Auditor latest target of Immigration Department rage

The Immigration Department has reacted with fury to a report by the Audit Commission recommending that a backlog of suspected bogus marriage cases be cleared up, ridiculing the watchdog for what it says is its ill-informed criticism.

Aside from attacks on RTHK by the disciplined services, it is highly unusual for a government department to publicly condemn another part of the administration.

But rather than a customary response pledging to follow up on the auditor’s recommendations, the Immigration Department has issued a sternly worded statement, complaining that “people who don’t know anything about criminal investigations are making random criticisms against law-enforcement agencies”.

The Immigration Department said it was deeply regrettable that the report had seriously damaged its “professional image”.

The auditor had noted that as of December last year, there were 2,237 outstanding suspected bogus marriage cases, and some of them had not been dealt with for as long as 11 years. A suspected bigamist was dead before immigration officials got round to tracing him, the report said.

The watchdog had advised immigration officials to consider setting time targets and to step up efforts to locate suspects.

But a spokesman for the Immigration Department said each bogus marriage case is unique, and time is needed for the careful collection of evidence.

According to the auditor’s report, the director of immigration had agreed with four of the recommendations made, and “agreed in principle” with the other two, and would “look for room for improvement in relation to investigation into suspected bogus marriages in future”.

Hong Kong’s immigration director and the director of audit are both put forward by the chief executive and appointed by Beijing.

Last December, RTHK was the focus of the Immigration Department’s wrath. It responded to an television programme on conditions at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre by warning that nobody could undermine the team spirit and morale of its staff with “untrue accusations”.

The police have also trained their sights on the government broadcaster since the 2019 protests, accusing the station of putting out “fake news”, and undermining the force’s work and even law and order itself.