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LCQ20: Transfer of sentenced persons

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Paul Tse in the Legislative Council today (April 18):


     It has been learned that at least seven to eight Hong Kong permanent residents who are held by the Philippine Government in the high-security Bilibid Prison have served their sentences there for over 10 years, and they applied to the SAR Government in February last year for returning to Hong Kong to serve their sentences under the transfer of sentenced persons agreement (TSPA) signed by the SAR Government with the Philippine Government.  However, they have yet to know the progress made by the authorities in processing the applications.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the mechanism put in place by the SAR Government to process the aforesaid applications and the processing procedures; the reasons why the aforesaid applications, which were made more than a year ago, have still not been approved, as well as the current progress of each case; whether the SAR Government has informed the aforesaid prisoners of the progress of those applications so far; if it has not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the number of cases (including those cases in which sentences were served in countries other than the Philippines) in each of the past five years in which approval had been granted for the prisoners to return to Hong Kong to serve their sentences; the average time taken to process a case, and the respective time taken in respect of the cases requiring the longest and shortest processing time;

(c) whether the SAR Government has taken the initiative to contact Hong Kong permanent residents serving sentences of more than 10 years in countries which have signed TSPA to inform them of their rights and the procedures to apply for returning to Hong Kong to serve their sentences; and

(d) given that the aforesaid Hong Kong people have served their sentences in the Philippines for 17 to 18 years and it has been learned that some of them who are in old age and poor health wish that they can return to Hong Kong in their remaining years and will not die in a foreign place, whether the SAR Government will review and process their applications afresh; if it will, of its plans; if not, the reasons for that?



     To enable Hong Kong residents serving sentences in other places and non-local residents serving sentences in Hong Kong to adapt to prison life more easily and to assist their rehabilitation, the policy of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is to facilitate the transfer of prisoners back to Hong Kong or to their places of origin to serve their remaining sentences in a familiar environment which is free from language barrier and where their friends and relatives can visit them on a regular basis. This will be conducive to their rehabilitation.  The Transfer of Sentenced Persons Ordinance (Cap 513) (the Ordinance) provides a legal framework for the transfer of sentenced persons (TSP) between Hong Kong and other countries and Macau SAR. Since the Ordinance came into effect in June 1997, the HKSAR Government has signed TSP agreements with 10 overseas jurisdictions and Macau SAR, including the Philippines.

(a) and (d) Hong Kong residents serving sentences in the Philippines may apply to the HKSAR Government or the Philippine Government if they wish to be transferred back to Hong Kong to serve their remaining sentences. We will process their applications in accordance with the Ordinance and the bilateral TSP agreement. In general, each application has to satisfy the following main conditions:

(i) The act, on which the sentence has been imposed, would also constitute a criminal offence according to the laws of Hong Kong if it had been committed in Hong Kong;

(ii) the sentenced person is a permanent resident of Hong Kong;

(iii) the judgment is final and no further proceedings relating to the offence or any other offence are pending in the Philippines; and

(iv) there is a tripartite consent to the transfer given by the HKSAR Government, the Philippine Government and the sentenced person.

     According to the agreement, if a Hong Kong resident sentenced in the Philippines applies for transfer back to Hong Kong to serve his remaining sentence, the Philippine Government has to provide specified information on the sentenced person concerned, including the legal documents relating to his conviction and sentence, the length of sentence already served and the remaining sentence, etc.

     The HKSAR Government has so far received seven applications from Hong Kong residents referred by the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines to apply for transfer to Hong Kong to serve their remaining sentences.  According to established practice, we have approached the Philippine Government a number of times through appropriate channels, including the Philippine Consulate-General in Hong Kong and the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR to obtain the documents required for those cases.  If the cases are confirmed to satisfy the conditions for transfer, we will confirm with the Philippine side on their consent to the transfer. So far, we are still awaiting responses from the Philippine side. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up the cases with the Philippine Government through various practicable channels with a view to obtaining the basic information required and confirming the consent of the Philippine Government as soon as possible, so as to proceed with the transfer procedures. In response to individual applicant's enquiry, the HKSAR Government will let them know the progress of their applications through officers of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines.

(b) As mentioned above, in processing each transfer application, we have to obtain the necessary documents or information to ensure that the applications satisfy the conditions for transfer under the Ordinance and the bilateral agreement. The processing time required for each case is affected by various factors, for example, the time taken to obtain the relevant documents, confirm the calculation of the remaining sentence to be served in Hong Kong and obtain the consent of the relevant Government and the applicant, etc. The processing time ranges from a few months to a number of years. In the past five years, a total of 35 sentenced persons were transferred back to Hong Kong from other places to serve their sentences.  A breakdown of the figures by year is as follows:

2007     23
2008      5
2009      2
2010      4
2011      1

(c) The objective of signing TSP agreements with other places is to facilitate the transfer of sentenced persons back to their places of origin to serve their remaining sentences, which is conducive to their rehabilitation. After signing the TSP agreement, both parties will take appropriate measures to inform the sentenced persons of the application arrangement for transfer to their places of origin and the basic conditions, etc. for their consideration. Depending on individual circumstances, Hong Kong residents serving sentences outside Hong Kong may also make enquiries with the Chinese Embassy in the country concerned or the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit of the Immigration Department through their family members in Hong Kong. We will also consider whether we can request again each jurisdiction, which has signed TSP agreement with HKSAR, or through the Chinese Embassy in the respective jurisdiction, to inform Hong Kong residents serving sentences in those jurisdictions (where feasible) of the application arrangement for transferring to Hong Kong to serve their sentences.

Ends/Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:01


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