LCQ12: ImmD assists in investigating One-way Permits obtained through unlawful means

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by Hon Claudia Mo in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     Over the years, Mainland residents who wish to come to Hong Kong for settlement must apply for Permits for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macau, commonly known as "One-way Permits (OWPs)", from the respective exit and entry administration departments of the public security authorities at the places of their household registration.  The acceptance as well as the vetting and approval of OWP applications, and the issuance of OWPs, are entirely in the control of the Mainland departments.  On the other hand, the media uncovered earlier that some Mainland officials had abused their office by selling OWPs at HK$1.5 million to HK$2 million each.  Some members of the public have pointed out that the procedure adopted by the Mainland departments for vetting and approving OWP applications is tantamount to black box operation, which has aroused concerns that some Mainland residents have obtained OWPs for settlement in Hong Kong through fraudulent means.  Such members of the public opine that the procedure for vetting and approving OWP applications should be more stringent in order to eradicate bogus immigrants from the Mainland.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) although the authorities said, in reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council earlier, that the case information provided by the Mainland departments in the past to the Immigration Department (the ImmD) did not involve Mainland officials selling OWPs, whether the Government will, in view of the aforesaid media report, establish an independent mechanism to inspect whether the information provided by the Mainland departments is accurate; if it will, of the details; if not, how it avoids giving members of the public the impression that the Hong Kong Government simply accepts all the information provided by the Mainland departments without questioning;

(2) whether it has studied the inclusion, in the existing procedure for vetting and approving OWP applications, of the administrative arrangements whereby the relevant information is inspected by the Hong Kong Government, so as to ensure full compliance by applicants with the legal requirements of both places before they are issued with OWPs for settlement in Hong Kong; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) as the authorities have stated that if an OWP holder is found to have obtained, by furnishing false information or making a false statement, approval for coming to Hong Kong for settlement, regardless of the years of residence in Hong Kong of the person involved in the case, the ImmD has the power to remove such person from Hong Kong, and that there were 66 OWP holders in the past three years who had their Hong Kong identity cards declared invalid by the ImmD on such grounds, whether the ImmD has set up a dedicated investigation team to conduct random inspections from time to time of the information pertaining to persons who have come to Hong Kong for settlement on OWPs and take law enforcement actions as appropriate?



     The consolidated reply to the question is as follows:

     Permits for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macao, commonly known as "One-way Permits (OWPs)", are documents issued by relevant authorities in the Mainland.  The application, approval and issuance of OWPs fall within the remit of the Mainland authorities.  It is stipulated in Article 22 of the Basic Law that "For entry into the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, people from other parts of China must apply for approval.  Among them, the number of persons who enter the Region for the purpose of settlement shall be determined by the competent authorities of the Central People's Government after consulting the government of the Region."  The provisions of this Article, in accordance with the interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 1999, mean that Mainland residents who wish to enter Hong Kong for whatever reason, must apply to the relevant authorities of their residential districts for approval in accordance with the relevant national laws and administrative regulations, and must hold valid documents issued by the relevant authorities.  Accordingly, Mainland residents who wish to settle in Hong Kong for family reunion must apply for OWPs from the exit and entry administration offices of the public security authority at the places of their household registration in the Mainland.

     In the processing of OWP applications by the Mainland authorities, the Immigration Department (the ImmD) facilitates at case level, including issuing Certificates of Entitlement to the Right of Abode to children of Hong Kong permanent residents, and, when necessary, rendering assistance in verifying the supporting documents submitted by the applicants and their claimed relationship with relatives in Hong Kong (e.g. husband and wife, parent and child, etc.).  Where a case is found to be suspicious or when factual discrepancies are identified, the ImmD will inform the Mainland authorities and will request the applicant to provide further documentary proof.  The ImmD will also assist the Mainland authorities in investigating cases involving OWPs obtained through unlawful means.  Taking OWP applications under the category of "reunion with spouses" as an example, in case the husband-and-wife relationship is doubtful, the Mainland authorities will pass the particulars of the applicants and their spouses in Hong Kong to the ImmD for verification of the personal particulars of the Hong Kong residents, the certificates of registration of marriage in Hong Kong or other relevant records.  ImmD will notify the Mainland authorities of the verification results for their follow-up actions.

     Every OWP holder has to go through immigration clearance and examination at the special counters of the ImmD in Lo Wu upon entry to Hong Kong.  Should there be any information indicating that the entrant is suspected of using a false OWP, or any grounds to suspect the same in the course of examination, the control officers will follow up and investigate in accordance with the law.

     Apart from examination on arrival, reports by members of the public and notifications by other law enforcement authorities, the ImmD receives intelligence and collects evidence through different channels to investigate suspected cases of obtaining OWPs by fraudulent means.  Once a case is substantiated, having carefully examined factors such as circumstances of individual cases and evidence, and upon consulting the Department of Justice, the ImmD will initiate prosecution against the person concerned.  No matter whether prosecution will be taken and what the outcome will be, the ImmD has the authority to consider invalidating the person's Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.  Notwithstanding that the person has been issued a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card, the ImmD can declare his permanent identity card invalid and order it to be surrendered.  In addition, regardless of his years of residence in Hong Kong, the ImmD has the authority to remove him from Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:50