Bill changes to define ‘illegal accommodation’

Thursday, February 4, 2010
Issue 933, Page 3
Word count: 423
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Legislative Assembly and the government both agreed that it will be more effective to define illegitimate accommodation operations rather than the so-called “illegal inns” in the bill.

The First Standing Committee of the legislature held the second meeting with the government officials yesterday to continue the discussions on how to distinguish between normal residential leasing activities and illegal inn operations.

President of the committee Kwan Tsui Hang, however, has said after the last meeting that it is a “big challenge” for the Legislative Assembly and the government to give a precise meaning of illegal inns on the legal level, since they have to make sure residents engaging in legitimate leasing activities will not be affected by the legislation against illegal inns.

Kwan said therefore during yesterday’s meeting both sides have decided to change to define illegal accommodation activities in the bill instead.

As for how to define illegal accommodation, she said that they will mainly look at whether there is a hotel/tourism accommodation license and the use of the establishments registered in the strata-title system.

The committee president reiterated that although the government has set up a cross-department work group to handle alleged illegal inn cases in the past, it was very hard for the court to prosecute illegal inn operators as there is no law in Macau to define such establishments, and thus defendants could always argue that they were just running normal leasing business.

The legislature’s legal advisors are currently working on the revisions and no meeting will be held before they complete their work.

Kwan said that they will draft the new definition by studying what the reasons were that made previous court cases failed to punish illegal inn operators.

“Every one of us understands very well what illegal inns are, but it’s very hard to put that into legal terms in order to make the provision become an effective legal tool to combat this kind of activities,” she added.

Meanwhile, Kwan tried to make it clear that discussions on this bill will take long since the government and lawmakers have to ensure that it could truly eliminate illegal inns in Macau.

At present illegal inn operators could only be punished for providing accommodation to illegal immigrants, illegal construction, causing a nuisance to neighbours or unlawful operations.

It’s likely that the legislation will not come out so soon, but Kwan urged the government and police forces to keep putting efforts in smashing illegal inns in the meantime so as to give local people a safe and quiet living environment.

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