A Vietnamese woman holding a recognisance form was jailed for 24 months last week for illegally establishing a business, after she was found to be collecting aluminium cans for money.

She was discovered during an anti-illegal employment operation on April 28, when officers from the Immigration Department raided a restaurant in Sham Shui Po. The Vietnamese woman, 53, admitted under caution to collecting the cans to sell for monetary reward.

She produced a recognisance form for inspection issued by the Immigration Department, which prohibited her from taking up employment or establishing or joining in any business. Further investigation revealed that she was a non-refoulement claimant, meaning she was seeking asylum.

aluminium cans
Photo: Flickr/tambako.

The Immigration Department often cracks down upon non-refoulement claimants working in the city.

Whilst previous cases usually involved cleaning work at restaurants, preparing food in kitchens and other labour-intensive work, it was the first time a non-refoulement claimant was jailed for collecting and selling aluminium cans.

The Vietnamese woman was charged at Shatin Magistrates’ Courts on June 24 with establishing a business while being a person who remains in Hong Kong without the authority of the Director of Immigration, having landed in the city unlawfully.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Department said that – as stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance – illegal immigrants or people who are the subject of a removal order or a deportation order are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable, upon conviction, to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment.

The spokesperson added that “The Court of Appeal has issued a guideline ruling that a sentence of 15 months’ imprisonment should be applied in such cases.”

fake refugee DAB
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Pro-Beijing parties have claimed Hong Kong faces a problem with “fake refugees,” stating that some non-refoulement claimants are abusing the system.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee have proposed setting up a refugee camp. None have provided details on how it could be realised, or evidence of abuse by refugees.

Chief Executive Leung chun-ying has suggested that, if necessary, Hong Kong may quit the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, though there has yet to be any progress with the proposal.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.