|LCQ15: Number of cases providing help to Hong Kong people doing business in Mainland
Following is a question by Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):
Regarding the assistance provided to Hong Kong people doing business in the Mainland, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council of the respective numbers of cases of Hong Kong businessmen seeking assistance which the Office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ("HKSARG") in Beijing and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong of the HKSARG have referred to the relevant departments in the Mainland as well as the government departments and statutory bodies of the HKSAR in the past three years; the number of such cases that have been settled; the reasons for not settling the outstanding cases, and the other assistance that will be provided by the two Offices to the Hong Kong businessmen concerned?
Requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents received by the Office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in Beijing (BJO) and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong (GDETO) are largely related to loss of travel documents or monies, or commercial disputes and real estate in the Mainland etc.
Upon receipt of requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents that are related to business and trade, under current practice, BJO and GDETO will gather details of the case from assistance-seekers and offer practicable assistance, having regard to the nature and circumstances of the case as well as the requests made. If assistance from relevant Mainland authorities is required, BJO and GDETO would communicate with the authorities through their established liaison networks, and refer the requests or complaints to the relevant authorities. We would also directly refer cases related to Mainland trade/commercial policies and legal requirements, to relevant authorities for follow up as appropriate. To-date, the vast majority of requests for assistance are handled through referral to Mainland authorities for follow up.
Apart from referrals, we would also follow up cases in the light of their nature and experience gained in handling similar cases. This may entail the arrangement of meetings between assistance-seekers and relevant authorities, or handling direct, or coordinating with Mainland authorities in following up the cases.
In general, we would not intervene into private commercial disputes. In following up requests for assistance, our Mainland offices will abide by the "One Country, Two Systems" principle, under which the HKSAR Government should not and could not interfere with the executive and judicial processes of the Mainland. Assistance-seekers should also comply with relevant procedures and regulations of the Mainland in following up their cases and tackling relevant problems.
A small proportion of the cases would be referred to bureaux/ departments of the HKSAR Government or statutory organisations for follow up. For cases of private commercial disputes not involving authorities of Mainland or HKSAR, we would suggest assistance-seekers to resort to legal means for redress.
Requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents received by BJO and GDETO have been classified according to the nature of the requests and not the status of the assistance-seekers (e.g. whether they are involved in business or other activities). The number of requests related to commercial disputes; real property development in the Mainland; administration, law enforcement and judicial agencies in the Mainland; or trade/commercial policies and legislation processed by BJO in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with the aforesaid approaches are 393, 321 and 214 respectively. During the same periods, GDETO has processed 15, 19 and 47 requests of a similar nature.
Generally speaking, Mainland authorities have been cooperative and supportive to the work of BJO and GDETO, and have been taking proactive approaches in following up the referrals where possible. Regarding outcome of follow-up actions on cases referred, successful examples include the resolution of issues relating to certificates of origin for steel import, under GDETO’s assistance to businessmen from Hong Kong. This year, GDETO also helped reflect views of the Hong Kong business sector on textile quotas. As for individual cases that have been processed by Mainland authorities, assistance-seekers may raise further requests for follow up actions. Hence, it is difficult to define whether cases have been fully "resolved". BJO and GDETO, upon receipt of further requests for assistance, would provide practicable assistance and follow up as appropriate.
Apart from requests related to commercial disputes and Mainland administration or legislation, in the past three years BJO and GDETO have also processed over 800 requests from Hong Kong residents for assistance, which are related to other issues including loss of travel documents or monies, injuries caused by accidents or death of relatives in the Mainland.
Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2005