21 December 2016
The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including an operation codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Champion", on December 19 and 20 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 14 illegal workers and four suspected employers were arrested.
During operation "Twilight", Immigration Task Force officers raided seven target locations including a restaurant, an office, a stall, residential units and village houses under renovation. Seven illegal workers and two employers were arrested. The seven illegal workers comprised five men and two women aged 45 to 60. Among them, one woman was a holder of recognisance form, which prohibits her from taking any employment, and she was also suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card. Two women, aged 51 and 70, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.
During operations "Champion", enforcement officers raided 13 target locations including a store selling ironware, massage shops, restaurants and residential units under renovation in Hung Hom, Kowloon City and Western districts. Seven illegal workers and two employers were arrested. The seven illegal workers comprised three men and four women aged 25 to 45. Among them, two men were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. Meanwhile, one man and one woman, aged 33 and 52, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.
"Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of them 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 ImmD 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 also warned that it is an offence to use or possess a forged Hong Kong identity card or a Hong Kong identity card related to another person. Offenders are liable to prosecution and a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years' imprisonment.
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.