Thirty immigration offenders arrested

1 September 2016

The Immigration Department mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations including operations codenamed "Twilight" and a series of joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force codenamed "Windsand" from August 29 to September 1 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 23 illegal workers and seven suspected employers were arrested. The operations are ongoing.

During the "Twilight" operations, Immigration Task Force officers raided different target locations including restaurants, a construction site, a residential building, an office, a vegetable stall and a fish stall under renovation. Fourteen illegal workers and seven employers were arrested. The 14 illegal workers comprised nine men and five women aged 20 to 59. Among them, two women were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. Four men and two women were suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, four men and three women aged 36 to 68 were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operation "Windsand", nine Mainland visitors comprising five men and four women aged 23 to 56 were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at Cheuk Wan Street and San Wan Road in Sheung Shui. The goods included food, electronic components, electronic products, skin-care products, commodities and milk powder.

Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 005 Mainlanders and 17 Hong Kong residents were arrested for suspected involvement in parallel goods trading. Of these, 231 Mainlanders were prosecuted for breach of conditions of stay and one is under investigation, while the remaining 2 773 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 221 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, while charges were withdrawn for the other 10 people.

"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 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 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 appealed to employers not to employ illegal workers, warning that it is an offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is a fine of $350,000 and imprisonment for three years. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's identity card or, if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card, his or her valid travel document. The maximum penalty for failing to do so is a fine of $150,000 and imprisonment for one year. To deter unlawful employment, the High Court laid down sentencing guidelines in 2004 reaffirming that it is a serious offence to employ someone who is not legally employable, and stating that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence.