Hong Kong surveillance watchdog concedes he has ‘no say’ in excess of snooping in situations linked to countrywide safety legislation

a group of people sitting in a box: Azizul Suffiad (centre) with colleagues from the commissioner’s secretariat. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Azizul Suffiad (centre) with colleagues from the commissioner’s secretariat. Picture: Jonathan Wong

Hong Kong’s surveillance commissioner has conceded he has “no say” over investigations by enforcement organizations under the Beijing-imposed national protection regulation, but will offer tips if questioned.

Azizul Suffiad, a previous High Court decide, also stated he found no evidence there was an “ulterior motive or deliberate act” by regulation enforcers in 15 incidents in 2019 involving unauthorised surveillance.

Underneath the Interception of Communications and Surveillance Ordinance, enacted in 2006, regulation enforcement officers ought to get approval from the commissioner right before launching these kinds of functions.

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a man wearing a hat: Azizul Suffiad. Photo: Jonathan Wong

© Supplied by South China Morning Publish
Azizul Suffiad. Picture: Jonathan Wong

The ordinance handles officers from four companies – police, customs, immigration and the Unbiased Commission In opposition to Corruption.

But beneath Post 43 of the national stability law, which took influence in June, the police’s nationwide stability division is only required to receive approval from the main government to intercept communications and carry out surveillance on any suspect.

In a push convention covering the annually perform of the Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance, Suffiad was repeatedly asked if he experienced issues over the sweeping ability provided to the new law enforcement unit underneath Posting 43.

Bungling not criminality to blame for surge in surveillance breaches: watchdog

“The commissioner has no say in investigations less than the nationwide stability regulation, nor is the commissioner in any situation to assessment, appear into or have oversight of an investigation relating to countrywide security,” he explained.

“(But) I would have no hesitation in sharing what I’ve realized over the a long time. It really is a make a difference for them on regardless of whether to arrive to me and question for assistance.”

Suffiad refused to comment on whether it was satisfactory for regulation enforcers to be cost-free of oversight but believed the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, chaired by town leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, could possibly deal with any non-compliance.

“Human mistake, carelessness and carelessness are a thing all of us dwell with working day in, working day out,” he explained,

“On the other hand, not currently being an oversight authority for (national security legislation conditions), how they operate and to what extent human beings, police officers, could have out that get the job done, I’m not in a posture to say.”

The briefing in depth accomplished investigations on 15 non-compliance conditions out of 1,339 authorisation purposes for interception or covert surveillance in 2019, in which no evidence confirmed there was “ulterior motive or deliberate act” by legislation enforcers, Suffiad claimed.

He claimed the 15 conditions ended up generally the final result of “carelessness, deficiency of memory or misunderstanding”.

Give legislation enforcement extra surveillance training, says watchdog

Describing a single circumstance as “alarming”, Suffiad mentioned it concerned a senior officer who misinterpreted a expression of the approved authorisation and the issues were “left unnoticed” just after a collection of inside review procedures by a legislation enforcement body, which was not named in the 2019 once-a-year report.

The report stated the situation “reflected the deficiency of understanding and qualified understanding of the officer … The commissioner solid question on the reliability of the officer in discharging responsibilities”.

It added the officer, who experienced been included in numerous irregularities in recent decades, had subsequently been posted somewhere else.

Other scenarios bundled the non-reporting of phone calls with heightened probability of getting legal specialist privilege info and discrepancies in between the recorded times of covert surveillance merchandise.

The watchdog’s business office had organised push conferences in November or December yearly to reveal the do the job of the commissioner above the previous calendar year to lawmakers and journalists. But the briefing on the 2019 report was held on Monday.

Associates of the Legislative Council’s protection panel ended up also invited to attend, but none confirmed up.

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