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LCQ18: Rendering assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress abroad

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Paul Tse Wai-chun in the Legislative Council today (November 23):


     Mr Tang Lung-wai ("Mr Tang"), a Hong Kong resident, who was first detained for 11 years for suspected drug possession in the Philippines, and recently convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment, has relayed to me through his family that the judgment made by the Philippine judge is unfair, and that in the past 10-odd years, Mr Tang and Mr Cheung Tai-on ("Mr Cheung"), another defendant in the same case, were not given adequate interpretation services to help them understand the proceedings during the trial (the Philippine authorities claimed that they lacked the financial means to provide each defendant with qualified interpretation services).  Besides, regarding the date from which the Philippine authorities claimed to have started surveillance on Mr Tang's activities in the country, the Hong Kong Immigration Department ("ImmD") confirmed that Mr Tang had not yet departed from Hong Kong on that date.  Mr Tang and Mr Cheung criticised that the trial had all along been conducted unfairly with a lack of transparency.  They urgently wish to raise questions to the Government through me.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the aforesaid Hong Kong people had complained about the lack of a fair trial, why the SAR Government merely advised that they could only follow the judgment of the local court in the Philippines and failed to provide them with any concrete assistance during trial and for lodging appeal;

(b) given that the aforesaid Hong Kong people urgently need pecuniary assistance to meet the expenses for appeal as well as the basic subsistence in prison and correspondence with their families, whether the SAR Government will, apart from considering the request raised in my previous letter to the authorities for exercising discretion to allow their families to apply for the "Scheme $6,000" on their behalf, consider providing them assistance through other means (e.g. the Community Care Fund) which they urgently need for appeal; and

(c) as I have learnt that Mr Tang had sought assistance from the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit ("the Unit") of ImmD through the hotline 1868 ("1868") but was unable to get any concrete assistance, and he criticised the Government for staying aloof from residents who were in distress outside Hong Kong, and there were also cases in the past where some Hong Kong people were forbidden to leave Taiwan by the Taiwan authorities concerned owing to traffic accident compensation issues and they had called 1868 for help, but the authorities did not provide any assistance on the grounds that they could not directly interfere with the cross-strait affairs, and the problem was finally solved after I wrote to the Taiwan Ministry of Justice to assist the Hong Kong people in distress, what measures the Government will put in place to improve the ways in which assistance is provided to Hong Kong people who are in distress while travelling outside Hong Kong (including improving the Unit's work)?



     Our replies to the questions raised by Hon Tse are as follows:

(a) and (c) In general, upon receipt of requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents who are detained or imprisoned overseas, the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) of the Immigration Department (ImmD) will, having regard to the nature and circumstances of individual cases as well as the wishes of the subjects, liaise with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR (OCMFA), Chinese Diplomatic and Consular Missions (CDCM) overseas and other relevant departments to provide practicable assistance.  For cases that occurred in Taiwan, AHU and the relevant bureau will reflect the wishes of assistance seekers to the relevant Taiwan organisations through the existing mechanism.

     In general, the assistance rendered by AHU include informing the subjects' families in Hong Kong of their detention upon request, so that their families can arrange financial and other assistance to the subjects, approaching relevant authorities to reflect the wishes of the assistance seekers and to make enquiries on case progress, and providing information on local lawyers and translators, etc.  The HKSAR Government and CDCMs will respect and abide by the local judicial system when following up with the requests for assistance.

     Concerning the case mentioned by the Member, the HKSAR Government has been working with OCMFA and the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines (the Embassy) for providing assistance to the subjects since receipt of the assistance request in 2003.  The Embassy attaches great importance to the case.  Apart from visiting the subjects at prison on several occasions, the Embassy has also approached the local judicial authorities to understand the case progress, and urged for prompt and impartial hearings in accordance with the laws of the country.  The Embassy and AHU have been in contact with the subjects and their families in Hong Kong respectively to reflect their wishes to the Philippine authorities on matters such as ensuring the subjects are provided with the basic necessities in prison and provision of translation services.  It is understood that the local authorities have, in response to the Embassy's request, agreed to provide free translation to the subjects.  Moreover, the Embassy has co-ordinated with the local Chinese for assistance in the employment of interpreter.  The HKSAR Government, OCMFA and the Embassy will continue to liaise closely with the subjects and their families in Hong Kong for providing all practicable assistance.

     In rendering assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government has established an effective communication mechanism with OCMFA and overseas CDCMs.  The HKSAR Government will accumulate experience on this basis to render assistance to all Hong Kong residents in distress abroad.

(b) Regarding individuals' applications under special schemes such as "Scheme $6,000" and the Community Care Fund (CCF), the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau has replied to the Member on the registration arrangements of "Scheme $6,000".  The Home Affairs Bureau advised that the CCF is for drawing up specific programmes for target beneficiary groups, the case in question does not fall within the ambit of the specific programmes already approved by the Steering Committee on the CCF.

Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:48


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