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LCQ4: Handling of missing person cases

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Lam Tai-fai and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):


     Earlier on, five shareholders or employees of Causeway Bay Books were reported missing one after another, which has aroused wide public concern. It has been reported that the wife of one of the missing persons received consecutively two calls (the displayed caller number being a Shenzhen phone number) and a video footage from that missing person to assure her of his safety, and an associate of the bookstore received a handwritten fax from that missing person, disclosing that he had "returned to the Mainland using his own way to work with the authorities concerned in an investigation". Moreover, when commenting on the way through which that missing person entered the Mainland, the editorial of a mainland newspaper pointed out that "powerful agencies across the world generally have their own ways to circumvent the law and make a person under investigation work with them, so that they can proceed with their work without crossing the bottom line of the system". Also, a Member of this Council quoted a message from his friend saying that the five missing persons illegally entered the Mainland one after another to visit prostitutes and were arrested by public security authorities. Such remarks have sparked strong repercussions. The aforesaid cases have aroused concerns about whether the "one country, two systems" has been weakened, the way the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government handles cases of Hong Kong residents reported missing, whether some persons have left Hong Kong by ways which circumvented the laws, whether mainland law enforcement officers have crossed the boundary to take law enforcement actions in Hong Kong, and whether the Government has assisted them in conducting investigations in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of Hong Kong residents found after they had been reported missing, their conditions when they were found (i.e. whether they were alive or dead), the number of those who have not yet been found, the number of Hong Kong residents intercepted by law enforcement departments when they were trying to leave the territory illegally, and whether it knows the number of persons who successfully left the territory illegally, since Hong Kong's return to China;

(2) whether it knows, since Hong Kong's return to China, if any government officials and officers of law enforcement departments of the Mainland conducted investigations in Hong Kong into criminal offences, commercial crimes, cases of persons missing, etc, and whether the SAR Government has provided assistance to them; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether the SAR Government has sought, since Hong Kong's return to China, assistance from the mainland authorities to locate missing Hong Kong residents and the number of those who were found on the Mainland; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The HKSAR Government attaches great importance to the cases of missing persons associated with a bookstore in Causeway Bay and fully understands the concerns of the community. With regard to the cases, the Police are now conducting proactive and comprehensive investigation.

     My reply to Dr Hon Lam Tai-fai's question is as follows.

(1) The Police attach great importance to every case of missing person and will spare no effort in investigation. Upon receiving a report of missing person, the Police will dispatch officers to the last location where the alleged missing person was known to have been to as well as places where the missing person usually goes to in accordance with the information provided by the informant to conduct searching. The Police will also look for clues from various sources, including closed-circuit television footage etc, and contact people that the missing person knows so as to obtain more information about the missing person. In addition, depending on the actual circumstances, the Police will liaise with the Immigration Department, Correctional Services Department and Hospital Authority etc to locate the missing person. If necessary and with the consent of the family of the missing person, the Police will also appeal to the public to provide information about the missing person through television programme "Police Magazine", the Police's website as well as government press releases etc. If a Hong Kong resident is reported missing in other places, the Police will seek assistance from the co-operation units of the relevant places.

     Amongst the missing person cases received by the Police between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2015, 24 543 cases were closed. These include cases in which the Police have successfully found the missing persons or the Police could contact and confirm the identity of the missing persons after the informants have notified the Police that the missing persons had been found, as well as cases in which the Police have discovered objective and solid evidence after investigation which proves that the missing persons are safe and the Police could find no suspicion in such cases. Of the cases received in the same period, the Police are still conducting investigation for 133 missing person cases.

     Part 1 of the question mentions "Hong Kong residents leaving the territory illegally". The Immigration Department maintains effective immigration control at all control points. Passengers entering or leaving Hong Kong at sea, land or air control points shall produce a valid travel document. Eligible Hong Kong residents may present their valid Hong Kong identity cards for clearance.

     The Immigration Ordinance (Cap 115) empowers immigration officers to examine any person on his arrival or landing in or prior to his departure from Hong Kong or to require him to submit to further examination, and/ or to furnish such information as may be required for this purpose. Any person who, without reasonable excuse, knowingly contravenes the requirements shall be guilty of an offence liable on conviction to a fine of $120,000. The Immigration Department does not maintain relevant statistics of Hong Kong residents leaving Hong Kong without going through immigration clearance.

(2) and (3) The Hong Kong Police have been maintaining a police co-operation mechanism with Mainland police authorities. Under the mechanism, if one party requires the assistance of the other party to conduct investigation, the requested party may gather information relevant to the case through legal means and provide such information to the requesting party. When the requesting party makes request for assistance, it must give prior notification to the requested party and explain clearly the nature of the case and the scope of the assistance sought for the investigation. It will then be for the law enforcement officers of the requested party to undertake the investigation work in accordance with the law. When conducting such co-operation, any law enforcement actions must only be taken by the local law enforcement agencies in accordance with the law. Under no circumstances can police officers of either side take enforcement actions in the territory of the other jurisdiction.

     The above co-operation mechanism has been operating effectively. Under the mechanism, the two sides could communicate with regard to various cases or matters, including criminal cases, commercial crimes and missing person cases etc. Both sides have received assistance from the other side as well as useful information and some cases have even been solved. In the past five years, police authorities of the two places have made in total about 5 500 requests for assistance through the police co-operation mechanism.

     In addition, upon receiving requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents in the Mainland and their case information, the Mainland offices of the HKSAR Government as well as the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit of the Immigration Department will provide appropriate assistance, having regard to the nature and circumstances of the cases as well as the requests of the assistance seekers. Upon receipt of a report of a person suspected missing in the Mainland, the relevant department will liaise with its Mainland counterparts depending on the actual circumstances and seek their assistance. The Police and the Immigration Department do not maintain statistics on missing Hong Kong residents who were found in the Mainland.

     In respect of the missing person cases mentioned in the question, the Police have been seeking assistance from relevant Mainland police co-operation units via the police co-operation mechanism. On January 18, the Police received a reply letter concerning one of the missing persons, Mr Lee Po, from the Interpol Guangdong Liaison Office of the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department, which states that Mr Lee Po is in the Mainland. The Police have written to the Interpol Guangdong Liaison Office of the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department on the same day, requesting to meet with Mr Lee Po and further understand the situation of the incident. Afterwards, the Police were informed by the wife of Mr Lee Po on January 23 that she had met with Mr Lee Po in the Mainland on the same day. According to Mrs Lee, Mr Lee Po was healthy and in good spirits, and he was assisting in an investigation in the capacity of a witness. After the meeting, Mr Lee Po asked her to pass on a letter to the Hong Kong Police. The letter's content was similar to previous letters penned by Mr Lee Po. Mrs Lee did not disclose any further details regarding the location of the meeting and the nature of the investigation Mr Lee Po was involved in.

     The Hong Kong Police are now continuing to follow up on the case. In order to obtain further details of the circumstances of the case, the Hong Kong Police have issued another request on January 23 to the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department to assist in arranging a meeting between Mr Lee Po and the Hong Kong Police.

     Separately, the Immigration Department has, in accordance with the wishes of the family of one of the missing persons which has sought assistance from the Department, provided practicable assistance to the family.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:03


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