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LCQ18: Provision of assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong
     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, in the Legislative Council today (June 21):


     Cases of Hong Kong people being arrested in overseas places for alleged drug trafficking have been heard of from time to time.  Examples include the cases of Mr Paul Au Wing-cheung, Mr Cheung Tai-on who died in a foreign country, and Mr Tang Lung-wai, who was sentenced to imprisonment of 40 years by the Philippine authorities allegedly due to unjust imprisonment and whose appeal is still pending.  In recent days, three youths aged 19 to 24 were arrested upon arrival at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand, by flight from Brazil because local anti-narcotics officers had found 12.3 kilograms of cocaine with a market price of some HK$10 million in the secret compartments of their luggage.  The maximum penalty for them upon conviction is life imprisonment.  Regarding the provision of assistance by the Government for Hong Kong people who have been imposed criminal compulsory measures in overseas places for alleged drug trafficking, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as it has been reported that the aforesaid three youths were recruited by a parallel trader for a reward of $8,000 per person for drug trafficking, and the three youths communicated with the parallel trader via a group in the instant messaging software application WhatsApp, whether the authorities have assessed the number of Hong Kong people who joined similar groups in the past five years and, among them, the number of those who might have engaged in drug trafficking;

(2) whether it has examined the current number of organisations that recruit Hong Kong people via social networking websites to engage in parallel trading activities or even drug trafficking and, among them, the number of those organisations that are suspected to be under the control of triad gangs or drug syndicates;

(3) of the dedicated policies in place to combat the recruitment of youths via channels such as social networking websites and smartphone applications to engage in parallel trading activities, drug trafficking or other unlawful acts; whether the authorities have, in their investigation, conducted in-depth gathering of evidence by carrying out decoy operations;

(4) of the assistance provided by the Government to the aforesaid three arrested youths, including assistance which ensures that they will have fair and open trials in Thailand;

(5) whether it has rendered assistance to Mr Tang Lung-wai, whose appeal is still pending in the Philippines, and his family in recent months; as it is learnt that the British Embassy in the Philippines is more proactive than the Government and the State Ministry of Foreign Affairs in rendering assistance to Mr Tang (including lodging an appeal for legal assistance, regular visits in the prison as well as financial support), whether the Government will render assistance to Mr Tang more proactively and urge the State Ministry of Foreign Affairs to render more assistance to Mr Tang; and

(6) as I have learnt that for years some members of the public have been satirising the Government for "watching with folded arms" and taking a passive manner towards the well-being of Hong Kong people serving sentences in overseas places, as well as rendering ineffective assistance, whether the Government will conduct a review in this regard; whether it will cooperate with the British Embassy in the Philippines to proactively provide assistance for Mr Tang who is allegedly having been tried unfairly, so as to ensure that he will have open, fair and reasonable trials in relation to his appeal?



     My consolidated reply to the question raised by Hon Tse is as follows:

(1) and (2) Law enforcement agencies have always been closely monitoring local and overseas drug trafficking trends.  They have also maintained close contact, exchanged intelligence and carried out timely joint operations with overseas law enforcement agencies with a view to combating all sorts of drug trafficking activities.  For instance, the Narcotics Bureau (NB) of the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) carries out internet patrols from time to time and conducts appropriate investigations and takes follow-up actions against drug-related websites.  Combating triad activities and narcotics offences have always been HKPF's priority tasks.  The Police will continue to mount intelligence-led operations, launching vigorous combats against triad societies, criminal syndicates, organised crimes and drug trafficking activities, especially criminal activities exploiting students and youngsters.

     The Police do not maintain a breakdown of the figures requested in the question.

(3) NB will continue to carry out internet patrols to combat online drug trafficking activities.  The Police will also continue to disseminate anti-drug messages through various channels, such as the social media, to remind youngsters not to involve themselves in drug trafficking activities for making quick money.  Besides, the Police will continue to proactively track down drug syndicates exploiting youngsters in drug trafficking and, in accordance with section 56A of the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Cap.134) as appropriate, request the court to pass more severe sentences on culprits exploiting youngsters in drug trafficking to enhance the deterrent effect.

(4) to (6) 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, AHU will, having regard to the nature and circumstances of individual cases as well as the requests of 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), CDCMs and relevant government departments to provide practicable and appropriate assistance.  The HKSAR Government and CDCMs must respect and abide by the local judicial systems when following up on requests for assistance.

     Regarding the case mentioned in part (4) of the question, upon receipt of requests for assistance from the subjects' families, AHU approached OCMFA and the Chinese Embassy in Thailand to understand the situation and, according to the wish of the subjects' families, rendered practicable assistance, such as confirming through the Chinese Embassy in Thailand the situation and location of the detention, urging the relevant local authorities to safeguard the subjects' legal rights and handle the case fairly in accordance with local laws, providing information about local lawyers and interpreters, and assisting the families in understanding the arrangements for visits.  We will maintain contact with OCMFA and the Chinese Embassy in Thailand to provide practicable and appropriate assistance to the subjects and their families.

     Regarding the case mentioned in parts (5) and (6), AHU has maintained contact with OCMFA and the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines to provide practicable assistance to the subject or his family according to their requests as far as possible.  Over the years, whenever receiving a request for assistance from the subject or his family, AHU has, having regard to the circumstances and nature of the request, immediately followed up on the case or made relevant arrangements through the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, including urging the relevant local authorities for prompt, impartial and fair hearings in accordance with local laws.  The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines has also sent officials to visit the subject several times, provided him with daily necessities and food, assisted in reflecting his requests to the local government repeatedly, and co-ordinated with the local Chinese to assist the subject to employ an interpreter. We will continue to monitor the case to provide the subject with practicable assistance.
Ends/Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30
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