Lawmakers of Third Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly (AL) have expressed concerns regarding the penal framework for the new crimes proposed to be introduced under the new immigration law that is currently the subject of analysis by the AL committee, the committee chairman, Vong Hin Fai, informed in a media briefing yesterday after the meeting.
Under debate are the government’s newly proposed crimes relating to sham marriage and fake hiring for the purposes of obtaining illegal residency permits in Macau. In an apparent double-standard, the proposed law establishes a penal framework that is significantly tougher than for other crimes within the same law, Vong explained.
“The proponent [the government] stated that for these crimes, there will be a penal framework with penalties that range between two and eight years of imprisonment. We understand that this topic has been in the spotlight over the last couple of years with many cases discovered but, the penalties specified for these crimes (under Article 77 or the new law) are different from those provided. For example, Article 75 (for the cases of false declarations regarding identity) establishes penalties that have a maximum of three years of imprisonment,” Vong said.
“The committee thinks that what the law is trying to protect in both cases is the same legal object, which is why we need to ask for explanations from the government on what justifies the differences in treatment and penal framework.”
Questioned by the media on whether the committee thinks that the penalty ranging from two to eight years of imprisonment is too harsh and what would be the appropriate penalty, the chairman said that the committee has no opinion on the matter and that the questions to the government are not related to the penalty itself but, instead, are concerned with the difference between penalties targeting similar crimes in the same law.
Another related topic that the committee addressed during yesterday’s meeting – the seventh on the matter – was the concept of “simulation” included in Article 77, which was defined as “presenting or stating something different from the truth.”
For the chairman of the committee, the government also needed to better explain the use of this word and the legal intention behind its use to avoid future misinterpretations.
Vong also remarked that with this seventh meeting, the committee had finally completed the first full round of discussion of the 104 Articles that comprise the new law. The committee is now aiming to obtain clarifications from the government on the many topics raised to proceed with the necessary rearrangements that will lead to the final version of the law.
Another situation that requires clarification from the government is related to the last article (Article 104), which, contrary to common practice, has no stipulation on when the law will enter into force.
“It’s completely omitted. We need to ask why. We don’t know if this was omitted due to other work that needs to be done to prepare for the entry into force of the law or any other reason,” Vong concluded.
Significant differences also found in the fines to operators
Continuing to address the new immigration law at the Third Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly (AL), lawmakers found divergences in Articles 87 and 88, that state that transport operators who transport into Macau people who are banned from entering the region will be fined, and that transport operators will also be fined for delays in communicating information regarding the passengers (in the case of transport operators) and lodgers (in the case of hotel units).
Chairman Vong Hin Fai explained that the law states that where a transport operator (defined inclusively as an operator of a bus, ferry, airliner, and others) transports people who are banned from entry to Macau, they are subjected to a fine that ranges between 10,000 and 30,000 patacas. The committee queried how it would be possible for the transport operators to know whether a person is banned from entering Macau, given there is no legal mechanism established enables communication of such matters to the operators.
Article 88 goes even further, stating that the non-transmission of the information from the passengers and lodgers from the transport operators and hotels is punishable by a fine that ranges between 150,000 and 500,000 patacas. The same fine is also applicable in cases of the “transmission of information with mistakes, incomplete information, false or after the term.”
The chairman noted that especially in relation to the last circumstance, the law lacks explanation, since “there is no place in the law where this term is stated. And so, operators and hotels cannot be fined for not fulfilling their duties within a time that is not stated.”
The committee members also found it unusual that although the government sought to establish hefty fines of up to 500,000 patacas for any errors in transmitting the information, in other cases there was a lack of consistency within the provisions of the same law, whereby the fines proposed for matters of comparable importance amounted to only 5,000 to 15,000 patacas, Vong said. RM