Proposed creation of one Senior Assistant Director and one Assistant Director supernumerary posts in the Independent Commission Against Corruption
Establishment of the International Cooperation Branch
Mr CHAN Chun-ying declared that he was a member of the Operations Review Committee of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (“ICAC”).
Mr CHAN Chun-ying noted that the Constitution of IAACA required the President to establish a Secretariat. Against the above, a number of time-limited posts (including two proposed supernumerary directorate posts of Senior Assistant Director, Commission Against Corruption and Assistant Director, Commission Against Corruption (to be designated as Director of International Cooperation Corporate Services (“DIC”) and Assistant Director/International Cooperation (“AD/IC”) respectively)) would be created under the newly established International Cooperation and Corporate Services Department (“ICD”) which was responsible for, among others, overseeing the Secretariat of IAACA. Information was sought on how these posts would be filled, as well as the arrangement for the two proposed supernumerary directorate posts and ICD after the end of C/ICAC’s tenure of office of President of IAACA. Mr CHAN Chun-ying was particularly concerned about whether there would be any posts to accommodate the incumbent of the two proposed supernumerary directorate posts to retain their expertise and experience.
ICAC advised that ICD, which would be headed by the proposed DIC, comprised the Corporate Services Branch (“the CS Branch”) (formerly named the Administration Branch) and the newly created International Cooperation Branch (“the IC Branch”). The CS Branch, headed by the Assistant Director/Corporate Services, was responsible for overseeing corporate services matters and media communication and publicity matters of ICAC. The IC Branch, to be headed by the proposed AD/IC and had an approved establishment of 28 non-directorate posts (including eight new posts which would be created when they were filled), was responsible for international and Mainland liaison, provision of training, capacity building and consultancy services to anti-corruption agencies (“ACAs”) in other jurisdictions, networking with international anti-corruption ranking institutions, and running the IAACA Secretariat. In the past, ICAC’s international and Mainland liaison and training work, including the work arising from the roles of ICAC being a member of the Executive Committee of IAACA for over 10 years and C/ICAC being the Convenor of the Training Committee of IAACA since 2017, had previously been carried out by the then International Liaison and Training Group (“the ILT Group”) under the then Administration Branch. Staff members of the then ILT Group had now been transferred to the IC Branch. The remaining posts of the IC Branch would be filled by internal deployment and outside recruitment.
As regards the arrangements for the time-limited posts upon their expiry, ICAC stressed that it would closely monitor the staffing establishment and it was anticipated that there would be vacancies to accommodate the staff concerned by that time. Members requested ICAC to provide, in its paper to be submitted to the Establishment Subcommittee (“ESC”), the current plan to accommodate the incumbent of the two proposed time-limited supernumerary posts after the end of tenure of office of President of IAACA.
An update on the handling of non-refoulement claims and the related staffing proposals
Mr CHAN Chun-ying declared that he was a member of the Advisory Committee on Pilot Scheme for Provision of Publicly-funded Legal Assistance for Non-refoulement Claimants.
Stepping up enforcement relating to non-refoulement claimants
Mr CHAN Chun-ying urged the Administration to step up enforcement actions against claimants and any persons who abetted others to abuse the nonrefoulement claim mechanism. Information was sought on the enforcement against illegal employment of claimants, as well as the work to combat immigration-related computer crimes, which were two enforcement initiatives of the Enforcement Branch of ImmD that the proposed Senior Principal Immigration Officer would provide management support to.
The Administration advised that following the coming into operation of the Amendment Ordinance, overstayers who took any employment would also be liable to be prosecuted under section 38AA and subject to the same penalty levels as illegal immigrants taking any employment. With the stepping up of the enforcement actions by ImmD, around 12 000 operations on the targeted establishments against NEC illegal workers were conducted in 2021 compared with around 9 000 in 2020. 544 NEC illegal workers were arrested in 2021 (whereas the annual average arrest figure was about 300 in the past). As at end February 2022, over 60 overstayers were prosecuted under section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance and sentenced to imprisonment for eight to 15 months. Meanwhile, 289 employers were arrested in 2021 and the Court had substantially raised the sentencing tariffs of offences relating to the employment of illegal workers from the previous three-month imprisonment to 15-month imprisonment. As regards the enforcement and prevention against immigration-related cybercrimes, the Cybercrime and Forensics Investigation Group (“CFIG”) set up under the Enforcement Division in September 2021 had assisted frontline investigators in the analysis and restoration of digital evidence, and in giving testimony during prosecution in court. CFIG had handled 12 cases so far.
Proposed amendments to the Births and Deaths Registration Ordinance (Cap. 174)
Extending the statutory time limit for registration of deaths from natural causes
While ImmD’s statistics showed that around 99% of the deaths from natural causes were registered within 14 days, there was an enquiry about whether there were any common reasons why the remaining 1% of cases required a longer time to complete the registration that needed to be attended to under the current legislative exercise. Information was sought on the prosecution statistics in relation to failure to comply with the statutory time limits for births and deaths registrations in the past few years.
The Administration advised that there were cases whereby the nearest relatives or other relevant persons of the deceased were unable to secure the supporting documents required for death registration; or it took time for them to communicate with relatives overseas or to decide the funeral arrangements. ImmD had all along been adopting a humanistic approach in administering the registration of deaths on compassionate grounds. No prosecution was instituted in the past five years in respect of non-compliance with the requirement to register death within 24 hours. As regards births registration which had to be made within 42 days after the day of birth, about 30 prosecutions were instituted in the past five years. These cases mostly involved unreasonable delays with several warning letters given. In an extreme case, the registration was made 39 months after birth.
Mr CHAN Chun-ying noted that to step up enforcement on cases involving registration of deaths from natural causes with undue delay, informants who had registered the deaths beyond 24 hours after the death had been required to provide the reasons of delay on a supplementary form (for death registrations beyond 24 hours after the death of the deceased but within seven days) and explanation as well as supplementary information, if any, on the reasons of delay (for death registrations over seven days after the death of the deceased) since July 2021. An enquiry was raised as to whether the provision of the aforesaid information would still be required under the proposed amendments.
The Administration replied in the negative. There was a suggestion that the Ordinance should provide for a mechanism for the Registrar of Births and Deaths to lift the time limits for registration under special circumstances such as an epidemic.