LCQ5: ImmD exercises effective immigration control
Earlier on, a member of the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom (UK) who had made open comments on Hong Kong's human right issues planned a visit to Hong Kong. It was reported that some personnel from the Chinese embassy in UK had warned him against his visit to Hong Kong, and he assured such personnel that his visit to Hong Kong would be of a private nature and that he would not make any public speech during his stay in Hong Kong. However, that person was still refused entry upon his arrival in Hong Kong on the 11th of last month. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of UK has expressed concern over the refusal of that person's entry, and pointed out that Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and its freedoms and rights are central to safeguarding Hong Kong's way of life, and should be respected. So far, the Government has not given a detailed account on its refusal of entry of that foreign national. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as that foreign national had previously worked in Hong Kong for many years, had no criminal record and was in possession of a valid travel document, and there were no signs showing that he would break the law while in Hong Kong, of the legislation based on which the authorities refused that person's entry to Hong Kong; whether such legislation requires that the authorities, when considering whether to allow a foreign national's entry to Hong Kong, must act according to the advice of the Chinese embassy in the country concerned;
(2) whether the authorities have assessed if the refusal of that person's entry has caused concerns in the international community that the Government no longer welcomes visits of foreign nationals who have criticised it or the Chinese Government, or who have expressed concerns over Hong Kong's human right issues; if they have assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, whether the authorities will take measures to allay such concerns; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether the authorities have assessed if the refusal of that person's entry has caused concerns in the international community as to whether it is still the case that systems and policies different from those of the Mainland are being implemented in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) as per the principle of "one country, two systems" set out in the Basic Law, and that HKSAR exercises "a high degree of autonomy"; if they have assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, whether the authorities will take measures to allay such concerns; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen is as follows:
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) accords measures to facilitate the entry of persons from around the world. In 2016, the number of visitors from around the world reached more than 56.6 million and they came to Hong Kong for purposes including visiting relatives, travelling and sightseeing, engaging in business activities, cultural and academic exchanges, etc. The Immigration Department (ImmD) on the one hand provides effective and convenient immigration services by striving to facilitate the entry of genuine visitors, and on the other shoulders the responsibility to maintain effective immigration control. Pursuant to section 7(1) of the Immigration Ordinance (Cap 115), a person may not land in Hong Kong without the permission of an officer of ImmD unless he enjoys the right of abode in Hong Kong, he has the right to land in Hong Kong, or he may land in Hong Kong without such permission by virtue of the Immigration Ordinance (such as members of crew of aircraft). ImmD applies immigration control on entry into, stay in and departure from Hong Kong by persons from foreign states and regions.
Like other immigration authorities elsewhere, in addition to considering whether the visitor meets normal immigration requirements, ImmD also considers whether to allow entry in the light of the individual circumstances of each visitor in accordance with the law and prevailing policies. Pursuant to section 4(1)(a) of the Immigration Ordinance, officers of ImmD may examine any visitor on his arrival in Hong Kong to verify his identity and consider whether he meets normal immigration requirements, such as whether he possesses a valid travel document, whether he possesses a valid visa or endorsement that corresponds to his purpose of entry, whether he has the arrangements and facilities to return to his place of domicile, whether he has sufficient funds for the proposed stay, whether he has any known adverse records, his purpose of entry, etc. If officers of ImmD are not satisfied that the visitor meets normal immigration requirements, section 11(1) of the Immigration Ordinance authorises them to refuse his entry into Hong Kong after examination. ImmD's procedures in processing entry applications are in line with the general practices of the immigration authorities of other places.
The HKSAR Government will not comment on individual cases or make public information concerning individual cases. I reiterate that, in exercising immigration control, ImmD handles each case in accordance with the law, and prevailing policies and procedures, and decides whether to allow or refuse entry after giving careful consideration to the individual circumstances of each case. Visitors holding an entry visa/permit or being eligible for visa-free facilitation are not guaranteed that he will be automatically allowed to enter Hong Kong upon arrival.
In the past three years, i.e. 2014, 2015 and 2016, the number of visitor arrivals refused entry into Hong Kong was 42 177, 56 855 and 53 499 respectively. The total number of visitor arrivals to Hong Kong in the relevant years was 60 839 732, 59 307 617 and 56 654 903, with the number of visitor arrivals refused entry accounting for 0.07%, 0.10% and 0.09% of the total number of visitor arrivals to Hong Kong in the corresponding year. The very small percentages show that the HKSAR welcomes and strives to facilitate visitors to come to Hong Kong. The reasons for refused entry include having a doubtful purpose of visit, being improperly documented and using a forged travel document, etc. Examples of visitors refused entry on the ground of having a doubtful purpose of visit include suspected parallel traders, Mainland pregnant women who have not made a booking for delivery, persons suspected of coming to Hong Kong for illegal employment, persons suspected to overstay after coming to Hong Kong, etc.
It is the HKSAR Government's responsibility to uphold effective immigration control in Hong Kong. Like other governments elsewhere, refusing entry of certain individuals when circumstances so warrant is both the power and duty of ImmD and is not unique to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a free and open society which subscribes to the rule of law. We will continue to welcome visitors from around the world to Hong Kong and make every effort to facilitate their entry and exit, while we apply immigration control.
In his question, the Hon Chan Chi-chuen queries the implementation of the Basic Law and the principles of "one country, two systems" and a high degree of autonomy in the HKSAR. I must make it very clear and seriously that since the return to China, the HKSAR has been implementing the principle of "one country, two systems" and exercising "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law. The principle of "one country, two systems" has been fully and successfully implemented, and this has been widely recognised by the international community.
In his address delivered at the Celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong's Return to the Motherland and the Inaugural Ceremony of the Fifth Term Government of the HKSAR on July 1, 2017, President Xi Jinping mentioned the principle of "one country, two systems". He expressly said, "To uphold and implement the principle of 'one country, two systems' meets the interests of the Hong Kong people, responds to the needs of maintaining Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, serves the fundamental interests of the nation, and meets the shared aspiration of all Chinese. That is why I have made it clear that the Central Government will unswervingly implement the policy of 'one country, two systems' and make sure that it is fully applied in Hong Kong without being bent or distorted. This will enable us to keep advancing in the right direction."
The HKSAR Government acts in strict accordance with the Basic Law. Guided by the Basic Law and the laws of Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government abides by the law in all areas, be it formulating policies or handling matters.
Thank you President.
Ends/Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:45
Issued at HKT 16:45