related sectors. In addition to meeting legal and business sectors to gain a better understanding of their need for cross-jurisdictional legal services, Mr Lam will call on relevant government officials to discuss areas of legal co-operation. The Secretary for Justice will speak to the legal and business sectors in Riyadh at a networking luncheon, and in Dubai at a half-day forum and a networking luncheon. Mr Lam will depart for Hong Kong on May 23. During his absence, Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan will be Acting Secretary.
Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung visited Guangzhou and Shenzhen today to call on the Department of Emergency Management of Guangdong Province, the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department and the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau. In Guangzhou, Mr Tang called on Department of Emergency Management of Guangdong Province Director Wang Zaihua, thanking him for his support for and guidance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in taking forward the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Emergency Management Co-operation & Greater Bay Area Emergency Response Operation Co-operation Framework Agreement. Mr Tang said the relevant work has made important achievements, adding that he hoped the three places would sign the agreement in Hong Kong in the near future and formulate the new Greater Bay Area Emergency Response & Rescue Operational Plan, so as to consolidate resources for emergency response among the cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to enhance the efficacy of cross-boundary rescue efforts. He also called on Guangdong Vice-Governor and Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department Director Liu Guozhou to brief him on the recent completion of the local legislation on Basic Law Article 23 to improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security. They discussed deepening co-operation in different areas, including combating cross-boundary crimes and illegal immigration, as well as emergency management, flow of talent, and training and exchanges, to enhance the collaborative development and law enforcement capabilities of the two places. Before heading to Guangzhou, Mr Tang called on Shenzhen Vice Mayor and Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau Director General Zhao Yong in Shenzhen this morning. He expressed his gratitude to Mr Zhao for supporting the work of the Security Bureau and its disciplinary services. They also exchanged views on strengthening police co-operation, facilitating the flow of people and combating crimes, especially deception, in the hope of jointly taking forward major areas of work. Mr Tang then visited the Public Security Bureau’s Shenzhen Bay Service Center of Nanshan Branch to learn about the convenient one-stop service offered to the public.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today said it strongly deplored and opposed the biased remarks about the situation in the Hong Kong SAR made by US Consul General to Hong Kong Gregory May at a forum recently held by a US think tank. It also rejected Mr May’s slanders and smears against the city’s work in safeguarding national security at the same event. In a statement tonight, the Hong Kong SAR Government strongly demanded that the US immediately stop acting against international law and basic norms of international relations as well as interfering in the Hong Kong SAR’s affairs. It also urged the US to discern the fact that the National Security Law (NSL) has enabled the livelihood and economic activities of the Hong Kong community at large to resume as normal. The statement said the US side has ignored the “colour revolution” that occurred in Hong Kong in 2019 as well as the fact that it is an international practice and an inherent right and responsibility for a sovereign state to enact laws safeguarding national security. It pointed out that the NSL and the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance are precisely for safeguarding national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and ensuring the full and faithful implementation of the principle of “one country, two systems” under which Hong Kong people administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. These laws also better safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kong SAR residents and other people in the city. Noting that the US blatantly attacked the Hong Kong SAR in safeguarding national security dutifully, faithfully and in accordance with the law, the Hong Kong SAR Government said such positions fully exposed the US' double standards. It made it clear that the relevant laws have set out clear definitions and criminal elements which will not affect regular exchanges between Hong Kong residents and people here for business with foreign countries. These normal interactions and business activities, it added, are protected by the Basic Law and the local laws of the city, and cannot be confused with acts and activities endangering national security. The statement also emphasised the legitimacy and necessity of the Hong Kong SAR law enforcement agencies’ move to release the information of fugitive offenders who have allegedly committed serious offences and are wanted, and to appeal for the public's assistance in bringing fugitive offenders to justice. Furthermore, such actions are also squarely in line with international practice. The Hong Kong SAR Government noted that the US side on one hand claimed that it wished to “stabilise the relationship”, but on the other hand, it frequently smeared the law enforcement actions conducted by the Hong Kong SAR in accordance with the law. The US’ suggestion that certain people should be immune from legal sanctions for their illegal acts and activities is totally contrary to the spirit of the rule of law, it added. Regarding the Court of Appeal’s recent granting of an interim injunction concerning specified criminal acts in relation to a song, the Hong Kong SAR Government reiterated that it has acted in accordance with the law and applied to the court for an injunction for discharging its constitutional duty to safeguard national security by effectively preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment on acts or activities endangering national security. The statement said the injunction targets four acts which already constitute criminal offences, does not affect lawful and legitimate activities conducted for purposes such as academic activity and news activity, and will not stifle the free flow of information. As for Mr May’s mention of the economic and trade co-operation and people-to-people exchanges between Hong Kong and the US, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the US should take concrete actions to stop all wrongdoing that undermines Hong Kong-US economic and trade relations, and make efforts to foster mutual benefits between the two places. It stressed that with a comprehensive legal system in safeguarding national security, Hong Kong can move forward without worries or burden, fully focusing on pursuing economic growth, advancing development, improving people’s livelihood and bringing fulfilment to the people, with a view to creating a more prosperous and better home together. The Hong Kong SAR Government said it will continue to ensure the successful implementation of the principles of “one country, two systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy, so as to better serve Hong Kong citizens and foster the city’s development.
Staff from around 40 bureaus and departments, along with other relevant parties, took part in an interdepartmental pre-typhoon tabletop exercise today at the Central Government Offices’ Emergency Monitoring & Support Centre, with a view to enhancing collaboration in case of a super typhoon. The exercise simulated a super typhoon and rainstorm battering Hong Kong and causing widespread property damage, as well as serious blockages to thoroughfares. Participants were required to set out responses under different circumstances. The Security Bureau said the drill served as an interdisciplinary platform for participants to share their experience and expertise. It allowed attendees to gain a better understanding of the Emergency Monitoring & Support Centre’s operations, as well as each other’s roles and responsibilities, the bureau added. According to the Hong Kong Observatory’s forecasts, between five and eight tropical cyclones will hit the city this year, with the tropical cyclone season beginning in or after June. The Government stressed that it will work on strengthening its capabilities in the face of challenges brought about by extreme weather, so as to safeguard lives and property.
The Court of Appeal today granted the Secretary for Justice's appeal in relation to an interim injunction for the song Glory to Hong Kong, prohibiting four classes of criminal acts relating to the song.    In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the purpose of applying for the injunction is to safeguard national security and preserve the dignity of the national anthem, adding that any person who violates the interim injunction order may be held liable for contempt of court. Widely circulated since 2019, the song has been used to incite others to participate in acts and activities which are very likely to constitute offences such as secession and sedition, thereby endangering national security. The song has also been mistakenly presented as the "national anthem of Hong Kong", not only insulting the national anthem but also causing serious harm to the State and the Hong Kong SAR. The Hong Kong SAR Government said it has acted in accordance with the law and applied to the court for an injunction for discharging its constitutional duty to safeguard national security by effectively preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment on acts or activities endangering national security. The Basic Law, the National Security Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other relevant laws fully guarantee that Hong Kong residents enjoy basic rights and freedom, including freedoms of speech and of the press in accordance with the law, but such freedoms are not absolute. Relevant international covenants recognise that the law may impose reasonable and necessary restrictions on the exercise of such rights in order to safeguard national security, which is a common practice in many countries. The injunction application pursues the legitimate aim of safeguarding national security and is necessary, reasonable, legitimate, proportionate and consistent with the requirements of the Bill of Rights. The interim injunction will not in any way affect law-abiding Hong Kong citizens in exercising their rights and freedoms in accordance with the law, the statement said. It has never been the intent of the application to cover or affect lawful and legitimate activities conducted in or outside Hong Kong for purposes such as academic activity and news activity. For the avoidance of doubt, the interim injunction clearly states that lawful academic activity and news activity will not be prohibited on condition that such activities do not involve any of the acts in specified circumstances, it added. The full text of the interim injunction will be uploaded to the websites of the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Department of Justice and Police. Addresses of the websites and the QR codes will be announced after the uploading.