Monday, July 15, 2013
Hong Kong Strengthening Commitment to Hague Abduction Convention
Hong Kong appears to be strengthening its commitment to the Hague Abduction Convention process. The focus on tougher exit controls to discourage international child abduction stands in sharp contrast to the U.S. “open borders / no exit controls” policy that greatly hinders U.S. efforts to deter international child abduction.
See the following announcement (July 11, 2013) from the Hong Kong Government:
The Child Abduction Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2013 will be gazetted tomorrow (July 12). The Bill seeks to implement the recommendations of the Report on International Parental Child Abduction (the Report) published by the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong (LRC) and to better support the operation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention).
The Hague Convention, which has been given the force of law in Hong Kong since September 1997 by the Child Abduction and Custody Ordinance (Cap.512), provides that children abducted from one contracting state to another should be located and returned to their home jurisdictions as quickly as possible.
The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said, "The LRC's review aims at improving Hong Kong's current legal protection against international parental child abduction."
Noting that the Report aims to help prevent children from being abducted out of Hong Kong by one of the parents, Mr Cheung said, "The recommendations will help prevent parental child abduction which usually occurs when a relationship between two parents breaks down and one of them absconds with the child to another jurisdiction. As pointed out by the LRC, when a child is abducted, he or she suffers the trauma of being taken away from home, and from the custodial parent and other family members.
We are also concerned that such abduction will be a harrowing experience for the child's left-behind family.
"The legislative amendments will minimise the likelihood of such an occurrence. One of the key amendments in the Bill is to provide a specific power to the local law enforcement agencies to hold a child suspected of being abducted at any border control points so that the child can be returned to the custodial parent or taken to a place of safety."
The Bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council for first and second readings on July 17.
The LRC has reviewed the existing legislation in Hong Kong relating to child abduction as well as the relevant laws of England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Australia and made a total of six recommendations. The recommendations include the introduction of legislative restrictions on removing a child from Hong Kong without the required consent; a specific power to the court to order the disclosure of the whereabouts of a child and to order the recovery of a child; a specific power to the authorities to hold a child suspected of being abducted so that he can be returned to the custodial parent or taken to a place of safety, etc.
The Report is the second in a series of four reports published by the LRC on guardianship and custody of children.
The first report on Guardianship of Children was followed up by the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB), resulting in the enactment of the Guardianship of Minors (Amendment) Bill 2012. The third report on the Family Dispute Resolution Process is being followed up by the Home Affairs Bureau. For the fourth report on Child Custody and Access, the LWB has decided to take steps to work out the legislative proposals and other implementation arrangements.