IT subsidies for the disabled set

Human trafficking report rebutted

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today said the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2022 that puts Hong Kong on the Tier-2 Watch List is unfair and not substantiated by facts.   In a statement, it explained that trafficking in persons (TIP) is never a prevalent problem in Hong Kong and there has never been any sign that the city is being actively used by syndicates as a destination or transit point for TIP.   The Hong Kong SAR Government has all along been making proactive and multi-pronged efforts in the fight against TIP and injected an enormous amount of resources to combat TIP and enhance the protection and well-being of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong, the statement said.   A high-level steering committee was established in 2018 and it promulgated an action plan to tackle TIP and enhance protection of FDHs. The action plan contained measures that included victim identification and protection as well as partnership with different stakeholders and all such measures were firmly in place by end-2019.   The Hong Kong SAR Government also pointed out that it has sustained all anti-TIP efforts despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, coverage of the initial screening of TIP victims has been fully extended since the end of 2019 to cover all cases involving people vulnerable to TIP risks, including illegal immigrants, sex workers, illegal workers, FDHs and imported workers that came to the attention of Police, the Immigration Department, the Customs & Excise Department and the Labour Department.   In 2021, the number of initial screenings conducted by such departments was around 7,700, a three-fold increase over the number conducted in 2016, with only one victim identified. In 2020, three victims were identified from the 6,900 initial screenings conducted.     The very small number and percentage of victims identified thus far once again reinforces the observation that TIP is never a prevalent problem in Hong Kong, the statement said, noting that it is baseless and unfair to cast doubt on the quality of the screenings in the city and discredit its screening procedure merely because of the low number of victims so identified.   The victim identified in 2021 was initially screened by the FDH Special Investigation Section of the Immigration Department, which was established in 2019 to step up scrutiny of FDHs visa applications to facilitate identification of potential TIP victims and cases of exploited FDHs.   This speaks for itself of the effectiveness of the new strategy in strengthening victim identification, the statement indicated.   On the claim about the lack of a composite trafficking legislation in the city, the Hong Kong SAR Government stated that the current legislative framework comprising over 50 legal provisions against various TIP conducts provides a comprehensive package of safeguards comparable to composite TIP laws found in other jurisdictions and has served Hong Kong well.   Every jurisdiction should have its latitude to determine the best legal framework to tackle the issue and there is simply no one-size-fits-all solution. There is no indication to suggest the effectiveness of Hong Kong’s anti-TIP efforts is undermined without a composite trafficking legislation, the statement outlined.   Regarding enforcement efforts, Police conducted 60 anti-vice operations in 2021, a 46% increase when compared with the preceding year. In the same year, 278 people were arrested for the offence of keeping a vice establishment or prostitution-related crimes.   In 2021, a total of 26 FDH employers were prosecuted for aiding and abetting their FDHs in breaching their conditions of stay and an additional 20 FDH employers were prosecuted for offences such as common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, indecent assault and criminal intimidation.   The Hong Kong SAR Government emphasised that the Labour Department continues rigorous enforcement actions against employment agencies (EAs) in breach of the law. In 2021, the department successfully prosecuted five EAs and revoked or refused to issue the licences of seven agencies.   It revealed that the four categories of offences of endangering national security, which the National Security Law provides, are clearly defined with the elements of offences, penalties, mitigation factors and consequences clearly prescribed. Any law enforcement actions taken by law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, for the acts of the persons concerned.   Acts and activities endangering national security are distinctly different from normal interactions, and law-abiding people will not unwittingly violate the law, it added.   The US Department of State's comments on the National Security Law in the US Trafficking in Persons Report 2022 clearly do not reflect the facts, the Hong Kong SAR Government stressed.   While noting that Hong Kong’s all-out efforts in the fight against TIP have not received due and fair recognition, the Hong Kong SAR Government made it clear that the city, as a responsible member of the international community, will continue its firm commitment to combatting TIP and contributing to the global efforts of this important cause.
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