Twenty-three immigration offenders arrested

4 November 2016

The Immigration Department mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations including operations codenamed "Twilight" and a joint operation with the Hong Kong Police Force codenamed "Windsand" on November 2 and 3 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 18 illegal workers and five suspected employers were arrested.

During operations "Twilight", Immigration Task Force officers raided six target locations including restaurants, a residential building, a massage parlour and a recycling yard. Ten illegal workers and five employers were arrested. The 10 illegal workers comprised two men and eight women aged 28 to 67. Among them, two women were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. In addition, they were also suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Three men and two women aged 32 to 59 were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operation "Windsand", eight Mainland visitors comprising seven men and one woman aged 21 to 54 were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at the Advanced Technology Center in Sheung Shui. The goods included milk powder, cosmetics, food and skin-care products.

Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3,095 Mainlanders and 18 Hong Kong residents were arrested for suspected involvement in parallel goods trading. Of these, 233 Mainlanders were prosecuted for breach of conditions of stay, while the remaining 2,862 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 221 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months while two are pending court hearing and charges were withdrawn for the other 10 people.

"Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of him shall be guilty of an offence. Also, visitors are not allowed to take employment in Hong Kong, whether paid or unpaid, without the permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to two years' imprisonment," an Immigration Department spokesman said.

The spokesman warned that, as stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, illegal immigrants or people who are the subject of a removal order or a deportation order are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years' imprisonment. The Court of Appeal has issued a guideline ruling that a sentence of 15 months' imprisonment should be applied in such cases.

The spokesman reiterated that it is a serious offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for three years and a fine of $350,000. The High Court has laid down sentencing guidelines that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence. According to the court sentencing, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee's identity card, the employer has the explicit duty to make enquiries regarding the person and ensure that the answers would not cast any reasonable doubt concerning the lawful employability of the person. The court will not accept failure to do so as a defence in proceedings. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's valid travel document if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. The maximum penalty for failing to inspect such a document is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.