LCQ17:Provision of assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong
Regarding the provision of assistance to Hong Kong permanent residents (Hong Kong residents) in places outside Hong Kong on whom criminal compulsory measures (including detention or imprisonment) have been imposed (other places), will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows if the relevant authorities in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam (the relevant countries) currently notify the local Chinese embassies of the respective numbers of Hong Kong residents in those countries (i) on whom criminal compulsory measures have been imposed, (ii) who died during the period when criminal compulsory measures were imposed on them, and (iii) who have been sentenced to death (if there is death penalty); if the relevant authorities give such notifications, of the respective numbers in the past five years, broken down by year and name of the country;
(2) whether it knows (i) the number of Hong Kong residents in the relevant countries, on whom criminal compulsory measures have been imposed, visited by the local Chinese embassies in each of the past five years, and the number of such visits, and (ii) if such embassies have made arrangements for paying regular visits to those Hong Kong residents;
(3) of the number of requests for assistance received from Hong Kong residents in other places by the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit of the Immigration Department in each of the past five years; the respective numbers of Hong Kong residents in other places involved in such cases (i) on whom criminal compulsory measures had been imposed, (ii) who had been sentenced to death, (iii) who had sought assistance of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government in asking for a pardon by the foreign governments concerned, and (iv) who had obtained the HKSAR Government's support for their pardon pleas, with a breakdown by age group to which such Hong Kong residents belonged;
(4) whether it will propose to the Central Government for the Chinese embassies abroad to provide the following to the Hong Kong residents in other places on whom criminal compulsory measures have been imposed: (i) Cantonese translation services to facilitate their receipt of appropriate services and assistance in those places, (ii) an arrangement for them to have telephone communications with their families in Hong Kong within a specific time on a regular basis, and (iii) fingerprinting service to facilitate such Hong Kong residents in applying for such documents as Certificates of No Criminal Conviction issued by the HKSAR Government;
(5) whether it will make reference to the practices of certain overseas countries and provide overseas legal aid services to Hong Kong residents in other places against whom criminal prosecutions have been instituted, so as to help them receive a fair trial and protection of their personal safety;
(6) of the respective numbers of applications from Hong Kong residents serving sentences in the relevant countries for transfer to Hong Kong to serve their remaining sentences that the Government is handling at present; whether the Government will publish such figures on a regular basis;
(7) since the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Ordinance (Cap. 513) came into operation in 1997, of the number of applications from Hong Kong residents serving sentences in other places for transfer to Hong Kong to serve their remaining sentences; the average processing time (from submission of application to granting of approval) for the approved cases, the number of persons whose applications were approved (set out such numbers by the age group to which the applicant belonged and name of the country in a table); whether the Government has sought assistance from the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the HKSAR when it encountered difficulties in handling such applications; if so, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that;
(8) whether it has discussed the signing of agreements on the transfer of sentenced persons with the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam; if so, of the latest progress and the difficulties encountered; if not, whether it will start discussions expeditiously;
(9) whether it will consider issuing Outbound Travel Alerts to remind Hong Kong residents of the countries where convicted drug traffickers are usually sentenced to death; and
(10) whether it will implement public education initiatives to remind Hong Kong residents that they should refrain from casually carrying goods or luggage for others to other places, particularly to countries where heavy penalties are usually imposed on convicted drug traffickers?
In consultation with relevant bureaux and departments, my reply to the Hon James To's question is as follows:
(1), (2) and (4) The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is committed to providing assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong. In general, upon receipt of requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents who are detained or imprisoned overseas, or when the Chinese diplomatic and consular missions (CDCMs) inform the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) of the Immigration Department of Hong Kong residents being detained or imprisoned overseas, the AHU will, having regard to the nature and circumstances of individual cases as well as the requests of the assistance seekers, liaise with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR (OCMFA), the CDCMs and the relevant government departments to provide practicable and appropriate assistance. Such assistance includes visiting the subjects by the CDCMs or providing information on local lawyers and translators; informing the subjects' families in Hong Kong of their detention according to the wishes of the subjects, so that their families can make relevant arrangements; approaching the local authorities concerned through the CDCMs to reflect the wishes of the subjects and to make enquiries on case progress, or arrangements for communication with and visits by their families. The HKSAR Government and CDCMs must respect and abide by the local judicial systems when following up with requests for assistance.
The issuance of Certificate of No Criminal Conviction is a chargeable service provided by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF). In the course of handling an application for an immigration visa or for the adoption of a child, if a recognised body (such as a consulate, immigration authority or government authority) requires confirmation of no criminal conviction in respect of the applicant, it may issue a letter of request to the applicant, who may then submit this letter to the HKPF for checking. If there is no criminal conviction data recorded on the applicant, the checking result will be sent directly to the corresponding recognised body by registered mail and will not be sent to the applicant.
The HKSAR Government does not keep the relevant statistics specified in the question.
(3) The number of requests for assistance received by the AHU and, among which, the requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents imprisoned or detained outside Hong Kong over the past five years (2012 - 2016) is tabulated as follows:
|Year||Total number of
requests for assistance
|Number of requests for assistance
involving Hong Kong residents imprisoned or detained outside Hong Kong
Over the past five years, the HKSAR Government received a total of three requests for assistance in appealing to the relevant foreign government for clemency. The HKSAR Government expressed its support to these three subjects' plea for clemency to the governments concerned respectively.
The HKSAR Government does not keep other detailed breakdown specified in the question for the cases.
(5) Legal aid services form an integral part of the legal system in Hong Kong. The policy objective of legal aid is to ensure that all those who comply with the requirements of the Legal Aid Ordinance (Chapter 91) and have reasonable grounds for pursuing or defending a legal action in the courts of Hong Kong will not be denied access to justice due to a lack of means. Extending the scope of legal aid services to jurisdictions outside Hong Kong involves merits tests on overseas litigation cases, which will give rise to a number of problems in actual practice. According to the Legal Aid Department's understanding, all European Union Member States and other common law jurisdictions have not extended legal aid services to criminal litigation matters involving their nationals outside their territories. The HKSAR Government has no plan to extend the legal aid system to cover Hong Kong residents facing criminal prosecution overseas.
(6) The HKSAR Government is now processing seven and four applications from Hong Kong residents sentenced in the Philippines and Thailand respectively for transfer to Hong Kong to serve their remaining sentences. No such applications have been received from Hong Kong residents sentenced in Indonesia, Malaysia or Vietnam.
(7) In general, a major criterion to be met in every transfer application is the tripartite consent from the HKSAR Government, the government of the jurisdiction concerned, and the sentenced person himself/herself. Where necessary, the HKSAR Government will make enquiries about the progress of transfer of sentenced persons (TSP) applications to the governments of the jurisdictions concerned through their Consulates in Hong Kong. It may also contact the governments of the jurisdictions concerned through the OCMFA and/or the CDCMs to obtain the required documents of the relevant transfer applications and confirm the consent of the local governments, so as to proceed with the transfer procedure.
Since the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Chapter 513) came into effect in June 1997, the HKSAR Government has received a total of 252 applications from Hong Kong residents sentenced in other jurisdictions for transfer to Hong Kong to serve their remaining sentences. By April 2017, a total of 93 sentenced persons have been transferred to Hong Kong to serve their remaining sentences, including 2 sentenced in Australia, 29 in Thailand, 3 in the United States and 59 in the Macau Special Administrative Region. As the circumstances of each application vary and are dependent on a number of factors (see the preceding paragraph), the time taken to process each application also varies. The HKSAR Government has neither kept the average processing time of the approved cases nor the statistics on the age of the approved applicants.
(8) At present, the HKSAR Government has signed TSP agreements with 16 jurisdictions, namely Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, India, Italy, Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Macau Special Administrative Region. The HKSAR Government will continue to seek negotiation and conclusion of TSP agreements with other jurisdictions. Even in the absence of a TSP agreement signed by the HKSAR Government and a certain jurisdiction, the HKSAR Government may still, in accordance with the Ordinance, process applications by Hong Kong residents sentenced in that jurisdiction for transfer to Hong Kong, or applications by non-local residents of that jurisdiction sentenced in Hong Kong for transfer to their places of origin to serve their remaining sentences.
(9) The Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) system set up by the HKSAR Government aims to facilitate Hong Kong residents to better understand possible risks to their personal safety when travelling overseas and make corresponding arrangements. When an incident that may affect the personal safety of Hong Kong residents occurs in countries/territories covered by the OTA system, the Security Bureau will assess the threat in terms of its nature (e.g. whether it is targeted at travellers), level and duration, and consider the need to issue an OTA. The OTA system is not a platform for overseas legal information.
(10) The Police from time to time disseminate crime prevention information through the television programme "Police Magazine" and other channels to urge members of the public, youngsters in particular, not to deliver or carry articles or drugs overseas for other people in order to make quick money. To combat cross boundary drug trafficking, the Police launch publicity at control points during long holidays, such as Easter, Christmas and summer holiday, reminding outbound passengers to maintain vigilance and avoid being involved in any illegal activities no matter where they are.
A Hong Kong resident shall be subject to legal sanction for breaking the law, whether in Hong Kong or any jurisdictions outside Hong Kong. In the latter case, such a person will be sanctioned under the legal system of the jurisdiction concerned in accordance with its laws. As such, any person, wherever he/she travels, should abide by local rules so as to avoid contravening the laws inadvertently.
Ends/Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:03
Issued at HKT 13:03