Following is the speech by the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, in moving the resolution on the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (United States of America) Order in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):
I move that the resolution to make the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (United States of America) Order be passed.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is fully committed to international cooperation in combating serious crimes. In this connection, we have embarked on a programme to establish a network of bilateral agreements with other jurisdictions on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. These agreements ensure reciprocity between the contracting parties and enhance international cooperation in the fight against transnational crime. We have so far signed eight agreements with other jurisdictions on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. These include agreements with Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Italy, South Korea and Switzerland.
The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance ("the Ordinance") provides the necessary statutory framework for providing assistance in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, which includes the taking of evidence from witnesses, search and seizure, production of materials, transfer of persons to give evidence and confiscation of the proceeds of crime.
Pursuant to Section 4(2) of the Ordinance, the Chief Executive in Council has made this Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Order to implement the bilateral arrangements for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters with the United States of America. This Order specifies the scope and procedures in relation to the provision of assistance. It also provides for safeguards of the rights of persons involved in criminal proceedings. This Order is substantially in conformity with the provisions in the Ordinance. However, as mutual legal assistance practices vary from jurisdictions to jurisdictions, it is necessary to modify some of the provisions of the Ordinance to reflect the practice of a particular negotiating partner. These are necessary to enable Hong Kong to comply with its obligations in a specific agreement. The modifications in respect of the Agreement with the United States of America are summarised in the Schedule to the Order.
I would like to thank the Chairman, the Honourable James To and other Members of the Subcommittee for their careful examination of this Order.
The Subcommittee had deliberated in detail on a number of aspects of the Agreement. These include the arrangements for requests for assistance over offences which carry the death penalty, and the application of the double criminality principle under the terms of the Agreement, with particular reference to offences related to taxation, customs duties etc. I would like to take this opportunity to assure Members that the relevant provisions in the Agreement represent the best balance which would, on the one hand, enable effective cooperation in law enforcement between the United States of America and Hong Kong, and on the other hand, provide for adequate safeguards of the rights of individuals. I am very grateful to the Subcommittee for their understanding and support.
The United States of America is our major partner in criminal justice and international law enforcement. It is therefore essential that this Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (United States of America) Order be made to enable the relevant bilateral agreement to be brought into force. I urge Members to approve this Order.
Thank you, Madam President.
End/Wednesday, November 10, 1999