20 Jul 2017
The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including operations codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Champion" and "Windsand", from July 17 to 19 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 19 illegal workers and three suspected employers were arrested.
During operation "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided 10 target locations including vegetable stalls, garbage depots, a restaurant, a fruit stall, a massage parlour, a guesthouse and an office. Six illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The six female illegal workers were aged 24 to 53. Among them, one woman was a holder of a recognisance form, which prohibits her from taking any employment. She and another woman were also suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, one man and two women, aged 31 to 50, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.
During operation "Champion", enforcement officers raided 38 target locations in Central, Mong Kok and Kowloon East including a garbage depot, restaurants, street stalls, a massage parlour, an office, a commercial building and residential flats under renovation. Ten illegal workers were arrested. The illegal workers comprised six men and four women, aged 32 to 58. Among them, one man and one woman were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. In addition, the man was also suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card.
Furthermore, during operation "Windsand", three male Mainland visitors, aged 41 to 60, were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at Castle Peak Road - San Tin in Lok Ma Chau. The goods included cosmetics and skincare products.
Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 301 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 3 068 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 222 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, and charges were withdrawn for the other 11 people.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. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution and penalties," 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.
Under the existing mechanism, the ImmD will, as a standard procedure, conduct initial screening of vulnerable persons, including illegal workers, illegal immigrants, sex workers and foreign domestic helpers, who are arrested during any operation with a view to ascertaining whether they are trafficking in persons (TIP) victims. When any TIP indicator is revealed in the initial screening, the officers will conduct a full debriefing and identification by using a standardised checklist to ascertain the presence of TIP elements, such as threat and coercion in the recruitment phase, and the nature of exploitation. Identified TIP victims will be provided with various forms of support and assistance, including urgent interference, medical services, counselling, shelter, temporary accommodation and other supporting services. The ImmD calls on TIP victims to report crimes to the relevant departments.