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Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council on June 25:
With the ever-growing economic and business activities between Hong Kong and the Mainland, Hong Kong people doing businesses on the Mainland (Hong Kong businessmen) have encountered problems from time to time and therefore have to seek assistance. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:
(1) the number of requests for assistance received from Hong Kong businessmen or their families by the mainland offices of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the mainland offices) in each of the past three years, together with a breakdown by type of such requests and by whether or not the issues concerned had been resolved, as well as the reasons for some cases yet to be resolved;
(2) the current general procedures and practices of the Mainland offices in handling requests for assistance from Hong Kong businessmen who face the following situations on the Mainland:
(i) being embroiled in commercial disputes,
(ii) having disputes with the mainland authorities,
(iii) having problems on legal matters, and
(iv) having personal safety issues and injuries require lawyers like the the oilfield injury lawyers; and
(3) the measures taken and work carried out by the Government in the past three years to enhance the functions of the Mainland offices?
This question involves various policy areas. After consulting the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and the Security Bureau, our reply to the issues raised in the question is as follows:
(1) The total number of requests for assistance handled by the five offices of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government in the Mainland (the Mainland Offices) in the past three years with a breakdown by type of such requests is set out in the table below:
|Number of requests
|Requests relating to immigration and personal
|1. loss of travel documents or money
|2. persons involved in accidents, injuries or other incidents in the Mainland
|Complaints against authorities in the Mainland
|3. complaints resulting from commercial disputes
|4. complaints relating to real estate in the Mainland
As the nature and complexity of cases vary and Hong Kong people seeking assistance from the Mainland Offices do not have to specify the reasons for their stay in the Mainland (e.g. doing business, working, travelling or studying, etc.), breakdown of these cases on the basis of their results or identity of the assistance seekers is not available.
(2) Assistance that the Mainland Offices can provide for the situations mentioned in the question is summarised below:
(i) and (ii) Being embroiled in commercial disputes and having disputes with the Mainland authorities: The Mainland Offices will not intervene into private commercial disputes. However, if complaint against Mainland authorities is involved, the Mainland Offices will assist in referring the cases to the Mainland authorities concerned for following up at the request of the assistance seekers. As regards cases relating to disputes with Mainland authorities, save for those which have entered into legal proceedings, the Mainland Offices will assist in referring the cases to Mainland authorities concerned for following up at the request of the assistance seekers. Under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems”, the relevant cases should be handled by the relevant Mainland authorities in accordance with laws and procedures of the Mainland. Apart from making referrals, the Mainland Offices will also follow up cases in the light of their nature and past experience gained in handling similar cases. This may entail the arrangement of meetings between assistance seekers and relevant authorities under practicable circumstances.
(iii) Having problems on legal matters: The Mainland Offices will provide information on the contact details of law societies in the concerned provinces/municipalities, as provided by the All China Lawyers Association (learn more about them and other lawyers here), to the assistance seekers concerned so that they may seek appropriate legal representation. In addition, the Guangdong Economic and Trade Office (ETO) has commissioned a Hong Kong organisation to provide free legal advisory service by arranging professional Mainland legal practitioners as advisors to take shifts in the three counselling centres of the organisation in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan to answer questions of Hong Kong enterprises and residents on Mainland-related legal matters through interviews or telephone.
(iv) Having personal safety issues: If Hong Kong residents encounter personal safety issues in the Mainland, including accidents (e.g. traffic accident, fire disaster, etc.) or other emergencies (e.g. robbery, assault, etc.), the parties concerned or their families should immediately report to local public security authorities for assistance, and they can also contact the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit of the Immigration Department of Hong Kong (telephone hotline: 1868), the Beijing Office (BJO), the Chengdu ETO or Guangdong ETO. In general, the HKSAR Government can provide the following assistance:
(a) Upon receipt of information that accidents or casualties have happened to Hong Kong residents, to notify relatives of the concerned party in Hong Kong and advise on procedural matters; and
(b) To liaise with relatives or friends of the concerned party in Hong Kong for rendering financial assistance at the request of the concerned party.
(3) The 2013 Policy Address announced the initiative of enhancing the functions of the Mainland Offices with a view to providing better support to Hong Kong residents and enterprises in the Mainland. To implement the relevant initiative in the Policy Address, we have increased the manpower and financial provisions for the Mainland Offices since 2013-14, and enhanced their services in the following four areas:
(a) Liaising with Hong Kong residents and enterprises and conveying their concerns: All Mainland Offices have dedicated staff to liaise with Hong Kong residents and enterprises in the Mainland, including Hong Kong business associations, enterprises, professionals, students and retirees etc. to understand their situation and service needs. Regarding liaison with Hong Kong enterprises, the Mainland Offices keep them abreast of the latest policies and regulations promulgated by the Mainland authorities, economic and trade information and support measures for the trade; understand their operating situation; and convey their views and concerns to the relevant Mainland authorities in a timely manner.
(b) Stepping up efforts in conducting policy research: The BJO conducts researches on national policies related to taxation, labour and intellectual property which are of concerns to Hong Kong enterprises to analyse the challenges and opportunities brought about by these policies to Hong Kong enterprises. The BJO also arranges experts to hold seminars in the Mainland and compiled Topical Newsletter to disseminate the findings to Hong Kong business associations and enterprises. The Mainland Offices have also stepped up efforts in gathering information on major development and investment projects in various provinces and municipalities and disseminating such information through periodic newsletters, as well as organising seminars and talks on subjects which are of concerns to Hong Kong enterprises to assist them in seizing development opportunities. In addition, the Mainland Offices have revamped their websites to facilitate Hong Kong residents and enterprises in the Mainland to obtain information.
(c) Rendering assistance: In addition to the Immigration Divisions in the BJO and Guangdong ETO, the new Immigration Division in Chengdu ETO commenced operation in October 2013 to provide more timely assistance to Hong Kong residents (including Hong Kong businessmen) in distress in the Mainland. As regards other assistance cases not relating to immigration and personal safety issues, the Mainland Offices will provide practical assistance in the light of circumstances of the cases and requests from the assistance seekers.
(d) Enhancing communication and publicity targeted at all sectors in the Mainland: The Mainland Offices promote the strengths of Hong Kong and foster mutual understanding between Hong Kong and the Mainland through different means, and organise various promotion activities to assist Hong Kong enterprises in the Mainland to upgrade operations and develop domestic sales. For example, the Mainland Offices organised Hong Kong Week events jointly with chambers of commerce and other organisations in Xiamen and Chongqing in 2013 and 2014 respectively, in order to promote Hong Kong products and services and help Hong Kong enterprises build up brand image and explore the Mainland market.