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LCQ19: Government attaches great importance to cases of Hong Kong residents detained or imprisoned outside Hong Kong
     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):


     A Hong Kong resident, Mr Tang Lung-wai (Mr Tang), was sentenced to a long-term imprisonment of 40 years in the Philippines after trials suspected to be unreasonable and unfair, and his appeal is now in progress.  In reply to my question concerning Mr Tang's situation that I raised at the Council meeting of June 29 this year, the Secretary for Security (the Secretary) advised that the Government attached great importance to cases where individual Hong Kong residents were imprisoned for a long term outside Hong Kong.  However, Mr Tang has pointed out that such a reply is not true; the Government has never showed great concern for his case or his situation in the prison, and he urges me to ask the Security Bureau the following issues.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that Mr Tang has pointed out that personnel from the British Embassy in the Philippines have, for a long time, been keeping a close watch on his case, visiting him in the prison every three months and keeping records of each visit, of the number of visits paid by the personnel of the Hong Kong Government and the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines (the Embassy) to Mr Tang in the detention centre and the prison, the date of each visit, as well as the assistance rendered to him and the follow-up actions taken; if no information about the Embassy's records is available, whether the Government will enquire with the Embassy;

(2) given that Mr Tang has pointed out that during his trials in the past, he was provided with interpretation service only once by an anti-narcotics officer of the Philippines whose reliability, fairness and impartiality was in doubt, and this is entirely different from the Secretary's claim that the Embassy has been helping to relay his request for interpretation service, whether the Government knows the date(s) and the relevant records regarding the Embassy's provision of interpretation services for Mr Tang during his trials; if no such information is available, whether the Government will enquire with the Embassy;

(3) as the incumbent Government of the Philippines, since its inauguration, has reportedly executed more than 3 000 prisoners allegedly related to narcotics, whether the Government has kept a close watch on the development of such a situation and explored ways to ensure the personal safety of Mr Tang; whether it will (i) request the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China (MFA) to urge the Philippine authorities to expedite the processing of Mr Tang's appeal and (ii) in case his appeal is unsuccessful, expeditiously approve Mr Tang's transfer back to Hong Kong to serve his remaining sentence according to the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Ordinance (Cap 513), so as to avoid a Hong Kong resident becoming another victim after Mr Cheung Tai-on's death in a foreign country due to suspected unjust imprisonment;

(4) as the incident that a student movement activist was refused entry to Thailand and detained for 12 hours early last month has aroused wide public concern, and there are comments that Mr Tang, who has been unjustly imprisoned in the Philippines for years, deserves more concern and support from Hong Kong people, the Security Bureau and MFA, whether the Government will, in light of the situation mentioned in item (3), urge MFA to offer more assistance to Mr Tang and take other actions to ensure that Mr Tang will have open and fair trials during his appeal; and

(5) as the Secretary has reiterated for many times that the Government and the Embassy "must respect and abide by the local judicial systems" when giving assistance to Mr Tang's case, but Mr Tang has pointed out that in his case and the case of Mr Cheung Tai-on who died in a foreign country, they were convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment by the Philippine authorities in the absence of any interpretation service, evidence given by police officers and exhibits, which was tantamount to their being framed, and thus Mr Tang doubts the Government and MFA are turning a blind eye to their unjust cases under the pretext of respecting the local judicial system, whether the Government will review afresh the assistance rendered to Mr Tang and step up its efforts to rescue him in response to the public views?


     My consolidated reply to Hon Paul Tse's question is as follows:

     The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSARG) attaches great importance to cases where individual Hong Kong residents are detained or imprisoned outside Hong Kong.  The background and details of the assistance rendered by the HKSARG and the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines (the Embassy) to Hong Kong residents serving sentences in the Philippines have been detailed in my replies to the related questions at the meetings on June 8 and 29 this year, and are not repeated here. 

     Regarding the case mentioned in the question, the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) of the Immigration Department (ImmD) has been maintaining close contact with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR and the Embassy to provide practicable assistance to the subject or his family according to their request as far as possible.  Over the years, whenever receiving a request for assistance from the subject or his family, AHU would, having regard to the circumstances and nature of the request, immediately follow up on the case or make relevant arrangements through the Embassy, including urging the relevant local authorities for prompt, impartial and fair hearings in accordance with local laws and provision of free translation services.  The Embassy officials had visited the subject several times, provided him with daily necessities and food, and assisted in reflecting his requests to the local government repeatedly.  The Embassy had also co-ordinated with the local Chinese and assisted the subject to employ an interpreter.  In addition, AHU provides updates on the subject's case to his family from time to time.  The HKSARG does not maintain statistical information on the assistance rendered in this case.  We will continue to monitor this case to provide the subject with practicable assistance.

     According to the bilateral agreement on transfer of sentenced persons between the HKSARG and the Philippine Government, 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 the HKSARG with 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.  Over the years, the HKSARG had approached the relevant authorities of the Philippine Government a number of times, either directly or through the Embassy, to obtain the documents required for this case.  To date, the Philippine Government has yet to reply.  The HKSARG will continue to follow up on the case 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.
Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:41
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