on 16 September 1999
Panel on Security
of the Legislative Council
Agenda Item III - Follow-up on problem of
Hong Kong residents detained in the Mainland
and assistance provided by the Administration to
Hong Kong residents encountering problems in Taiwan
This paper informs Members of the progress achieved regarding the proposed measures to improve the assistance provided to Hong Kong residents detained in the Mainland. This paper also sets out the existing arrangements to assist Hong Kong residents in distress/detained in Taiwan.
II. Progress on proposed measures to provide assistance to Hong Kong residents detained in the Mainland
2. At the House Committee Special Meeting held on 28 May 1999, Members were informed that the Administration was studying various measures to broaden the scope of assistance provided for Hong Kong residents detained in the Mainland, viz. establishment of a notification system; visits to Hong Kong residents under detention or in prison; establishment of a direct complaint channel for Hong Kong residents; and transfer of sentenced persons.
3. Progress to date is as follows :
III. Assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress in Taiwan
- Establishment of a notification system
Mainland authorities have agreed in principle that a notification system on Hong Kong residents arrested, detained or imprisoned in the Mainland should be established. HKMAO is now co-ordinating with various Mainland agencies such as the Public Security Ministry, the Customs, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Supreme People's Courts with a view to working out a notification mechanism. Thereafter they would discuss with the HKSARG. It remains our objective to put in place an agreed mechanism with the Mainland authorities as soon as possible.
- Visits to Hong Kong residents under detention or in prison
Under the Mainland laws, the HKSARG has no legal right to demand access to or communicate with a Hong Kong resident detained in the Mainland. Nevertheless, we have proposed to the Mainland authorities that, in view of the close ties between the Mainland and the HKSAR, SARG officials should be allowed to visit Hong Kong residents under detention or in prison. Mainland authorities have indicated willingness to consider whether and how they could exercise flexibility. They are now looking into the principles involved which hopefully would lead to a viable working arrangement to facilitate such visits in future.
- Establishment of a direct complaint channel for Hong Kong residents
The Supreme People's Procuratorate has agreed that a bilingual (Chinese/English) booklet, based on a pamphlet published by the Procuratorate in Guangdong, should be produced as a joint venture between them and the HKSARG. This should significantly enhance Hong Kong residents' understanding of the Mainland's legal and judicial process and complaint channels. The first draft of this booklet is under preparation by the Supreme People's Procuratorate which they hope would be ready for discussion with the SARG shortly. We hope to be able to finalize the booklet by the end of this year.
- Transfer of sentenced persons
At present, the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (TSP) Ordinance empowers the HKSARG to transfer prisoners with places outside the HKSAR, but not with other parts of the Mainland. We plan to initiate discussions on TSP with the relevant Mainland authorities soon as part of our programme on mutual legal assistance in the area of criminal justice. New legislation will be required to implement any agreement reached.
Numbers and Types of Assistance Requested
4. From December 1998 to July 1999, there were 10 requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents in Taiwan who had lost their travel documents or whose travel documents had expired. No statistics were kept on this type of cases prior to December 1998. The only request for assistance to Hong Kong residents detained in Taiwan was made by Mr Lim Por-yen (林百欣) in October 1998.
5. At present, in accordance with the 'One Country' principle there is no official channel of communication between HKSARG and the Taiwan authorities. However, Hong Kong residents stranded in Taiwan due to the loss or expiry of their travel documents can contact the Immigration Department direct or through their families/friends in Hong Kong for assistance. The Immigration Department will issue entry permits to these Hong Kong residents, through their families/friends, to facilitate their return to Hong Kong. The assistance provided by the Immigration Department to such cases has proved effective.
6. For accidents involving participants of package tours originating from Hong Kong, a contingency plan is in place for the Travel Agents Registry and the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong to provide, through the travel agents concerned and their local agents at the place of the accident, all possible and necessary assistance to the travellers affected. This contingency plan applies to all package tours for destinations outside Hong Kong. The assistance offered under this contingency plan includes medical care for the injured; proper handling and the return to Hong Kong of the bodies of the deceased; compassionate visits by relatives of the victims to the place of accident; and emergency financial relief, etc. Such assistance comes under the Package Tour Accident Contingency Fund Scheme.
7. As regards Hong Kong residents who are involved in criminal proceedings in Taiwan, the Administration has so far received only one request made by Mr Lim Por-yen in 1998. At present, the Police, the Immigration Department and the Customs & Excise Department maintain operational contacts with their Taiwan counterparts but at the working level only. Such liaison is confined to exchange of information relating to crime investigation and prevention. In the case of Mr Lim, upon receipt of his request for assistance, the Chief Executive's Office referred Mr Lim's letter to the HKMAO, seeking their assistance to ask the appropriate authorities in the Mainland to convey the request to the relevant authorities in Taiwan.
8. Since requests for assistance concerning Hong Kong residents in distress/detained in Taiwan are few and far between, the Administration considers that no new arrangements are needed at present. Family members of Hong Kong residents in distress/detained in Taiwan may continue to approach the departments concerned for help should need arise.
10 September 1999