Immigration amendment bill clarified

The right of Hong Kong residents to enter or leave Hong Kong is not affected by the Advance Passenger Information (API) system, which is intended to require the provision of passenger information on flights heading to Hong Kong.   The Security Bureau expressed strong condemnation of the false and misleading statement of an online media article disseminated via social media platforms today on the provision in the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2020 to empower the Secretary for Security to make regulations in relation to the provision of passenger information by carriers.   It explained that the proposed enabling provision in the bill is intended for fulfilling the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's international obligation under the Convention on International Civil Aviation with a view to implementing the Advance Passenger Information system.   The Government pointed out that it has time and again explained clearly to Legislative Council members and the public on the papers submitted to and in the meetings held with the bills committee that such a system is intended to require the provision of passenger information on flights heading to Hong Kong, rather than departing flights. The right of Hong Kong residents to enter or leave Hong Kong is not affected.   The bureau strongly condemned individual organisations' deliberate dissemination of false information and intentional misinterpretation of the provision's legislative purpose and background, which attempted to spread rumours, mislead the public, as well as smear the legislative process.   It expressed grave dissatisfaction with the act and stressed that it is necessary to rebuke the false claims directly, adding that the bureau must condemn the rumour mongers for misleading the public with ill intentions and set the record straight.   The bureau also pointed out that according to the requirements of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, all members should put in place the API system with legal backing.   Based on the relevant requirements, airlines need to provide passenger and crew member information to the Immigration Department before flight departure to Hong Kong. It will only apply to flights heading to Hong Kong.   So far, over 90 countries already have the API system in place, including the European Union member states, the US, Canada and Australia.   It added that the introduction of the API system by the International Civil Aviation Organization is to enhance international civil aviation safety and also facilitate the immigration authorities around the world to implement more effective control.   The Government's measures to prevent potential non-refoulement claimants from entering Hong Kong will also be strengthened.   It also pointed out that according to the general practice, the enabling provisions to be stipulated in the main ordinance are usually crafted in more generic terms, while the subsidiary legislation to be made thereunder will set out the operational details with provisions in more specific terms.   The making of relevant regulations will also require the scrutiny and passage by LegCo again. The Government will fully reflect so and set out relevant operational details in the regulations to be formulated at a later stage.   In addition, before the implementation of the system, the Government will consult the aviation sector and different stakeholders, and it is also necessary to seek funding approval from the LegCo Finance Committee.   The bureau emphasised that Hong Kong residents' freedom to travel and their right to enter or leave Hong Kong are guaranteed under Basic Law Article 31.   Prior to introducing the bill into LegCo, the Government has assured that the bill conforms to the Basic Law, including the provisions on human rights. Accordingly, the bureau does not consider it necessary to spell out in the main ordinance that the proposed authority will not affect the rights of Hong Kong residents and people with the right to enter and stay in Hong Kong.   The second reading of the bill will be resumed at the LegCo meeting on April 28. If passed by LegCo, the amended ordinance will take effect on August 1.   The Government will also prepare the API system's relevant subsidiary legislation and consult stakeholders and LegCo in due course, the bureau added.
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