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The Greater Bay Area Cross-Boundary Disputes Mediation Model Rules, endorsed by the fourth Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) Legal Departments Joint Conference on December 16, were officially released and took effect today. The bay area comprises three different legal systems of the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. The mediation models, systems and development among the three places are also different. In synergy with the GBA Mediator Accreditation Standards and the GBA Mediator Code of Conduct Best Practice, which were endorsed and took effect last year, the mediation model rules will have a demonstrative effect for mediation institutions and mediators in the bay area to refer to and voluntarily adopt. The Department of Justice said the promulgation of various mediation standards will further promote the wider use of mediation within the bay area and is a major milestone in advancing the rule of law as well as Hong Kong's integration into the development of the bay area. It will also encourage the use of mediation by the business sector and the public in the three places to resolve cross-boundary disputes, creating complementary and win-win solutions.
The Security Bureau today expressed regret over a statement by the Hong Kong Journalists Association on a criminal case, and said its allegation that the verdict affects the freedom of the press is totally unfounded and misleading. The bureau said that in Hong Kong, any arrest and prosecution is directed against the criminal act and has nothing to do with the political stance, background or occupation of the people concerned. It would be totally contrary to the rule of law to suggest that a certain group of people could enjoy privileges and break the law without bearing legal responsibilities due to their capacity, it added. As regards the criminal case the association referred to, the court with independent judicial power has found the person concerned guilty of "possession of offensive weapons in public place”. This proves that the prosecution action was fully substantiated by facts and legal reasons. In fact, as the Judge of the District Court pointed out in his judgment, while that person claimed to be a journalist, there was indeed no need to carry forceps and laser pens within the scope of his duties, the bureau said. The Security Bureau said the Government is firmly committed to safeguarding freedom of press and speech, which are protected under the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. However, freedom of press and expression are not absolute, and may be restricted for reasons including the protection of public safety according to the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. Journalists, like everyone else, have an obligation to abide by the law, the bureau added. Anyone, regardless of their background or profession, should be held accountable for their illegal acts, adding that law breakers must be brought to justice, which have nothing to do with freedom of speech, press and publication. Noting that no one can be above the law, the bureau said the Government will continue to handle all cases in a fair, just and impartial manner in accordance with the law.
The Department of Justice's Prosecutions Division today published the Prosecutions Hong Kong 2021, which reviews its prosecution work in 2021. The department said one of the fundamental principles of Hong Kong's criminal justice system is to ensure a fair trial and uphold due administration of justice. In ensuring the integrity of the criminal justice system in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the department's prosecutors have always applied the highest professional standards in handling criminal cases and discharging their prosecutorial duties without fear or favour. In the Director's Overview, Director of Public Prosecutions Maggie Yang emphasised that all prosecutorial decisions are made on evidence and public interest considerations. Factors such as personal opinion and political stance have absolutely no part to play. She also pointed out that the work of prosecutors excludes notions of winning or losing. The purpose of bringing a prosecution is not to secure a conviction, but to present evidence in a fair and impartial manner to assist the court or jury in reaching a just result. Apart from a detailed account of the key cases handled by each sub-division of the Prosecutions Division, the annual report also provides information on various outreach and training activities organised by the division throughout the year.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today said it is highly concerned about the Japanese authority’s restrictions that require passenger flights from Hong Kong to only land at four designated airports in Japan starting December 30, and is following up on the incident on multiple fronts. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau notified the Hong Kong SAR Government yesterday that with effect from December 30, passenger flights from Hong Kong will only be allowed to land at Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Kansai Airport and Chubu Airport, and that relevant airlines are requested not to increase the number of passenger flights from Hong Kong to Japan. In response to this notification, the Hong Kong SAR Government has written to the Japanese authority and liaised with the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong to express its grave concern, and to strongly request the Japanese authority to rescind the restrictions concerned. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong SAR Government has convened an urgent video conference with representatives of the Japanese authority, and has been in close communication with the affected local airlines.     The Hong Kong SAR Government learnt from the Japanese authority today and confirmed that upon the implementation of Japan's new regulations, the flights of Hong Kong airlines can still carry passengers back to the city from various airports in Japan, without being limited to the above four airports.     It is understood that around 250 outbound flights of Hong Kong airlines will be affected between December 30, 2022 and the end of January 2023, affecting around 60,000 passengers. Among them, about 4,000 are tour group travellers. More than 150 tour groups are affected by Japan’s decision.     The Transport & Logistics Bureau has urged the local airlines to provide the greatest support and assistance to the affected passengers and make proper arrangements for them to return to Hong Kong from Japan. The bureau noted that local airlines will provide affected passengers with options to change bookings or obtain refunds, and will, starting December 30, arrange for certain flights to take Hong Kong people in Japan home from airports other than the four mentioned above.     For tour groups, travel agencies are actively co-ordinating with airlines to arrange seats on flights and at the same time providing alternative arrangements for affected passengers, such as arranging other seats, adjusting itineraries, changing tours or obtaining refunds.     The Hong Kong SAR Government said the bureau, Immigration Department, Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in Tokyo, Tourism Commission, Travel Industry Authority and the airlines will maintain close contact to keep abreast of the latest situation as well as provide appropriate and feasible assistance to Hong Kong residents in need. Affected Hong Kong residents in Japan may call the 24-hour hotline (852) 1868 to seek help from the Immigration Department Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit.
The Correctional Services Department announced that it made arrangements for people in custody to attend Christmas activities during the festive period. Hong Kong Catholic Bishop Stephen Chow visited Stanley Prison and presided at a Christmas mass today to share his faith and Christmas blessings with participating inmates. He also went to the prison hospital there to convey his sympathy and support to the patients. Earlier on December 22, Hong Kong Archbishop Andrew Chan presided at a Christmas service in Pak Sha Wan Correctional Institution to preach and share religious messages with inmates and show his love and care to them. Through the correctional services chaplain, voluntary chaplains and visitors from religious organisations, a wide range of spiritual and social services are offered to those in custody who wish to participate regardless of their religious affiliation, the department said. The services include visits, teaching, counselling, religious worship and recreational activities, it added.
Police conducted a large-scale anti-illegal gambling operation during the World Cup 2022 in November and December, resulting in the arrest of 1,104 people and seizure of betting records valued over $560 million and more than $10 million in cash. In the operation, Police conducted a total of 188 raids, leading to the arrest of 645 men and 459 women aged between 15 and 89 for the offences of engaging in bookmaking, betting with a bookmaker, operating illegal gambling establishments" and money laundering. Police warned that anyone who bets with a bookmaker commits an offence and is liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and nine months' imprisonment. Offenders who engage in bookmaking, or promote or facilitate bookmaking are liable to a maximum fine of $5 million and seven years' imprisonment. Citizens are also reminded that a person will still be liable to the offences even if the gambling website is hosted overseas, despite engaging in its operation in Hong Kong.
The total number of reported drug abusers in the first three quarters of the year fell 17% year-on-year to 4,122, 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 also declined by 21% to 589. The most common types of drugs abused during the period were heroin, cocaine and cannabis, while the most common types among those aged under 21 were cannabis, cocaine and ketamine. Among the arrestees of drug offences aged under 21 in the same period, those who were arrested for serious drug offences accounted for 66%, which is 16 percentage points higher than that of arrestees aged 21 or above. Meanwhile, of the arrestees aged under 21 who were prosecuted for drug trafficking, nearly 80% were convicted. Noting that the Government will list cannabidiol - known as CBD - as a drug from February 1 next year, the committee's Chairman Dr Donald Li urged the public to arrange early disposal of any CBD products in their possession. When the legislation takes effect, it will be illegal to possess or trade CBD products and offenders may be subject to imprisonment and fines. As the festive season is approaching, Dr Li reminded people to stay away from drugs when attending local gatherings or travelling outside Hong Kong and especially not to bring or traffic any drugs into the city.
The Government today issued an amber outbound travel alert on Peru in view of the latest situation there. It advised Hong Kong people planning to visit Peru or who are already there to monitor the situation, exercise caution, attend to their personal safety, pay attention to local announcements and avoid travelling to places with large gatherings of people. Due to ongoing demonstrations, non-essential travel to Arequipa, Cuzco (including the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu) and Puno should be avoided. The Security Bureau will closely monitor the situation in Peru. Updates will be issued through the media, the bureau’s mobile app and outbound travel alert webpage. Hong Kong residents in Peru may call the Immigration Department’s Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit at (852) 1868 or contact the Chinese Embassy in Peru at (51) 995203968 for assistance.
Two more Hong Kong residents who had sought assistance from the Immigration Department safely returned to Hong Kong today from Cambodia and Myanmar respectively, the Security Bureau said. The individuals concerned returned to the city with the aid of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Chinese embassies in the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the bureau's dedicated task force and the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in Bangkok. So far, 21 assistance seekers have returned to Hong Kong 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 help. 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 Immigration Department has extended the facilitation measure that allows eligible non-permanent residents who are outside Hong Kong to apply for an extension of stay, to June 30, 2023. Implemented on April 8, the facilitation measure is originally set to expire on December 31. Now, eligible non-permanent residents who are admitted into Hong Kong under nine immigration policies or schemes, whose limit of stay will expire within four weeks but are presently outside Hong Kong, may apply for an extension of stay before June 30, 2023 under the measure. For enquiries, call 2824 6111, send a fax to 2877 7711 or send an email.