16 November 2016
The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including operations codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with other law enforcement agencies codenamed "Champion" and "Windsand", on November 14 and 15 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 18 illegal workers and four suspected employers were arrested.
During operation "Twilight" conducted on November 14, Immigration Task Force officers raided 11 target locations including a construction site, a guesthouse, a residential unit, restaurants and stalls. Eight illegal workers and two employers were arrested. The eight illegal workers comprised two men and six women aged 24 to 55. Among them, one woman was a holder of recognisance form, which prohibits her from taking any employment. Two men aged 24 and 46 were suspected of employing the illegal workers.
During the operation conducted on November 15, Immigration Task Force officers raided a residential flat under renovation. One male illegal worker aged 27 was arrested. He was a holder of recognisance form, which prohibits him from taking any employment.
During the operations "Champion" conducted on the same day, enforcement officers raided nine target locations including a laundry workshop, a residential building under renovation and warehouses in Tsing Yi, Kwai Chung and Central districts. Five illegal male workers and two employers were arrested. The five illegal workers, aged 22 to 37, were all holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. Four of them were also suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards or Hong Kong identity cards related to another person. Two men aged 40 and 50 were suspected of employing the illegal workers.
Meanwhile, during operation "Windsand" conducted on the same day, four Mainland visitors comprising one man and three women aged 33 to 39 were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at Po Wan Road in Sheung Shui. The goods were skin-care products.
Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 109 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 2 876 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 221 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, two are pending court hearings while 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 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.