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The Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 will take effect from August 1, further improving the handling of non-refoulement claims, the Government announced today. Pursuant to the amended ordinance, a claimant must attend interviews upon request by the Immigration Department. If a claimant fails to attend an interview, the department may still decide on the claim. During the screening interview, the department will, if needed, arrange a publicly funded simultaneous interpretation service for a claimant. Under certain circumstances, it may direct a claimant to communicate in a language that it reasonably considers the claimant could understand and communicate in. If a claimant’s physical or mental condition is in dispute and is relevant to the consideration of the claim, the department may make arrangement for such claimant to undergo a medical examination. If the claimant fails to give consent that is necessary to enable a medical examination to be arranged or conducted, undergo the examination or disclose the full medical report, the department may decide not to take into account the claimant’s disputed physical or mental condition. For the handling of appeals, the amended Immigration Ordinance also authorises the Torture Claims Appeal Board (TCAB) the aforementioned powers relating to language and medical examinations. If an oral hearing is required, the notice period should be 28 days before the hearing. In certain cases, the TCAB may shorten the notice period to less than 28 days but not less than seven days. All claims made after August 1 will be handled under the new provisions. Claims and appeals made before that date but pending decisions by the department or the TCAB will be handled as per the savings and transitional provisions under the newly added Schedule 5 to the Immigration Ordinance. On detention, the amended ordinance stipulates that, in addition to specific circumstances of individual cases, factors which may justify a longer detention period should be taken into account in considering whether a period of detention is reasonable and lawful. Such factors include whether a person poses or is likely to pose a threat or security risk to the community. To expedite the removal of unsuccessful claimants, the department has been closely liaising with governments and airline companies of major source countries of claimants to enhance the overall efficiency of removal. In addition, the amended ordinance stipulates that once a claim has been rejected by an immigration officer, even when the appeal is pending, the department may commence liaison with relevant authorities for repatriation arrangements in parallel. The penalties of relevant offences under the amended Immigration Ordinance have also been increased. The maximum fine for an owner of an aircraft and his agent carrying a passenger arriving in Hong Kong without a valid travel document will be raised from $10,000 to $100,000. The maximum penalty for employing an illegal immigrant, overstayer or a person who was refused permission to land, will be increased from a fine of $350,000 and three years' imprisonment to a fine of $500,000 and 10 years' imprisonment. The director, manager, secretary or partner of the company concerned may also bear criminal liability. The Secretary for Security is also empowered to make regulations for the implementation of the Advanced Passenger Information (API) system to fulfil the international obligation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the Convention on International Civil Aviation. In accordance with the standards proposed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Government stressed that it is studying, having regard to overseas experiences, the operational arrangement for the API system and will make relevant subsidiary legislation. It added that it has implemented various measures for handling non-refoulement claims over the past years with good progress and added that the executive authorities will be able handle such claims more effectively upon the commencement of the amended ordinance.
The implementation of the National Security Law has reinforced Hong Kong's position as an international financial and business hub, despite repeated attempts by the US administration to slander the legislation over the last year. The Government made the remarks in response to the US administration's latest attempt to issue a so-called advisory to US businesses and individuals operating in Hong Kong, adding that its malicious attempts to damage Hong Kong's reputation as a global business hub were doomed to fail. It also strongly condemned the so-called sanctions imposed on seven deputy directors of the Central People's Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong. In its response, the Government said the US' move based on totally ridiculous and unfounded fear-mongering about the situation in Hong Kong proved again its hypocrisy and double standards driven by ideological hegemony. "The main victims of this latest fallout will sadly be those US businesses and US citizens who have taken Hong Kong as their home," it noted. Contrary to the US administration's allegation, developments since the implementation of the National Security Law are characterised by safety, security and stability. Business confidence has been restored when their operations are no longer under the threat of terrorist acts, street violence and personal intimidation. Such sentiments are widely reported at seminars, opinion surveys and press articles by community leaders on the first anniversary of the enactment of the National Security Law. The Government pointed out that Article 1 of the National Security Law passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress states, first and foremost, that the purpose of enacting this law is to ensure the full and faithful implementation of the policy of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region enjoying a high degree of autonomy; safeguarding national security; and maintaining Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Referring to such acts of the central authorities over Hong Kong as oppressive actions is a fallacy that could hardly stand up to challenge. The Government also stated that the National Security Law is the major turning point in Hong Kong's transition from chaos to order and its effect in stabilising society is indisputable. Over the year-long period before the implementation of the National Security Law, the Hong Kong community was badly traumatised. Organisations advocating Hong Kong independence and self-determination blatantly challenged the authority of the central authorities and the Hong Kong SAR Government. Terrorist activities were orchestrated by radicals. Public facilities were vandalised with violence and enforcement actions by Police were obstructed. Moreover, anti-China factions colluded with foreign or external forces to interfere with the affairs of China and the Hong Kong SAR, and mobilised international forces to impose sanctions on Hong Kong, totally disregarding the interests of the country and Hong Kong people and seriously endangering national security. After the implementation of the National Security Law, stability has been restored in society and Hong Kong people can once again enjoy their legitimate rights and freedoms. Besides, the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong are as robust as ever. The Judiciary operates independently as in the past, exercising the independent judicial power enshrined in the Basic Law. The Chief Executive continues to appoint senior and prominent judges from overseas common law jurisdictions as non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal on the recommendations of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission as stipulated in the Basic Law. In the past year, one distinguished judge from the UK was newly appointed and three other overseas judges agreed to extend their services, resulting in a total of 13 non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal from other common law jurisdictions at present. The willingness of these distinguished judges to participate in the work of the Hong Kong courts is the best evidence of the city's judicial independence, the Government said. Furthermore, under the National Security Law, Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre has not wavered at all. In the past 12 months, the initial public offering funds raised in Hong Kong exceeded $500 billion, representing an increase of more than 50% compared to the previous 12 months. The linked exchange rate system has, as always, worked well. The Hong Kong dollar market recorded net capital inflows in 2020. In the four months from the implementation of the National Security Law in July to October last year, the amount of funds flowing into the Hong Kong dollar system exceeded $300 billion. Also, the total deposits in the Hong Kong banking system have increased by more than 5% over last year, while the net asset value of funds management in Hong Kong at the end of last year increased by some 20% over the end of 2019. These figures clearly showed that investors have not been deterred by the National Security Law. Noting that the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success remains intact, the Government said the defamatory remarks in the US' advisory that US businesses maintaining a presence or staff in Hong Kong should consider the potential reputational, economic and legal risks could hardly be substantiated. It also believed that foreign politicians who continue to query and smear the National Security Law despite the clear evidence were motivated by a broader geopolitical agenda to suppress China. "The latest moves by the US are a continuation of US' blatant interference in the internal affairs of the People's Republic of China and the Hong Kong SAR. "In doing so, the US is clearly breaching not only the principle of non-intervention under international law but also the principle of sovereign equality which expressly sets out that the territorial integrity and political independence of the state are inviolable." The Government noted that Hong Kong, as a free and open economy as well as an international city, will continue to welcome overseas businesses including US ones to set up offices in Hong Kong and to use Hong Kong as their regional headquarters or regional offices. The abundant opportunities arising from the nation's 14th Five-Year Plan, in particular the support given to Hong Kong and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area are certainly appreciated by the international business community in Hong Kong as illustrated in their recent words and deeds about the business environment. "Hong Kong has not been undermined by the National Security Law. On the contrary, it has become stronger, better and more attractive to businesses. Continuous pressure from the US is not going to hamper those prospects," the Government added.
The National Security Law has been implemented for more than a year. Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office Director Xia Baolong presented a review and outlook of the law at a thematic forum held by the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies. Today, I would like to share with you my views. Since the National Security Law has taken effect, it halted the chaos and restored the order in our society. Vigilantism are no longer prevalent and people are free to voice different views openly. Our love for Hong Kong and our motherland can be expressed in an open and above-board manner, and people are more respectful of the rights of others while exercising their own. Even though many western countries have launched malicious attacks on the National Security Law either out of misunderstanding or with a deliberate attempt to mislead, our economic data in the past year, including the funds raised through initial public offerings and the total deposits in the Hong Kong banking system, has proved that Hong Kong's business environment is becoming more attractive, and that international investors' confidence in Hong Kong has been enhanced rather than deterred. These hard facts can surely debunk the lies smearing the National Security Law. Mr Xia mentioned in his speech that with the National Security Law in place, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has established a firm wall made of bronze and iron in safeguarding national security. He said that officials and patriots in the Hong Kong SAR have acted fearlessly in the face of illegal and groundless sanctions by the United States, showing their unwavering love for the country. Meanwhile, Police, being the loyal guardians of the city's stability and national security, have been strictly enforcing the National Security Law. Hong Kong's destiny has always been closely linked to that of our motherland, and Hong Kong people have been contributing to the country in different eras. The central authorities will continue to uphold the principle of "one country, two systems" unswervingly, ensuring its full implementation without being altered or deformed. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Communist Party of China (CPC). CPC Central Committee General Secretary and President Xi Jinping pointed out that the second centenary goal is to build China into a great modern socialist country in all respects. But where will the future of the implementation of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong lie? I am of the view that one must understand "one country" is the prerequisite of "two systems". By building a solid foundation of "one country" with the full implementation of the National Security Law and strictly adhering to the "one country, two systems" principle, the "two systems" can make the most of its competitive edges. Hong Kong will definitely have a brighter future with security bringing prosperity. It is therefore necessary to have the National Security Law to foster Hong Kong's immense potential for further development. The responsibility of in-depth implementation of the National Security Law should be shouldered by our society as a whole. The Department of Justice, apart from handling cases of endangering national security strictly in accordance with the National Security Law and local laws, will also step up the promotion of the national identity among different sectors of the community, enhancing their correct understanding of the Constitution, the Basic Law and the National Security Law. A solid system needs an efficient administration for implementation. In addition to genuinely upholding the Basic Law, bearing allegiance to the country and the Hong Kong SAR, possessing talents and virtues as well as the administrative capabilities, the governing team should also fulfil five specific requirements as pointed out by Mr Xia: (1) being staunch patriots; (2) having strategic thinking and a broad vision to resolve tough problems with a strong sense of responsibility; (3) serving the public with practical actions; (4) rallying and uniting all sectors; and (5) acting in the best interest of the country and the city and perform their duties faithfully. The stronger the bottom line of "one country", the greater the room for "two systems", and hence a better tomorrow for Hong Kong. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on July 17.
National security is key to protecting Hong Kong's business environment, Chief Secretary John Lee said today in response to the US Government's latest actions against Hong Kong. In his statement, Mr Lee said it is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's constitutional responsibility to safeguard national security, adding that the National Security Law has played a key role in the past year since its promulgation and implementation. Hong Kong's stability has been restored and the national security risk has been placed under control, which are developments conducive to maintaining a favourable environment for investment and conducting business, thus enabling a speedy economic recovery and fostering of Hong Kong's prosperity. The US Government's unfounded allegations and the publicity stunt against Hong Kong's business environment were clear attempts to create troubles and intimidate investors, Mr Lee noted. The Chief Secretary also pointed out that the National Security Law underpins the high degree of autonomy of the Hong Kong SAR, and clearly stipulates that the Hong Kong SAR shall protect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by residents under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong in accordance with the law. He stressed that the US again recklessly adopted measures as so-called sanctions and a business advisory to smear and maliciously attack China and the Hong Kong SAR, using the protection of human rights as an excuse and completely ignoring the fact that the stability of Hong Kong's community and business environment has been restored. Noting that the US is undermining its own credibility again and will end up reaping the consequences, Mr Lee said the bullying acts by the US once again illustrated that it is absolutely necessary and appropriate for Hong Kong to take resolute actions to safeguard national security. He emphasised that the Hong Kong SAR Government will deepen the implementation of the National Security Law, continue to consolidate its impact and protect the nation as well as the city.
The National Security Law is in line with the international practice of safeguarding national security, the Department of Justice said today. The department issued a statement in response to the US administration's so-called advisory to US businesses and individuals operating in Hong Kong, saying it is appalling to see that a number of western countries have launched groundless attacks on the National Security Law with a deliberate attempt to mislead the international community. It stated that the National Security Law clearly stipulates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall protect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by residents under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong in accordance with the law. However, these rights and freedoms are not absolute. The ICCPR states that they may be subject to restrictions as prescribed by law if it is necessary in the interests of national security, public safety and order, or the rights and freedoms of others. The department noted that it has been carrying out its constitutional duty in a professional and fair manner, while its prosecutors must act in accordance with the National Security Law and local laws. All prosecutorial decisions are based on admissible evidence and applicable laws and cases will never be handled any differently owing to the political beliefs or background of the people involved. Prosecutions would only be commenced if there is sufficient admissible evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction. The department also pointed out that extraterritorial application vested with the National Security Law is in line with the well-recognised international law principle of protective jurisdiction and the international practice. If foreigners commit crimes abroad against a sovereign state that endanger its security or its vital interests, the sovereign state can adopt laws with extraterritorial effects to exercise prescriptive criminal jurisdiction. Extraterritoriality is in fact a common feature of national security laws in many countries, such as the US' Logan Act and the German Criminal Code. The department said judges remain independent and impartial in performing their judicial duties, free from any interference, when adjudicating cases under the National Security Law. The arrangement on the designation of judges under the law does not undermine the highly respected judicial independence of the Hong Kong SAR, while the city has been entrusted with the responsibility under the law to exercise jurisdiction over most of the cases, save for only three specified situations. Furthermore, the department stressed that under the principles of state sovereignty and non-intervention, sanctions should be brought only in very limited circumstances, such as dealing with terrorism or nuclear proliferation, and in an appropriate forum which is the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Other so-called sanctions, known as unilateral coercive measures, are contrary to international law and the UN framework and violate the principle of non-intervention under international law. Unilateral coercive measures are at odds with the international law principle of non-intervention, unbecoming of any civilised nation, and is a hindrance to international peace and stability. Noting that countries are justified in deploying countermeasures as a response to a breach of the principle of non-intervention against itself, the department said such measures adopted by the Central People's Government are legitimate and an accepted practice under international law. It concluded that the enactment of the National Security Law is in line with the international practice of safeguarding national security and the nation's sovereign rights. Hong Kong's legal system and rule of law remain robust with law and order restored, while its financial market continues to grow after 2019. This proved the benefits and importance of the National Security Law to Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's statement on the National Security Law contained sweeping and totally unsubstantiated remarks which represented blatant interventions into China's internal affairs. Mrs Lam issued a statement, further to the Government's response this morning on the business advisory released by the US Department of State, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury to US businesses and individuals operating in Hong Kong. She said the Mr Blinken's statement represented utter trampling on the rule of law and once again, double standards of the US administration, adding that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government cannot allow such misguided remarks to go unchallenged. The Chief Executive pointed out that the National Security Law clearly stipulates that human rights and individual freedoms shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR. However, under the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights as well as the constitutions of most countries around the world, it is clearly stated that certain basic rights and freedoms of individuals can be restricted through legislation for the purpose of safeguarding national security. The Hong Kong SAR Government has seen numerous decisions and actions under the US jurisdiction affecting other countries, businesses and individuals justified on grounds of safeguarding the national security of the US. It wondered how such obvious double standards could go unnoticed. Moreover, the international community has spoken up against the US' interference into China's internal affairs. At the recently concluded session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, over 90 countries expressed support for China in its efforts in restoring stability in the Hong Kong SAR. These countries clearly stood by the principle of non-intervention under international law as well as the principle of sovereign equality. Mrs Lam also noted that the great majority of Hong Kong people are patriotic and fully embrace the principle of "one country, two systems". They aspire for peace, stability and personal safety but prior to the enactment of the National Security Law, all these had been put at risk by rioters associated with or incited by external forces to subvert state power, very often under the guise of promoting democracy. The Hong Kong authorities are taking actions, including the arrests of suspects, in strict accordance with the law, she said. Mrs Lam emphasised that prosecution decisions are taken by the Department of Justice without any interference and trials are conducted by an independent judiciary. This is the robust legal system that Hong Kong is extremely proud of, and one enshrined in the Basic Law and also embedded in the National Security Law. No other government could or should fetter with these legal proceedings. She reiterated that it is simply wrong for Mr Blinken to allege that Hong Kong's business environment has deteriorated in the past year. Hong Kong remains an open and free economy, underpinned by the rule of law and a robust regulatory regime. As fully demonstrated by the relevant statistics, Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre has not changed and business confidence has not been shaken. Mrs Lam urged the US authorities to view Hong Kong matters in an honest and fair manner, and consider ways to further reward experiences of US businesses and individuals in Hong Kong, instead of intimidating them with the business advisory.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan said today that the implementation of the National Security Law has reinforced Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre. He also reiterated in his statement that the so-called business advisory issued by the US administration to US businesses and individuals operating in Hong Kong was totally ridiculous and unfounded. Mr Chan noted that although Hong Kong has experienced severe challenges of social unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years, its financial market has remained stable, orderly and vibrant, seeing active trading in stock market and has thriving initial public offering (IPO) activities. Hong Kong's banking system also continues to operate smoothly as always. All these factors reflected that the market is full of confidence about Hong Kong's financial environment, he said. In addition, the financial data of the past year clearly showed that investors' confidence about Hong Kong has not been shaken by the National Security Law implemented in July last year, and the development of the financial industry has been very prosperous. The amount of IPO funds raised in Hong Kong over the past year has exceeded $500 billion, representing an increase of more than 50% over the previous 12 months. The average daily turnover of Hong Kong stocks has also reached $160 billion, nearly 70% higher than the situation before the implementation of the National Security Law. The linked exchange rate system has also worked well as always. The Hong Kong dollar market recorded a net capital inflow in 2020. From July to October last year, the amount of funds flowing into the Hong Kong dollar system exceeded $300 billion. At present, the total deposits in Hong Kong's banking system have increased by more than 5% over last year. The total deposits are approximately $14.9 trillion as at the end of May. The net asset value of funds management in Hong Kong at the end of last year has also increased by some 20% over the end of 2019. Moreover, compared to the situation before the implementation of the National Security Law, the daily average turnover of northbound trading of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect has increased over 90% to nearly RMB110 billion. As for Bond Connect, the daily average turnover of northbound trading has also increased by more than 30% over the past year, reaching the amount of RMB23 billion. The figures reflected that international investors still prefer using Hong Kong as a platform to invest in the Mainland's financial market, the finance chief emphasised. He said: "We will actively discuss with the regulators in the two places about the implementation details of the cross-boundary Wealth Management Connect scheme in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Southbound Bond Connect. "It is hoped to launch the two schemes early, so that mutual access of the financial markets in the two places can be further widened and deepened. "It can also explore a huge source of clients and room for business development for the Hong Kong financial industry as well as foster the development of the local wealth and asset management business markets, which can help to further enhance Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre and a global offshore renminbi business hub." Mr Chan added that some global financial institutions are planning to increase resources or expand their operations in Hong Kong to tap the Mainland market and to seize the opportunities arising from fintech and green finance development, reflecting investors' continued confidence in Hong Kong.
The US Government's accusations against the National Security Law since its implementation are unfounded and have simply twisted facts without credible substantiation, Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung said today. In his statement, Mr Tang noted that endangering national security is a very serious crime. It is only right for actions to be taken to prevent, interdict and suppress the relevant acts. Notwithstanding the above, the National Security Law upholds the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people, while freedoms of speech, of the press and of publication are among the rights and freedoms explicitly mentioned in Article 4 of the law as being protected in accordance with Hong Kong laws. The security chief stressed that law enforcement actions taken by relevant agencies are based on evidence, strictly in accordance with the law, and for the acts of the people or entities concerned, which have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation. He pointed out that since the implementation of the National Security Law last year, the US Government has exploited every incident and excuse to make slandering remarks about the law and attack the authorities of the People's Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in their dutiful, faithful and lawful implementation of the law. The US Government's latest claim that imposing the so-called sanctions and issuing a business advisory were in response to the enactment and enforcement of the National Security Law was a lame excuse that could hardly stand up to challenge. Mr Tang said the National Security Law has reverted the chaotic situation in Hong Kong seen from June 2019, with violent acts substantially reduced, influence of external forces observed to have diminished, and advocacy of Hong Kong independence subsiding. The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to discharge its duty to safeguard national security in Hong Kong in accordance with the law, he added.
Customs today announced it detected its first case of suspected money laundering using virtual currency involving $1.2 billion and arrested four people. The department identified a suspected money laundering syndicate at the beginning of this year and raided four residential premises in Wong Chuk Hang, Prince Edward, Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai and an office in Mong Kok last Thursday. Four men, aged between 24 and 33, opened accounts at various banks in Hong Kong and made transactions through a virtual currency exchange trading platform between February 2020 and May this year. Suspicious funds of approximately $1.2 billion involving bank remittances and a virtual currency were found processed. During the operation, computers, mobile phones, banking security authentication tokens and documents, including business registration records, bank statements and chequebooks were seized. Investigations are ongoing. The four suspects have been released on bail pending further investigation and the likelihood of further arrests has not been ruled out.
The Immigration Department announced today that the Smart Renewal service will be expanded from July 20 to facilitate applications for visas for foreign domestic helpers (FDHs). Introduced on March 5, the Smart Renewal service initially applied to online applications for visas for further employment of FDHs, but will be extended to applications submitted by post or drop-in box. As at the end of June, over 21,500 applicants for visas for further employment of FDHs paid their visa fees and collected their visa labels through the service. The proportion of online submissions nearly doubled from before the service's launch to almost 30%. In view of the positive response to the service, the department decided to expand it to cover all applications of the same category received on or after July 20, be they submitted online, by post or drop-in box. People who submit visa applications can, upon approval of their applications, pay the visa fee with the General Demand Note enclosed with the notification of the application result. Payment can be made by various means, such as the Faster Payment System, Internet banking, the Payment by Phone Service, automatic teller machines, or in person at a post office or convenience store. A webpage has been set up to provide details of the service and combine the links for helper-related online services. Call 2824 6111, fax to 2877 7711 or send an email to email@example.com for enquiries.