Hong Kong – DH clarifies arrangement for handling deceased bodies in public mortuaries

DH clarifies arrangement for handling deceased bodies in public mortuaries

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     In response to media report on the handling of deceased bodies in public mortuaries under the Department of Health (DH), the DH today (March 19) issued the following clarification:

 

     Currently, most of the bodies of deceased patients of public hospitals are stored at the hospitals’ mortuaries, and the next-of-kin could identify and claim the bodies for after-death arrangements, while bodies of patients who passed away at Accident and Emergency Departments (A&EDs) have to be transferred to public mortuaries for the DH to handle. In view of the severe local COVID-19 epidemic situation with a larger number of deaths within a short period of time, the HKSAR Government understands that the wish of the next-of-kin of the deceased to claim the body as soon as possible. As such, all relevant government departments have proactively followed up and coordinated so as to address the next-of-kin’s concerns in a swift manner.

 

     The DH’s spokesman emphasized that public mortuaries under the DH have all along operated and received bodies round the clock throughout the day with responsible personnel working 24 hours on shift. To handle the sudden increase on bodies during the epidemic, the DH’s Forensic Pathology Service have arranged additional timeslots on Saturdays for body identification in Kwai Chung Public Mortuary and Kowloon Public Mortuary. In order to address public wish to claim the body as soon as possible, the DH has decided that this special arrangement will be extended to Victoria Public Mortuary and Fu Shan Public Mortuary shortly whereas Kowloon Public Mortuary will also provide service on Sunday mornings.

 

     Since early March, the DH has been deploying internal resources with more civil servants and recruiting contract staff (retired/full-time/part-time) involving doctors and personnel of other grades to speed up the process of body identification/claiming and autopsy. Through deploying internal manpower, the department has also strengthened the handling of public enquiries of public mortuaries.

 

     The spokesman said that all cases handled in public mortuaries are reportable to the Coroner. Upon issuance of the “Certificate of Order Authorizing Burial/Cremation of Body” by the Coroner, the next-of-kin can make funeral and body claiming arrangement. Since early March, the death investigation procedure of cases might take longer than usual due to the increased number of bodies of patients who passed away at A&EDs and stored at the newly-installed storage facility. The DH’s Forensic Pathology Service has increased manpower, and has deliberated with the Police and the Coroner’s Court to devise measures to facilitate the next-of-kin to identify body and handle after-death arrangements in a timely manner. Apart from cases that required autopsy, the next-of-kin will be able to collect the Cremation Order within two working days following body identification, and can claim the body any day after obtaining the Cremation Order. 

 

     The DH has adopted various measures in collaboration with other government departments to increase body storage capacity and speed up the procedure for identification of body, which include installing a new storage facility at government sites near Fu Shan Public Mortuary in Sha Tin with expanded body storage capacity. A special arrangement was also implemented to transfer deceased bodies from the A&EDs of public hospitals to store at the new storage facility.

 

     Moreover, in order to speed up the handling of cases passed away at the A&EDs and transferred to the storage facility, the Police will assist the DH in contacting the next-of-kin for the relevant body identification matters. The Police has started calling the next-of-kin for arranging the necessary procedures in a prompt manner, and has provided telephone numbers for enquiries by the next-of-kin. Starting from next Monday (March 21), the next-of-kin may identify body at the storage facility as arranged by the Police.

 

     The DH will continue to monitor the utilisation situation and storage capacity of public mortuaries and speed up the handling of deceased bodies there by enhanced manpower, as well as to discuss with relevant government departments to formulate appropriate response measures.  

Hong Kong – Hong Kong Customs clarifies no public auction ever arranged through external parties

Hong Kong Customs clarifies no public auction ever arranged through external parties

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     Hong Kong Customs made a clarification today (December 28) that it has never arranged a public auction by means of a social media platform and website to sell confiscated items. The department reminds members of the public to be alert and avoid being scammed.



     Customs had earlier noticed two dedicated pages under the names of “Matiny” and “Yimi-shop” on the Facebook platform. Posts with website hyperlinks registered in the United States and Canada (https://twgsjg.shop and https://bfjays.shop) respectively were found, falsely claiming that Hong Kong Customs was making arrangements for selling confiscated items by means of public auction. One of the websites even falsely claimed that the proceeds from an auction would be used for charity purposes.



     Customs said that the dedicated pages conveyed false information that conspired to mislead members of the public. Customs also suspects intellectual property right infringement and noted that there may be offences under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO) and Copyright Ordinance (CO) of Hong Kong.



     Customs has already requested the social media platform’s operator to remove the messages and the hyperlinks as soon as possible. The department will also contact INTERPOL for follow-up action.



     Customs reiterates that confiscated items of all types will be handled strictly in accordance with the established guidelines upon the completion of legal procedures. Items suitable for placing on public auction will be co-ordinated and handled exclusively by the government department concerned in Hong Kong. The department never works with any external individuals or bodies to make a public auction.   



     Customs stresses that it has all along been concerned with illegal online sales activities. It has strived to combat unfair trade practices and infringing activities on websites. It also maintains close co-operation with law enforcement authorities of other countries and regions to combat cross-boundary infringing activities and protect the rights of consumers and legitimate traders.

     

     ​Customs reminds consumers that they should stay vigilant in regard to online shopping, and procure products at reputable shops. They should not purchase items of unknown sources at suspicious websites or social media platforms to prevent any losses that may incur. Consumers are also reminded to contact trademark owners or traders for enquiries in case of doubts.



     Customs said follow-up investigation will be conducted if the infringing activities involve local persons. If the relevant platform is located outside Hong Kong but is involved in local criminal infringing activities, Customs will refer the cases to law enforcement authorities outside Hong Kong for joint follow-up actions.



     According to the TDO, any person who sells or possesses for sale any goods with a forged trademark commits an offence. In addition, “trade descriptions”, in relation to goods, refers to an indication, direct or indirect, and in whatever form and by whatever means (including verbal), with respect to goods or any part of the goods, including the method of manufacture, production and processing, or the previous ownership or use. Traders should not give any false or misleading product information to consumers. Making a false or misleading statement about goods to a material degree may constitute an offence of false trade description. Violation of the TDO is a serious offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.



     In addition, according to the CO, anyone who without the licence of the copyright owner distributes an infringing copy of a work through any device or electronic platform to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner, or possesses any infringing items for business purposes, commits an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $50,000 per infringing copy and imprisonment for four years.



     Customs appeals to members of the public to report any suspected unfair trade practices or infringing activities to the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 or its dedicated crime-reporting email account (crimereport@customs.gov.hk).

Hong Kong – HAD sternly clarifies unfounded allegation made by SSPDC member Ramon Yuen

     In response to the unfounded allegation made by the Sham Shui Po District Council (SSPDC) member, Mr Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, against the SSPDC Secretariat, a spokesman of the Home Affairs Department (HAD) today (March 16) sternly clarified as follows:

     It is specified in section 61 of the District Councils Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Cap. 547) that functions of a District Council (DC) are to, inter alia, advise the Government on district administration affairs and where funds are made available for the purpose, to promote community, recreational and cultural activities and environmental improvement projects, within the district. All items for discussion and papers of DC must be compatible with the DC functions specified in the Ordinance.

     When handling DC affairs, District Offices will consult the relevant bureaux and departments, to examine whether an item for discussion is compatible with the DC functions specified in section 61 of the Ordinance. If an item for discussion is found not compatible with the functions specified in the Ordinance, the Government will follow up accordingly, such as writing to the DC Chairman concerned about the problem and request the Chairman to follow up etc. If the DC concerned still keeps the items for discussion that are not compatible with the Ordinance, the DC Secretariat cannot provide secretariat support for these matters, including drafting minutes and uploading the relevant audio to the DC website etc., and secretariat staff or other government officers will neither attend the relevant parts of the meeting nor join the discussion of the relevant papers. This has been the established practice all along.

     At the 4th meeting on June 23, 2020 and the 5th meeting on September 8, 2020, since some items for discussion raised by Members were not compatible with the DC functions as set out in the Ordinance, the SSPDC Secretariat, following the established practice, did not provide support for those items for discussion. The then District Officer (Sham Shui Po) had written to the DC Chairman informing him of the situation before the two meetings, and reiterated the Government’s stance respectively at both meetings.

     Prior to the 6th SSPDC Meeting on November 10, 2020, the SSPDC Secretariat prepared the minutes of the 4th and the 5th meetings according to the established practice, and the Members did not propose any amendments to the draft minutes at the meeting.

     During the aforesaid meeting, Mr Yuen proposed to include “supplementary” paragraphs in the minutes on discussions in the 4th and the 5th DC Meeting which had been found not compatible with the DC Ordinance. The then District Officer (Sham Shui Po) had already pointed out that the SSPDC Secretariat would not provide secretariat support for items not compatible with DC functions. The SSPDC Secretariat would not take any follow up actions in relation to the concerned records, even if the “supplementary” paragraphs had been passed by the DC. Therefore, the audio of relevant discussions was not uploaded to the DC website. Such approach is consistent with our practice as mentioned above.

     In accordance with the same procedures, the SSPDC Secretariat circulated the draft minutes of the 6th meeting to Members before the 7th meeting held on February 23, 2021 for consideration. Members decided at the meeting to postpone discussing the draft minutes.

     At today’s meeting, the SSPDC Secretariat submitted the draft minutes of the 6th meeting for Members’ consideration in accordance with the established procedures. All Members (including Mr Yuen) have a right to propose amendments to the draft at the meeting. Mr Yuen did not propose any amendments.

     Mr Yuen did not propose to the SSPDC Secretariat any amendments to the draft during the past three weeks. We deeply regret that he instead chose to level an unfounded allegation today.