PLC Paper No. CB(2)184
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and cleared
with the Chairman)
Ref : CB2/BC/55/95

Bills Committee on the
Equal Opportunities (Family Responsibility, Sexuality & Age) Bill,
Equal Opportunities (Race) Bill,
Sex and Disability Discrimination (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1996 and
Family Status Discrimination Bill

Minutes of the 11th meeting
held on Tuesday, 3 June 1997 at 12:30 pm
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Members Absent :

    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

Public Officers Attending :

Mr NG Hon-wah
Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs (Acting)
Miss Helen TANG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Ms Cora HO
Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Senior Assistant Law Draftsman
Ms Esther LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mr Francis CHENG
Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mrs Betty NEOH
Principal Executive Officer, Civil Service Branch
Mr Vincent FUNG
Assistant Secretary for Financial Services
Mr David YIP
Assistant Secretary for Security

Attendance by Invitation :

Personal Assistant to Hon Christine LOH
Ms CHEUNG Yuet-fung
Personal Assistant to Hon LAU Chin-shek

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Anna LO
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Stephen LAM
Assistant Legal Adviser 4
Mr Colin CHUI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. Matters arising from the last meeting on the Equal Opportunities (Family Responsibility, Sexuality & Age) Bill

Mr LAU Chin-shek briefed members on his paper (Paper No. CB(2)2566/96-97(01)) responding to points raised at the last meeting. The salient points of discussion on the paper were set out in para 2 - para 5 below.

Part VI - General exceptions to the Bill

Clause 85 - Voluntary bodies

The Administration pointed out that exemption provision for voluntary bodies was provided for under section 33 of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO). Mr LAU agreed to consider amending wording of clause 85 to tie in with that of the exemption provision in SDO.


Clause 90 - Regulations to provide temporary exceptions

The Administration asked for the rationale for giving SHA the power to make regulations to provide temporary exemptions under clause 90. Although SHA was empowered to specify expiry date of the regulations, the Bill did not specify whether the validity period of the regulations could be extended. The clause did not specify any limit in making the regulations. SHA might therefore have extensive power on granting exemptions. In theory, he could exempt discriminatory acts or practices under the Bill for a long period of time.

The Administration also pointed out that it was inappropriate to give temporary exemptions for reasonable age requirements. Specific exemption provisions should be provided for these age requirements so that they could be permenantly exempted. As clause 77 only provided temporary exemptions (for a period of two to four years) for existing statutory age requirements but not for non-statutory ones, the commencement date of clause 90 should be ahead of other clauses giving effect to the temporary exemptions for non-statutory age requirements.

Mr LAU responded that regulations to provide temporary exemptions made under clause 90 were subject to LegCo approval. Nevertheless, he would consider the Administration’s concerns.


In reply to the Administration, Mr LAU said that he would table the whole set of his CSAs to his Bill at the next meeting.

Mr LAU’s
CSAs to
his Bill

II. Examination of the Family Status Discrimination Bill

Representatives of the Administration said that in line with its step-by-step approach in promoting equal opportunities for all, the Administration conducted a public consultation exercise last year to solicit public views on the extent of the problem of discrimination on the ground of family status and the measures which could be taken to enhance equal opportunities between persons of different family status. A total of 8,895 submissions were received with an overwhelming support for the legislative option.

The Administration pointed out that the present Bill was a direct response to these opinions of the community. When enacted, it would enhance equal opportunities for persons of different family status, for example, single parents and any persons who had responsibility for the care of an elderly or a disabled family member.

The Administration added that after SDO and the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), this was the third anti-discrimination Bill. As with the two Ordinances, its objective was to draw up a piece of legislation which best served the needs of Hong Kong and at the same time, was readily acceptable by the public.

The salient points of discussion on individual clauses of the Bill were set out in the ensuing paragraphs.

Clause 1 - Short title and commencement

In reply to Mr LAU, the Administration pointed out that under clause 1(2) the commencement date of the Bill would be appointed by SHA by notice in the Gazette. It planned to have the Bill come into operation by the end of 1997 or early 1998.

Clause 2 - Interpretation

Definitions of "family status" and "immediate family member"

The Administration pointed out that in view of the overwhelming support for legislation, but given the strong public objections to legal recognition for the "de-facto spouse relationship" as a form of family status, the Government proposed to define family status under clause 2 as the status of having responsibility for the care of an immediate family member. An immediate family member must be related to the person concerned by blood, marriage, adoption or affinity. This proposed definition would cover, inter alia, relationships between husband and wife, parent and child as well as near relatives. The proposal was modelled on SDO which rendered unlawful discrimination in the areas of employment, education, disposal and management of premises, provisions of goods, facilities and services, eligibility to vote for and be elected or appointed to advisory bodies, activities of clubs and Government activities.

Mr LAU said that he had proposed CSAs to the definitions of ‘family status’ and "immediate family" in the Bill in order to tie in with the definition of "family responsibility or family status" in his Bill. Ruling of the President of LegCo on the CSAs was awaited.

A member was concerned whether the following persons fell within the definition of "immediate family member" -

  1. old couples without completing legally recognised marriage registration procedures under the Marriage Ordinance;
  2. couples who were married outside Hong Kong; and
  3. children informally adopted or pending completion of legally recognised adoption procedures.

She opined that the definition should be broad enough to avoid discrimination in this area. The Administration was of the view that the definition had to be precise to avoid confusion and uncertainty. It would revert to the Bills Committee on the questions.


Definition of "estate agent"

ALA4 suggested the Administration to check whether the definition of "estate agent" in clause 2 was consistent with that under the recently enacted Estate Agents Ordinance.


Clause 4 - Act done because of more than one reason

Mr LAU suggested that the heading of clause 4 should tie in with that of the parallel provision (clause 4) of his Bill. The Administration pointed out that the heading did not stand part of the Bill. Nevertheless, it would consider Mr LAU’s suggestion.


Clause 8 - Discrimination against applicants and employees

The Administration pointed out that clause 8 sought to, among other things, provide for a three-year grace period for business establishments with not more than five employees. Similar grace period had been provided for under SDO and DDO. With the grace period, small employers could have time to familiarise with the legislation and if necessary, to adapt their existing practices to comply with it.

Clause 18 - Discrimination by responsible bodies for educational establishments

Members noted that clause 18(2) was a provision put in upon public request specially for among other things, the Secondary School Places Allocation System and the present scoring system under the Primary One Admission Scheme. A member was concerned that under the scoring system, some of the criteria where points were awarded (e.g. points awarded to applicants whose parents were graduates of the same school) were themselves discriminatory. Hence these criteria should not be exempted. The Administration pointed out that under the scoring system, points were given to prospective primary one pupils with parents and/or siblings who were graduates of the school concerned. Prospective pupils with siblings already in the school received a higher score for that school and thus had a better chance of admission. This might be considered discriminatory against those without siblings in the same school. However, the Scheme was considered beneficial as it was more convenient for parents if their children attended the same school. Educational bodies also considered that the Scheme should be retained because it helped to reduce the pressure on the school children concerned of having to face even keener competition over admission should the Scheme be discontinued.

Clause 20 - Discrimination in disposal and management of premises

Mr LAU asked whether premises referred to in clause 20 in this Bill included land under clause 20 of his Bill. The Administration would revert to the Bills Committee on the question at the next meeting.


Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

The Administration pointed out that clauses 44 to 52 related to the extension of the remit of EOC to handle complaints against family status discrimination. EOC would have similar powers and functions under this Bill as currently provided for under SDO. As in SDO, EOC was empowered to issus enforcement notices (clause 55) and to assist claimants and potential claimants (clauses 61-63). SHA might make regulations, inter alia, to enable EOC to bring proceedings in its own name (clause 67).

Parallel provision to clause 22 of Mr LAU’s Bill on applications forms, etc.

Mr LAU asked whether there was a parallel provision to clause 22 of his Bill on applications forms, etc. The Administration undertook to respond to the question at the next meeting.


Parallel issues in the Family Status Discrimination Bill and Sex and Disability Discrimination (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1996

In reply to Miss LOH, representatives of the Administration said that the Administration had yet to decide whether to move parallel amendments to the Family Status Discrimination Bill set out in her paper (Paper No. CB(2)2514/96-97(04)) pending the voting results on her Bill on 11 June 1997. In view of the Administration’s indecision and the deadline for notice of CSAs to the Bill, Miss LOH said that she would propose parallel amendments to the Bill.

III. Date of next meeting

Members noted that, as agreed the last meeting, the next meeting would be held on 5 June 1997 in the Chamber of LegCo Building. They agreed that pending result of the President’s ruling, the Bills Committee would proceed with the scrutiny of the family responsibility (Part II) and sexuality (Part III) aspects of Mr LAU’s Bill and the Equal Opportunities (Race) Bill at the next meeting. Mr LAU requested questions on the sexuality aspect of his Bill to be forwarded to him before the next meeting to facilitate his response at the meeting.

The meeting ended at 2:30 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
21 August 1997

Last Updated on 16 December 1998