|LCQ16: Providing assistance to Hong Kong residents in the Mainland
Following is a question by Hon Tam Heung-man and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (April 25):
According to the results of a questionnaire survey that I have conducted, nearly 40 per cent of Hong Kong people need to travel to and from the Mainland because of work. Regarding the support provided by the Government to Hong Kong people working on the Mainland, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the Office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in Beijing and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (ETOs) in Guangdong, Shanghai and Chengdu have formulated guidelines for handling cases of Hong Kong people seeking assistance; if they have, of the details of the relevant guidelines; if not, whether they will consider formulating such guidelines;
(b) of the numbers of cases of Hong Kong people seeking assistance handled by the above offices in the past three years, and details of the follow-up actions taken on such cases; and
(c) whether it will consider enhancing the support services provided to Hong Kong people who, because of work, need to travel to and from the Mainland; if it will, of the services involved; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) All four Mainland Offices will endeavour to provide necessary assistance to Hong Kong residents in the Mainland. Generally, the scope of assistance cases handled by the Mainland Offices include complaints against administrative, law enforcement and judicial agencies in the Mainland, business and trade disputes, complaints relating to real estate in the Mainland, loss of travel documents and monies, and distress situations. Having regard to the past operational experience and distribution of cases, the Immigration Divisions of the HKSAR Government are set up in the Beijing Office (BJO) and the Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong (GDETO) only. Their scope of assistance covers cases involving loss of travel documents or monies, accidents or casualties, and arrest or detention.
The Immigration Department has published a leaflet entitled "Guide to Assistance Services to Hong Kong Residents in the Mainland", which outlines the existing services rendered by the concerned departments/offices to Hong Kong residents in distress in the Mainland, and elaborates on the scope of practical assistance which the HKSAR Government can provide. The Immigration Department has also set up a 24-hour hotline for assistance seekers. The relevant information has been uploaded to the websites of the Immigration Department and Mainland Offices. In handling requests for assistance, staff of the Mainland Offices will endeavour to provide practical assistance having regard to the circumstances of each case. They will continue to act in accordance with the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", and will not interfere in the judicial process and administrative operations of the Mainland. If necessary, the Mainland Offices will make referrals to the relevant Mainland authorities, so that the cases may be handled and followed up in accordance with the procedures and regulations of the Mainland. In general, the Mainland Offices will not intervene in cases which are under judicial proceedings, or which concern private contractual dispute matters.
(b) Details on the breakdown of the requests for assistance by Hong Kong residents handled by the Mainland Offices in the past three years are attached at Annex.
Follow-up services provided by the Mainland Offices for the above different types of cases are summarised below:
(i) Loss of travel documents and monies: verify the identity of the Hong Kong residents concerned; facilitate their early return to Hong Kong, and contact the families concerned where necessary.
(ii) Accidents or casualties: notify relatives of the parties concerned; contact relatives/travel agencies to arrange for the expeditious return of the injured persons to Hong Kong for treatment; facilitate entry of the injured persons back to Hong Kong; secure information of medical services available in the Mainland for reference as far as practicable; assist in the application for death certificates, and assist in the transportation of the remains back to Hong Kong.
(iii) Arrest or detention: gather details of the case from the assistance seekers (usually family members of the parties concerned); explain to them the relevant Mainland laws, regulations and criminal proceedings at different stages; advise the assistance seekers that they may appoint Mainland lawyers as legal representatives; provide the assistance seekers with relevant contact details of law societies in the provinces/regions concerned if required; pass on and reflect their views and requests to the relevant Mainland authorities if requested, and provide them with relevant information for reference in accordance with the progress of the case (e.g. the rights and obligations of a person under detention).
(iv) Assistance cases other than those relating to personal safety: Upon receipt of requests for assistance, the Mainland Offices concerned will liaise with the assistance seeker(s) to understand the case before passing on and reflecting their views and requests to the relevant Mainland authorities. They will also maintain contact with the assistance seekers and, depending on the progress of the case, provide them with relevant information for reference.
(c) We have been strengthening support services to Hong Kong residents in the Mainland. In April 2006, GDETO established the Immigration Division to provide practicable assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress in the five provinces under its coverage. The Shanghai ETO and Chengdu ETO have also started operation since September 2006 to provide support service to Hong Kong people in the areas under their respective coverage.
To enhance Hong Kong residents' understanding of the legal system in the Mainland, the Security Bureau and the BJO have respectively published booklets entitled "Criminal Procedure Law in the Mainland" and "Criminal Law and Application of Regulations in the Mainland Relating to Detention and Arrest". The above booklets can be obtained from the Immigration Department, District Offices and all Mainland Offices. They are also available for download at the websites of the Immigration Department and BJO.
We will continue to provide useful information to Hong Kong residents in the Mainland to facilitate their living, business pursuit and work in the Mainland through various channels, such as websites of the Mainland Offices, bulletins, leaflets and pamphlets. For example, the GDETO has jointly published with the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions in September 2006 the "General Information Booklet for Hong Kong Residents Living in the Mainland". The booklet provides useful advice to Hong Kong residents on work and employment, business and investment, study, and seeking assistance in distress situations in the Mainland.
Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2007