Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(2) 1439
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref. : CB2/PL/SE/1
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Minutes of Special Meeting held on Thursday, 12 March 1998 at 10:45 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Henry WU
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Members absent :
|Hon CHENG Kai-nam (Deputy Chairman)||]
|Hon Allen LEE, JP||]
|Hon MA Fung-kwok ||]
|Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung||]
|Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP||] other commitments
|Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP||]
|Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee||]
|Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP||]
|Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok||]
Public Officers attending :
- Item I
- Ms Sally WONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 3
- Mr Raymond FAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security C
- Mr WONG Tat-po
- Assistant Director
- Immigration Department
- Item II
- Mr Raymond WONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 1
- Mr Philip CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E
- Mr Michael HORNER
- Assistant Commissioner of Police (Service Quality)
- Hong Kong Police Force
Clerk in attendance:
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1
Staff in attendance:
- Miss Betty MA
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1
I.Entry visa for Taiwan visitors and visitors from overseas
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 1174(01))
1.At the invitation of the Chairman, Deputy Secretary for Security 3 (DS/S(3)) briefed members on the Administration's information paper. DS/S(3) said that Hong Kong operated a liberal visa regime and that nationals from over 170 countries and territories could visit Hong Kong visa-free. Only nationals of 40 countries/economies needed to apply for visas for visits. Moreover, 92% of all visitors could be cleared within 30 minutes waiting time at all control points. To facilitate frequent visitors to travel to Hong Kong, the Administration had introduced a Travel Pass Pilot Scheme in January 1998. Under the Scheme, the holder of a Travel Pass would be allowed to use Hong Kong resident counters for arrival and departure and stay for a period up to two months on each trip. The Administration intended to start receiving applications for APEC Business Travel Cards at the end of March 1998. About 2,000 APEC Cards valid for three years would be issued. Card holders would be offered visa-free access to five regions, including Hong Kong.
2. Regarding visa requirement for Taiwan visitors, DS/S(3) advised that the Administration had adopted a number of improvements to the Taiwan Visit Permit (TVP) system. They included extending the period of stay from seven days to 14 days; waiving the requirement for local reference; extending the validity of TVPs; simplifying the application by means of reducing the types of TVPs from seven to three and computerization of the processing and issue of TVPs; as well as the installation of computer-assisted optical character readers at immigration control points. To further improve the system, the Immigration Department had also issued multiple-journey TVPs with pre-printed landing conditions in January 1998. DS/S(3) added that the Administration was actively considering the introduction of further improvement measures. The Administration would work with the authorized airline agents and look into ways to shorten the current lead time taken for the issue of multiple-journey TVPs. It was also considering providing a fast track service of multiple-journey TVPs to Taiwan visitors which included the issue of a new type of TVP valid for three years and good for a stay of 30 days. Holders of the new TVPs would be allowed to use resident counters at immigration control points. Consideration was also given to extending the validity of multiple-journey TVPs to three or five years. The Administration would promote greater use of the three-year multiple-journey TVPs. Lastly, she pointed out that the Administration was studying the feasibility of using the latest telecommunication and information technology to issue visit permits including TVPs by electronic means.
3. To enhance travel convenience for visitors from Taiwan to enter Hong Kong, Mr Howard YOUNG enquired whether the Administration had considered using electronic means for processing applications for TVPs submitted from Taiwan directly. In reply, DS/S(3) said that the Administration was considering the feasibility of issuing visit permits by electronic means. A team from the Immigration Department and the Information Technology Services Department would visit Australia shortly to study such a system. An in-depth study on the proposal and specific plans would be drawn up after the study team had reported its findings.
4. In response to Mr Howard YOUNG's enquiry, Assistant Director/ Immigration Department (AD/ID) advised that some 570,000 multiple-journey TVPs valid for one year and about 197,000 multiple-journey TVPs valid for three years were issued in 1997, together with the valid TVPs issued in previous years, there were about one to two million valid TVPs in circulation. Mr Howard YOUNG commented that despite the Administration had put in place a number of improvement measures to further facilitate the convenient travel of Taiwan residents to Hong Kong, the result was not very satisfactory as the underlying problem was the requirement of a visit permit. Given the total valid TVPs represented only about 10% of the population of Taiwan and that Taiwan residents were one of the largest tourist groups visiting Hong Kong, he urged the Administration to critically re-examine the need for a visit permit, so as to attract more Taiwan visitors to come to Hong Kong. DS/S(3) advised that under Article 22(4) of the Basic Law, people from other parts of China must apply for approval for entry into the HKSAR. In the circumstances, visitors from Taiwan ought to apply for approval for entry into Hong Kong under the TVP system. She said that the Administration would continually explore possible ways to simplify procedures for processing entry visa applications.
|5. In reply to a further question from Mr Howard YOUNG, AD/ID said that Macau residents holding a Portuguese passport could visit Hong Kong visa-free and that holders of Portuguese Aliens passports who held Macau identity cards for not less than two years did not require visa for a visit to Hong Kong not exceeding seven days. Mr Howard YOUNG pointed out that the access control over Mainland residents who were in transit through Hong Kong to and from another country were laxer than that imposed on Taiwan residents who were making their trips to the Mainland via Hong Kong. To facilitate the convenient travel of Taiwan residents with a view to boosting the local tourist industry, Mr Howard YOUNG suggested the Administration to consider simplifying the entry requirements in respect of those Taiwan residents who had obtained an entry permit to visit the Mainland and were in transit through Hong Kong to the Mainland.
6. Responding to Mr Henry WU questions, DS/S(3) advised that more than 500 applications for the Travel Pass issued under the Travel Pass Pilot Scheme had been received since its implementation in January 1998. Of these applications, about 200 Travel Pass had been issued and the remaining applications were being processed. DS/S(3) pointed out that given the target groups of the Scheme were frequent visitors, the publicity of the Scheme were mainly launched abroad through the overseas Economic Trade Offices, overseas offices of the Tourist Association and the Trade Development Council. DS/S(3) said that applications for the Travel Pass were only open to frequent visitors who held valid passports and were eligible to enter Hong Kong without a visa or an entry permit. Thus, Taiwan visitors were not eligible for the Scheme as they had to apply for a permit for entry to Hong Kong.
|7. Mr KAN Fook-yee expressed concern about the entry arrangements in respect of Mainland residents coming to Hong Kong for business purpose. AD/ID advised that under the existing arrangements, Mainland residents who were government officials or employees of state enterprises or joint ventures and required to station in the subsidiaries in Hong Kong could apply for an Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to Hong Kong and Macau and a visit endorsement from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. In addition, Mainland residents who wish to make business trips to Hong Kong in their private capacity could apply for a permit from the relevant Public Security Bureau and an entry permit label from the Immigration Department valid for single, double or multiple-journey from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Should they need to enter Hong Kong not for business purposes, they could apply for a permit from the relevant Public Security Bureau Office in the Mainland. Mr KAN Fook-yee commented that the existing arrangements were inadequate. To facilitate members follow-up on the issue, the Chairman suggested and the Administration agreed to provide an information paper on the measures in place to facilitate easy travel of the Mainland residents coming to Hong Kong for business purpose, including the annual applications for such entry permits and how the figures compared with the applications from Taiwan residents, if available.
(Post-meeting note : The information paper subsequently provided by the Secretary for Security was issued to members via PLC Paper No. CB(2)1362 on 31 March 1998.)
8. The Chairman opined that the number of permanent resident counters available at immigration control points were insufficient to cope with the large number of permanent residents in Hong Kong. She pointed out that very often permanent residents had to queue up and use the resident counters which caused unnecessary delay. She urged the Administration to consider increasing the number of permanent resident counters so as to shorten the immigration clearance time. AD/ID said that since persons who were granted unconditional stay in Hong Kong or being imposed conditions of stay as well as holders of Travel Pass and APEC Business Card were eligible to use resident counters, the Administration would have to be flexible in allocating the number of permanent resident counters and resident counters operated at immigration control points, having regard to the number of users at different periods.
II.Fabrication of evidence by police officers and related issues
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 1017(04) and 1174(02))
9. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 (DS/S(1)) said that the information paper aimed to provide further clarification on the mechanism for handling fabrication of evidence ("FOE") complaints, especially the sub-judice cases, in response to members concern raised at the last Panel meeting. DS/S(1) pointed out that the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) would not suspend the investigation on a "FOE" complaint automatically just because it was a sub-judice case. Instead, it would handle such complaints with care. Having conducted a preliminary enquiry which included an interview of independent witnesses, CAPO would decide whether the complaint fell within the sub-judice category. Even if it was a sub-judice complaint, investigation would still proceed should the conditions laid down in paragraph 9 of the information paper be met. In arriving at its decision, CAPO would consult the Department of Justice. DS/S(1) further said that in the event that a court had made unfavourable comments on a case, the Police would also review the case to see if there was any evidence to prove the "FOE" allegation. A full examination would be conducted if necessary. As regards the concern expressed by some members on how the Police would decide which party should be prosecuted in cases where both parties involved insisted that the other side was at fault in the case, DS/S(1) advised that only very minor crime reports would be handled throughout by the Duty Officer who was normally at the rank of a Station Sergeant. Otherwise, all crime reports were handled by crime investigation teams with evidence in support of each charge checked by the Inspector in charge of the investigation team responsible for the case. In handling crime reports, the Police would take into consideration all of the evidence available, including the statements given by the parties involved, statements given by independent witnesses, medical evidence, circumstantial evidence and so on. The Department of Justice's advice would be sought in case of doubt. For acquittal cases, the Police would review each case to see if there was any mishandling and whether any Police officer should be held responsibile. For those cases acquitted at the Magistrate court, the review would be conducted by the Superintendent in charge of the Police station instituting the prosecution. Cases acquitted at the District Court or above would be reviewed by the Senior Superintendent (Crimes) of the regional headquarters concerned. He added that in determining whether any criminal charges be laid against a person, every stage of the prosecution was undertaken by experienced and well-trained Police officers. He assured members that the existing mechanism provided safeguard to members of the public from being wrongly charged.
10. In response to Mr LAU Kong-wah's enquiry, DS/S(1) said that the Administration shared the view that the expansion of the use of video-interviewing of suspects would enhance the transparency of the statement taking process and the admissibility of confession statements. Thus, the Administration had advanced its plan to set up a total of 60 Video-Interviewing Rooms (VIRs) which would be made available to the Police so that at least one VIR would be set up in every major divisional Police station by the end of 1998. The Administration would study the viability of further expanding the use of VIRs, subject to availability of resources.
11. Responding to Mr LAU Kong-wah's enquiry about the channels available to encourage members of the public to lodge complaints immediately after the occurrence of "FOE", DS/S(1) advised that pamphlets on the Police complaints system were made available to the public in each Police station. Upon receipt of complaints by the Duty Officer in the Police station, the Duty Officer would refer the complaint cases to CAPO for investigation. PAS/S(E) added that all forms of complaints were accepted by CAPO. To facilitate the lodging of complaints, CAPO had provided a 24-hour hotline. In addition, posters of the complaint procedures were put up in every Police station which had highlighted for general information that the complainants would be informed of the actions taken by CAPO and that the investigation reports prepared by CAPO would be submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) for review.
12. In response to Mrs Elsie TU, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Service Quality) (ACP/(SQ)) stressed that the IPCC would scrutinize vigorously the results of CAPO investigations. Should there be any disagreement on CAPO investigation reports, the IPCC would discuss the cases in question with CAPO. When the final classifications of CAPO's investigations were endorsed by the IPCC, the complainants would be informed of the results. AD/(SQ) said that the existing procedures adopted by CAPO to handle complaints were in accordance with the criminal justice system. If an accused made a complaint to CAPO about "FOE", CAPO would look into the facts of the case and the case file. CAPO would also interview independent witnesses, if necessary. Once CAPO had completed its investigation and was unable to find any evidence of "FOE", the case would be brought to the court. During court proceedings, both the prosecution and the defence had the opportunities to present their evidence. Whether or not the accused was guilty, it would be a matter for the court. In the event that the accused was found guilty, it was believed that the court had considered there was no "FOE" by the Police. In the circumstances, no further investigation would be carried out by CAPO and then the IPCC would endorse the report. However, for those complaint cases in which CAPO found evidence of "FOE", it would step in and the prosecution being instituted against the complainant would be suspended and then an investigation into the Police officer concerned would be carried out. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E (PAS/(E)) added that the IPCC would not automatically endorse the investigation results of CAPO. When a report submitted by CAPO was received, the IPCC would go through the details of the case vigorously and raised queries regarding those areas in which it was not satisfied. The IPCC had raised 414 queries on CAPO investigations in 1996 while the corresponding figures for 1994 and 1995 were 280 and 442 respectively. In 1996, 48 results of the investigations were changed while the corresponding figures for 1994 and 1995 were 24 and 35 respectively. DS/S(1) stressed that even at the early stage before the court trial, should CAPO find any indication of misconduct on the part of the Police which were sufficient to justify an interference of prosecution, CAPO would seek legal advice and suspend the prosecution.
13. Mrs Elsie TU opined that as shown in Annex A of the information paper, out of the 122 allegations of "FOE" received in 1997, none of the allegations was substantiated. As such, she was concerned about the effectiveness of the mechanism adopted by the Police to deal with "FOE". In reply, DS/S(1) pointed out that among the "FOE" allegations received in the past three years, 10 were substantiated/substantiated other than reported/not fully substantiated. Of these cases, five were withdrawn before the trial because of CAPO's findings and the other five cases were investigated by CAPO after the trial.
14. The Chairman expressed concern about the small number of officers convicted/disciplined despite some "FOE" cases were substantiated. ACP(SQ) explained the difficulties encountered by making reference to a real case. He said that there was a person who was charged with assault on a Police officer and the accused then made a complaint about "FOE". CAPO looked into the complaint where the complainant's version of events were supported by independent witnesses. After CAPO had sought legal advice from the Department of Justice, the prosecution against the complainant was stopped. When CAPO went further to request the complainant to testify the Police officer concerned, the complainant, however, refused and withdrew the complaint. Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the complaint, CAPO continued with its investigation and was able to substantiate the "FOE" allegation subsequently. Eventually, the Force had taken disciplinary action against the Police officer concerned and was actively seeking his removal from the Force. ACP(SQ) added that for those cases where the complainants were acquitted by the court, very often they did not wish to proceed with the complaints. As a result, these complaint cases would likely be classified as withdrawn. Nevertheless, the Force would try to pursue as far as possible in respect of every "FOE" complaint case received even though the complainant withdrew the complaint. He stressed that the Force had no place for those officers who used illegal means to tackle crimes.
15. Mr KAN Fook-yee was still concerned about the small proportion of Police officers being convicted/disciplined as compared with the total number of "FOE" allegations received. He asked whether the Administration would review the existing mechanism for handling "FOE" cases. DS/S(1) reiterated that the Police Force had no place for "FOE". The Force management considered that enhancing the quality of Police officers was the best way to prevent the occurrence of "FOE". The Force would examine ways of improving the procedures in handling evidence from time to time.
16. In response to Mr KAN Fook-yee's further enquiry, DS/S(1) advised that upon the conclusion of the court proceedings, CAPO would review the complaint case to see whether there was a need to re-open the investigation taking into account the results of the court case or matters arising from the court proceedings. ACP(SQ) pointed out that, however, it would be difficult for CAPO to overturn the decision made by the court on question of guilt or innocence given that it had heard evidence from both the prosecution and defence. Unless further evidence was available later which might support the case, it would then be referred to the Court of Appeal for decision. PAS(E) added that the Police took a serious view on "FOE" cases. It was of the view that the best way to cope with the problem of "FOE" was to prevent its occurrence. As such, the Police Force had put in place various preventive measures such as enhancing the quality of Police officers, inculcating a high standard of ethics and values among Police officers and adopting a set of well established procedures to handle evidence. Should "FOE" be identified, the charge against a complainant would be withdrawn. Above all, all cases were put to court for a fair and independent trial.
17. Mrs Elsie TU enquired about the number of cases of the 369 "FOE" allegations received in 1996 that were scrutinized by the IPCC. ACP(SQ) replied that all the results of the complaint cases were scrutinized and endorsed by the IPCC. To assist the work of the IPCC, the IPCC Secretariat would go through all the cases and then put up its recommendations to the IPCC members for consideration. DS/S(1) added that irrespective of the recommendations put forward by the IPCC Secretariat, the IPCC members would meet and discuss the cases. In discharging their duties, the IPCC members could also interview the witnesses.
18. The Chairman enquired about the investigations conducted in respect of "FOE" allegations which were sub-judice cases, in particular cases which were under the court trial. DS/S(1) explained that a complaint was classified as sub-judice once the Police decided that charges be laid against the complainant. This was to ensure that the complainant and the related court case were handled in a fair and objective way. ACP(SQ) advised that no investigation on cases which were under the court trial had been conducted. It was because CAPO would investigate every sub-judice complaint before bringing the case to the court. If CAPO found some evidence which supported the "FOE" allegation, subject to the advice of the Department of Justice, the prosecution against a complainant would be suspended for further investigation. However, if CAPO was unable to identify evidence to substantiate the "FOE" allegation, the Police would proceed with the prosecution against the complainant. He pointed out even during the trial, the court might suspend the court proceedings and ask the Police to re-examine the case should the court have doubts on the veracity and the manner in which evidence was collected and presented by the Police officers. PAS/(E) added that CAPO observed the procedures for handling sub-judice complaints strictly. He pointed out that out of the 10 substantiated/substantiated other than reported/not fully substantiated "FOE" allegations, five charges were subsequently withdrawn as a result of the investigations on "FOE" complaints.
19. To enhance public confidence on the Police in handling "FOE" allegations, the Chairman requested the Administration to consider members views as follows:
- to reflect the seriousness of the matter, severe disciplinary actions should be taken against Police officers involved in "FOE" allegations in the event that there was insufficient evidence to take criminal actions against the officers concerned;
- given that some of the investigations of "FOE" allegations by CAPO were acted upon the unfavourable comments made by the courts, the Police should be more proactive in conducting an immediate and full examination to identify the problems should there be an indication of "FOE"; and
- to ensure that the IPCC would be alerted when the results of CAPO investigations on a "FOE" complaint case was submitted for its endorsement.
|20. In response, DS/S(1) made the following points:|
- the Force took a very serious view on framing of innocent persons by Police officers. Such offences would not be tolerated. The Police must ensure that there was sufficient evidence to support disciplinary action against Police officers who committed "FOE" offences as such action was liable to be challenged by judicial review. Nevertheless, the Force management was determined to eliminate the occurrence of "FOE";
- cases acquitted by the court would be reviewed to see whether the relevant procedures could be further strengthened or any lesson could be learned. For cases where the court had commented unfavourably on the way in which evidence was collected and presented by the Police officers, the responsible office of the case would also take appropriate follow-up actions; and
- the IPCC also took a serious view of "FOE" by Police officers. The IPCC had set up a special panel to monitor serious cases. Members views on the subject would be reflected to the IPCC.
III.Close of meeting
21. The meeting ended at 12:40 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
15 April 1998