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LCQ6: Measures to combat and prevent visitors from overstaying and measures to protect sex workers

     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (November 26):


     On the 1st of this month, the Police uncovered a double murder case in a flat in Wan Chai in which two Indonesian women were killed.  It has been reported that these two women were sex workers who entered Hong Kong on visit visas and one of them overstayed.  Regarding the personal safety of sex workers (especially those entering the territory on visit visas), will the Government inform this Council:

(1) in each of the past five years, of the number of persons (including Mainland residents) who entered the territory on visit visas and, among them, the number of those who overstayed but were not arrested, as well as the respective numbers of persons who were arrested for alleged overstaying and contravening the conditions of stay; a breakdown by nationality of the number of such persons arrested; among the persons arrested, the number of those who allegedly engaged in sex work; what measures the authorities have put in place to reduce cases of overstaying and contravention of conditions of stay by persons who enter the territory on visit visas;

(2) of the measures taken by the authorities to protect the personal safety of sex workers (including educating them on how to protect themselves), and the details of implementation of such measures in the past three years; and

(3) whether the Police have estimated the current number of sex workers in Hong Kong; in each of the past five years, of the respective numbers of cases reported to the Police on intimidation, assault, theft, indecent assault, rape and murder committed against sex workers, as well as the number of prosecutions instituted by the authorities against the suspects in such cases; among such cases, the number of those involving persons entering the territory on visit visas; what measures the Police took, when investigating such cases involving sex workers, to protect these sex workers' privacy and safety as well as to protect them from discrimination?



     My reply to the Hon Leung's question is set out below:

(1) Visitors from about 170 countries and territories are allowed visa-free visits to Hong Kong for periods ranging from 7 to 180 days. If a person wishes to visit Hong Kong but does not have the right of abode or right to land in the HKSAR and does not enjoy the visa waiver concession; or if he wishes to stay beyond the visa free period, he must obtain a visa or entry permit before he can come to Hong Kong.

     The yearly breakdown of the total number of visitor arrivals (including those requiring and not requiring a visa or entry permit) over the past five years is at Annex I. The yearly breakdown of the number of persons arrested for being suspected of taking up unlawful employment (including sex work) during the same period is at Annex II. The Immigration Department (ImmD) does not maintain statistics on the number of arriving passengers on visit visas. In regard to the number of persons who have overstayed but were not arrested, a majority of the overstayed visitors did not do so on purpose. They might have inadvertently failed to pay attention to their limit of stay, or because of emergency, medical emergency or sudden change in itinerary, could not leave Hong Kong as scheduled or apply for extension of stay. Under such circumstances, if ImmD accepts the explanation upon investigation, the person will be allowed to leave Hong Kong after completing the extension of stay formalities. No further arrest or prosecution actions will be taken.  The ImmD does not maintain separate statistics for this group of persons.

      ImmD is committed to preventing visitors from and fighting against visitors overstaying and breaching the conditions of stay in Hong Kong and has taken the following measures and enforcement actions:

(a) to assess visit visa applications and reject applications if the applicant's bona fides are in doubt;

(b) to perform immigration control at control points to avoid visitors from entering Hong Kong to engage in activities not commensurate with the conditions of stay;

(c) to enhance intelligence collection and step up enforcement operations against doubtful intermediaries or agents;

(d) to step up investigation and prosecution actions against persons who overstay and contravene the conditions of stay and also the intermediaries or agents which aid and abet them;

(e) to step up enforcement actions including joint operations with other law enforcement agencies; and

(f) to enhance publicity to drive home the message that hiring illegal workers is a criminal offence and that employers have to inspect travel documents of non-Hong Kong permanent resident job seekers before hiring them; and encourage the public to report illegal employment via hotline, facsimile, mail or on-line platform.

(2) and (3) The victims concerned as mentioned in the Hon Leung's question were not allowed to work in Hong Kong legally. As regards the Hon Leung's enquiries concerning crime situation of cases with sex workers as victims, my reply is as follows.

     The Police do not have any estimation of the current number of sex workers in Hong Kong. Figures of victims claiming to be local sex workers under "violent crimes against persons" between 2010 and 2014 are at Annex III.  Such crimes include rape, indecent assault, murder and manslaughter, wounding and serious assault, and criminal intimidation. The Police do not maintain figures of violent crimes involving visitors or overstayers who conducted illegal prostitution activities in Hong Kong.  The Administration does not maintain any prosecution figures of individual criminal offences by reference to the background or occupation of the victims.

     The Police strictly abide by the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and the Victims of Crime Charter (the Charter) in the protection of the informant's privacy and personal data, irrespective of the informant's identity, background and occupation. In accordance with the Charter, victims have the right to privacy and confidentiality. All those involved in the criminal justice system, from police officers to judiciary staff, shall respect the victim's right to privacy and confidentiality.

     The Crime Prevention Bureau (CPB) of the Hong Kong Police Force always maintains communication with sex workers' concern groups to address sex workers' safety issues. In addition to general crime prevention advice, the CPB distributes fight crime leaflets to sex workers, giving information on the mode of operation of unsolved criminal cases that targeted sex workers as well as descriptions of wanted persons. Furthermore, divisional task forces of the Police maintain direct liaison with sex workers in their divisions through regular visits conducted by teams of police officers, comprising, as far as practicable, one male and one female officers, whereby exchange of crime information is enhanced. On another front, the Crime Wing Support Group shall, in the light of the circumstances, regularly meet with sex workers' concern groups to discuss topics of mutual concern.

     Apart from installation of indoor closed circuit televisions, sex workers are also encouraged by the Police to set up alarms in their premises that connect to security companies or to their adjoining counterparts for emergency or life-threatening situations.

     In addition to better protection for sex workers, measures like fight crime leaflets and liaison visits have successfully brought some criminals to justice. With crime prevention as an objective, the Police shall continue to adopt various measures through the above channels to maintain communication with sex workers' concern groups and individual sex workers.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:27


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