Suffering from an Irresponsible Immigration Department

Press release

1 February 2000

Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor is concerned that operations of the Immigration Department are not subjected to any scrutiny.

When we met with the Secretary for Security yesterday we urged her to set up video taping facilities in interview rooms and confrontation prone locations. We also urged her to set up an independent watchdog to oversee Immigration Department operations, and to receive and investigate complaints. We are glad that she was receptive to these ideas and agreed to bring these matters up with the Director of Immigration. We have also in the past urged the Immigration Department to adopt the Law Reform Commission's recommendations in their 1992 Report on Arrest to safeguard detainee's rights.

We are thus appalled by the report of mainland emigrant Miss Lin's wrongful imprisonment for more than three months at the Tai Tam Detention Centre for using a forged passport which in fact was genuine.

Currently all formal complaints against the Immigration Department were investigated by the Department and reviewed by a Complaints Review Working Party headed by the Assistant Director (Administration and Planning). It is questionable whether under such a system truth could be revealed and those responsible for improper behavior be punished. If there were video taping facilities, it would be much more difficult for interpreters or other immigration officers to mislead the interviewee, and there would be records of such behaviour. We therefore call for improvements in the interviewing procedures and a complete reform in the complaint procedure to safeguard the rights of detainee.

It is reported that Miss Lin was following the interpreter's instruction and the Immigration officers' encouragement to confess under the threat that she would be imprisoned for life in Hong Kong or sent back to the mainland for execution. The manufactured "confession" included so much detail (such as Miss Lin having spent $20,000 for the forged passport) that it must be the result of purposeful fabrication urged on by Immigration officials.

This is not the first time we received reports that the Immigration officials used threats or even unlawful force to extract confessions. However, seldom can we substantiate these complaints because of language barrier, lack of witnesses and physical evidence, etc. We are also concerned that Immigration officials are discriminating against people from the Mainland.

We wonder why the Immigration Department has never tried to examine thoroughly the authenticity of the passport which they considered to be fraudulent. This callous behaviour has led to the wrongful imprisonment of Miss Lin for three months.

It is also reported that Miss Lin was not allowed to contact her friends or family during her custody. We would like to emphasize that detainee should have the right to make phone calls so that they could seek assistance against their charges under a fair trial. It is important that officers responsible should remind their detainee of their rights.

1999 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

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