The Hong Kong government, via Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Dr Bernard Chan and in response to a query from lawmaker, the Hon. Kenneth Leung, issued a press release on 23 January 2019, publishing figures on the number of sanctions investigations and related enforcement actions undertaken by the Hong Kong government on potential breaches of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions over the past five years, as well as detailing staffing levels dedicated to such investigations.
The press release confirms that the governmental departments enforcing the United Nations Sanctions Ordinance (Cap 537) (the "Ordinance"), comprise i) the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) and ii) the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED"). It states the workload of 69 staff in HKPF and 47 staff in C&ED includes enforcement review and action arising out of the Ordinance. A more detailed breakdown of manpower for each duty concerned was not available, however.
In terms of the investigations figures, investigations by HKPF are confirmed to be up from three in 2014 to 201 in 2018, and those by the C&ED increased from 10 to 99 during the same period. Whilst there has been a clear rise in the number of sanctions investigations, the figures do not explain why there has been such an increase in investigations. The press release also confirms that there have no prosecution cases brought under the Ordinance to date.
Notwithstanding the lack of prosecutions, the press release confirms that 'Hong Kong has a robust system to implement sanctions imposed by the UNSC' and that the agencies' investigation efforts act as a deterrent to potential violators. In that regard, the press release notes that a number of Hong Kong-registered companies have been struck off and certain vessels have been denied entry into Hong Kong waters, and that these actions are deterrents to those considering using Hong Kong as a base to violate UNSC sanctions. The press release also confirms the agencies actively investigate all suspected violations of UNSC sanctions, following up 'without fear or favour' and would institute prosecution where there were sufficient evidence.
The press release stresses that it is the Hong Kong government's job to uphold the sanctions imposed by UNSC, namely in respect of the 14 places and two organisations as denoted by the UNSC, and flagged that, whilst countries are able to impose unilateral sanctions against certain places, the Hong Kong...