Every society has its own laws, and although certain rights protecting human dignity are considered universal, each jurisdiction will operate within laws with subtle variations that take into account local history, traditions and values. Cross-border prosecutions are therefore rare and involve complex issues. But in a globalised world where people and goods have a freedom to travel between borders, there is also an increasing risk of sophisticated schemes facilitating cross-border crimes. There is an increasing need to define certain acts which are considered unlawful by all jurisdictions, and arrange for procedures for co-operation regarding investigation and prosecution.
Last month, the justice ministers of all 27 countries in the European Union adopted proposals for sharing information across Europe to combat incidents of cross-border dangerous driving. It was a symbolic act that recognised the shared values of the EU which wishes to crack down on driving offences and fill in loopholes that made cross-border offences difficult to prosecute in the past. Last week, our own courts also convicted a man who masqueraded as a social worker to conduct sex crimes in a children's home in Guangxi province. It was the first conviction facilitated by a law which came into effect in 2003 giving extraterritorial effect to some of Hong Kong's sexual offences provisions. It contributes to the broader international moves to widen the net against sex offenders, child pornographers and sex tourists preying on under-age children.
Inter-jurisdictional issues are notoriously complex and no doubt many years of hard work would have gone into the preparation of this law. It is a mark of a civilised society that there is certain behaviour that we condemn no matter where they take place and the relevant authorities are willing to co-operate to crack down on it. This conviction rewards that work to punish those committing acts that are universally abhorrent. Hopefully this conviction will inspire greater efforts to tackle cross-border crimes. Meanwhile, a message has been sent out that standards of decent human behaviour are required of us wherever we are, and not just in our own jurisdictions.