LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1906/95-96
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/HA
LegCo Panel on Home Affairs
Minutes of Special Meeting
held on Saturday, 6 July 1996 at 9:00 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Hon HO Chun-yan (Chairman)
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP
Members Absent :
Hon LO Suk-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Members Attending :
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Attending Public Officer :
- Mr Jeremy Croft
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Attendance by Invitation :
- Oxfam Hong Kong
- Mr CHONG Chan-yau
- Director of Fund Raising and Outreach
- Mr Stephen TSUI
- Outreach Director
- Hong Kong Human Rights Commission/Society for Community Organisation
- Mr HO Hei-wah
- Mr TSANG Ka-wai
- Miss SZE Lai-shan
- Mr CHAN Sai-chiu
- Miss PANG Wai-sum
- Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
- Mr Paul Harris
- Mr P Y LO
- Mr LAW Yuk-kai
Staff in Attendance :
- Mrs Anna LO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
- Mr Raymond LAM
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1709, 1776 and 1790/95-96)
The Chairman welcomed the deputations for attending the meeting to present their views on the Report.
2. Mr CHONG Chan-yau presented the submission of OXFAM, which recommended the Hong Kong Government to :
- address the long term structural impacts of economic restructuring among workers through implementing necessary measures to improve employment opportunities, living conditions, wages and skill levels;
- monitor disparities between the rich and the poor, and to devise a policy to safeguard and improve the livelihood of low-income families;
- develop a social security policy which can provide for security and development;
- improve housing conditions for low-income households; and
- set measurable objectives to implement the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and eradicate poverty in Hong Kong.
3. In response to Mrs Elizabeth WONG, he stated that the Administration should not have withdrawn its proposed Old-age Pension Scheme, as social security in Hong Kong was inadequate.
4. In response to Miss Emily LAU's question on paragraph 157 of the Report, he stated that while he would not question the accuracy of the statistics provided by the Administration, income inequality in Hong Kong had been worsening in recent years. The bottom 10% of families with lowest income in Hong Kong had a decreasing share, from 2.3% in 1971 to 1.37% in 1991, of the total income of all families. He added that OXFAM was most concerned with the lowest income group, the income growth of which could not even catch up with inflation.
5. In response to Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, Mr CHONG Chan-yau undertook to provide members with OXFAM's survey report entitled "Disempowerment and empowerment - an exploratory study on low-income households in Hong Kong" conducted in 1995.
(Post-meeting note : The survey report was issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1832/95-96)
6. Mr HO Hei-wah informed Members that HKHRC/SOCO would prepare a report for submission to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR) before its scheduled hearing in November 1996. He added that two members of UNCESCR would be visiting Hong Kong in September 1996. The Panel should take the opportunity to seek their guidelines on future reporting arrangements for Hong Kong. To his understanding, the UNCESCR would accept independent reports from NGOs.
7. In presenting the submission of HKHRC/SOCO, Mr HO Hei-wah highlighted the following points :
- In preparing the Report, it was important for the Administration to incorporate the input of relevant bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Council, the Social Welfare Advisory Committee, and, in future, the Equal Opportunities Commission.
- The need for a step-by-step approach in addressing issues of discrimination, as stated by the Administration, was no justification for the delay in introducing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.
- The Panel should focus on the follow-up actions required by UNCESCR at its last hearing on Hong Kong before 1997.
8. On the problem of split families, he stated that the Administration should seek to discuss the issue with China, with a view to formulating a centralised and co-ordinated policy.
9. In response to Members, he commented that the Administration was slow in addressing the bedspace apartments problem. Instead of rehousing elderly bedspace lodgers only, the Administration should seek to rehouse all bedspace lodgers. The admission requirements for singleton hostels were too stringent and should be relaxed. He also questioned whether there were only 3,200 bedspace lodgers, as mentioned in paragraph 214 of the Report. The Administration should seek to work out a long-term solution to the problem. Miss TSANG Ka-wai added that the Administration should extend its plan for singleton hostels to Kwun Tong and other districts where there were more bedspace apartments.
10. Representatives of HKHRM presented their submission and highlighted the following points :
- Economic, social, and cultural rights could not exist in the absence of civil and political rights.
- HKHRM was concerned that the Sex Discrimination Ordinance was still not in force long after its enactment in June 1996. HKHRM considered it unnecessary to wait for the codes of practice on employment before effecting the employment-related provisions of the Ordinance.
- There should not be any further delay in introducing legislation against racial discrimination, as the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination had been extended to Hong Kong for more than 26 years. HKHRM was planning to internationalise the issue.
- HKHRM was concerned that there was no published immigration rules in Hong Kong.
- The Report had not mentioned the application of ICESCR to Hong Kong under the Basic Law. HKHRM would conduct some analysis in this regard.
- HKHRM had obtained from Internet a list of issues to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the Report. A copy of the list would be provided to the LegCo Secretariat.
(Post-meeting note : It was noted that the list was the same as the extract of a "Bill of Rights Bulletin" tabled at the meeting and issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1812/95-96)
- Adequate secondary education should be provided in the detention centres of Vietnamese migrants.
- Adequate rehousing should be provided to singletons and the aged.
- Attention of the UNCESCR should be drawn to the reporting arrangements under ICESCR after 1997.
11. In response to Members, Mr Paul Harris undertook to look into the issue of future reporting arrangements for Hong Kong, making reference to UN precedents if possible, and provide members with recommendations. He added that to his knowledge, there was a mechanism for non-government organisations (NGOs) to submit reports and present their views before the UNCESCR. HKHRM would raise the issue with the UNCESCR at the hearings in November 1996.
12. As regards Miss Emily LAU's question on whether UNCESCR could request the United Kingdom Government to submit, shortly after June 1997, a concluding report on Hong Kong as at 30 June 1997, Mr Paul Harris agreed to examine the issue and provide members with his views. Mr P Y LO suggested that UNCESCR's attention should be drawn to the statement made in November 1995 by the Chairperson of UN Human Rights Committee on the application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and submission of reports after the change of sovereignty in 1997.
(Post-meeting note : The statement had been issued to members on 15 November 1995 vide Annex A to LegCo Paper No. PL 196/95-96 - copy of statement reproduced at Appendix I to these minutes for easy reference.)
13. Mr P Y LO informed Members that HKHRM would prepare a brief paper on the Report in August 1996.
14. Members generally shared OXFAM's view on income inequality in Hong Kong. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan pointed out that Appendix 14 of the Report indicated a higher percentage increase in household income for the higher income groups. Mr LEE Wing-tat added that Appendix 13 of the Report indicated that the highest income households were taking up an increasing percentage of total household income. The Gini coefficient had also increased from 0.451 in 1981 to 0.476 in 1991.
15. Mr LEE Wing-tat commented that the Report had not mentioned the Administration's original forecast of clearing the waiting list for public rental housing by 1997, or of the housing problem for the large number of people affected by the urban renewal scheme. In addition, the Report had not pointed out that the present average waiting time for public rental housing in urban areas was longer than ten years. He also questioned the Administration's interpretation of "decent accommodation" in paragraph 217 of the Report.
16. Dr John TSE expressed concern on access to buildings by people with a disability. He commented that according to the Report, the review on "Design Manual : Access for the Disabled" should have been completed by early 1996. However, it was already mid-1996 and he still had not heard of the results of the review. He added that there were recent complaints that some lavatories for people with a disability in the New Territories were locked up and not readily available for use.
17. Members noted the written submissions received from Hong Kong Council of Social Service and Mr CHEUNG Hung-ngai. Members also noted an extract of a "Bill of Rights Bulletin" by Mr Andrew Byrnes and Johannes M M CHAN and a letter dated 4 June 1996 from International Social Service Hong Kong Branch to Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights.
(Post-meeting note : the last two submissions were issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1812/95-96)
18. In response to Members, Mr Jeremy Croft stated that two members of UNCESCR, Professor Bruno Simma of Germany, and Professor Virginia Bonoandandan of Philippines (Rapporteur of UNCESCR) would be visiting Hong Kong during the period 22 to 30 September 1996. Details of their programme, which included meeting the Administration, LegCo Members, NGOs and political parties, was being finalised. Members requested the Administration to arrange a meeting between members and the two UNCESCR members.
19. Members noted that a meeting had been scheduled on 26 July 1996 to consider the Administration's response to the points raised by Members and NGOs. The Chairman welcomed NGOs to attend the meeting and requested the Administration to provide written responses before the meeting. He also requested Members to provide further questions in writing, if any, to the LegCo Secretariat by the following Friday for submission to the Administration.
20. It was agreed to form a working group comprising the following members to discuss the contents to be included in the draft report :
Mrs Elizabeth WONG
Miss Emily LAU
Mr LEE Cheuk-yan
Dr John TSE
21. Mr LEE Wing-tat commented that, in view of the wide scope of the Report, the Chairman might wish to ask each Panel Chairman to consider convening special meetings on relevant parts of the Report. He personally intended to convene special Housing Panel meetings to discuss housing issues.
22. Members agreed that the Submissions, endorsed by the House Committee on 5 July 1996, would be provided to Mr Ross Clarke of LegCo London Office, the Administration and NGOs which had submitted their views to the Panel. It was also agreed to hold a press briefing on the two reports and the delegations to UN.
23. Members agreed to include the "Equal Opportunities (Race) Bill", to be introduced by Mrs Elizabeth WONG, for discussion at the Panel meeting on 26 July 1996.
24. The meeting ended at 11: 22 a.m.
23 July 1996
Last Updated on 19 Aug, 1998