LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1699/95-96
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/HA

LegCo Panel on Home Affairs

Minutes of Special Meeting
held on Thursday, 6 June 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon HO Chun-yan (Chairman)
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Members Absent :

    Hon LO Suk-ching (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon LAU Hon-chuen, JP
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Robin McLeish
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Miss Selene CHOI
Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Mr Gordon LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)
Miss Ann LAU
Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Acting)
(Family and Child Welfare)

Attendance by Invitation :

Hong Kong Committee for United Nations Children's Fund
Mr Matthew MO
Senior Operation Manager
Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights
Dr Patricia IP
Mr Thomas Mulvey
Mrs Pamela Baker
Mrs Priscilla LUI

Staff in Attendance :

Mrs Justina LAM
Assistant Secretary General 2
Mrs Anna LO
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Mr Raymond LAM
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

Initial Report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in respect of Hong Kong under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ("the Report")

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1482/95-96)

At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Robin McLeish made some general observations in response to what was said at the previous meeting. He noted that there appeared to be a fundamental misunderstanding about the Administration's approach to compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He explained that the Administration had sought to ensure that the Convention was complied with before it was extended to Hong Kong. Therefore, there was no need for an action plan for compliance. He further stated that the Administration fully recognised the need to enhance compliance with the Convention. This was demonstrated by the many references in the Report to action that was in progress. Mr McLeish also rejected the criticism that had been made with respect to the Administration's work on making the Convention widely known. He said that in addition to the 4,800 copies of the Convention that had been distributed, some 20,000 copies of an illustrated guide to the Convention had also been distributed through schools, District Offices, public libraries, voluntary agencies and human rights exhibitions and seminars. In addition, numerous other promotional activities had been undertaken as listed in Appendix I of the Report.

Implementation of Article 37(d) of the Convention and separate legal representation for children

2. Miss Emily LAU referred to Question No. 5 (Oral) asked by Mrs Miriam LAU at the LegCo sitting on 5 June 1996 concerning implementation of Article 37 of the Convention in Hong Kong and stated that the statistics provided by the Secretary for Health and Welfare (SHW) indicated the Administration's inadequate implementation of the Article.

3. Mr Y C CHENG explained that for care or protection proceedings, the social worker usually discussed the matter with the child to understand his or her view. If the child, the parent or the social worker considered separate legal representation necessary, the social worker would incorporate the request in the report to the court, which had the power to request the Official Solicitor to act for the child.

4. As regards provision of information for children, Miss Ann LAU explained that the front-line social workers had explained the process to children using wordings that a child could understand, having regard to the child's age, maturity and ability to comprehend. If the child or parents requested legal representation, or if the social worker considered that separate legal representation was needed, he would inform the court within 48 hours, when the child had to be brought to court.

5. The Chairman commented that a child should be represented in legal proceedings if there was a possibility that his or her liberty would be affected. He added that separate legal representation of children should not be subject to the court's consent. The low percentage of cases involving separate legal representation by Official Solicitor indicated that the juvenile courts were not fully aware of the availability of such representation.

6. Mrs Pam Baker stated that there should be separate legal representation for both the deprived and the depraved children if they might be placed in custody at an institution. She added that the availability of separate legal representation should be effectively conveyed to children and parents. Mrs Priscilla LUI opined that as it might be difficult for children to express their views, legal representation should be provided automatically. Dr Patricia IP expressed doubt on the number of children who were informed of the availability of separate legal representation.

7. At the Chairman's request, the Administration agreed to :

  1. reply to the query raised at the LegCo sitting on 5 June 1996 regarding the Director of Administration's rejection of the Duty Lawyer Service's offer to extend its service to children in care and protection cases;
  2. confirm the availability of separate legal representation for children involved in criminal offences and the percentage of children who had been legally represented for such offences; and
  3. confirm the availability of separate legal representation, legal aid and duty lawyer service for children involved in criminal offences with adults, and the percentage of children who had been legally represented for such offences.

Practice directions for judges

8. Mrs Pam Baker stated that the Administration should, by means of practice directions issued through judges, enhance the judiciary's awareness of separate legal representation for children. She added that according to statistics provided by the Administration, it appeared that separate legal representation was rarely executed.

Incorporation of non-government organisations' (NGOs') views in the Report

9. In reply to Mr NGAN Kam-chuen, Mr Robin McLeish stated that last year the Administration issued an outline of its report and invited NGOs' views on Hong Kong's compliance with the Convention. Submissions were received from the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service. The Administration had tried its best to respond in the Report to the points raised in the submissions. As the report had already been submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, amendments were not possible at this stage.

Working Group on Child Abuse

10. In response to Mr NGAN Kam-chuen, Mr Y C CHENG stated that the work of the Working Group on Child Abuse was explained in paragraphs 201 to 210 of the Report.

Research on child welfare

11. Mr Bruce LIU suggested the Administration to provide more information on findings of the five surveys mentioned in paragraph 6 of the Administration's response. In reply, Miss Ann LAU stated that the surveys were still being conducted by universities and tertiary institutions. She undertook to provide the Panel with details of the surveys.


12. Dr Patricia IP and Mrs Priscilla LUI commented that the surveys conducted by universities on child injuries could not give a full picture since there was no coordination among the surveys.

Maintenance of child abuse records

13. Mrs Priscilla LUI stated that there should be a detailed breakdown of the statistics on different types of child abuse so as to facilitate the analysis of causes. As voluntary agencies lacked resources to conduct such a study, it should be undertaken by the Administration.

14. Miss Ann LAU pointed out that the Social Welfare Department operated a Child Protection Registry on reported child abuse cases. This centralised system was computerised in 1994 to facilitate case-checking and compilation of statistical information.

15. At the request of the Chairman, Miss Ann LAU agreed to provide the Panel with overall child abuse statistics.


Legislation on unattended children

16. On the question of whether leaving children unattended at home constituted child abuse, Miss Ann LAU stated that there was no specific legislation on leaving children unattended at home. Where there was wilful neglect or ill-treatment, prosecution could be made under the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap. 212). However, social workers would provide services to the child and the family, and follow up the case regardless of whether the case could be legally established.

17. Mr LAW Chi-kwong pointed out that under existing legislation, sufficient evidence of neglect would amount to child abuse even if the child was not injured.

18. Mr Bruce LIU referred to paragraph 215 of the Report and pointed out that there was no indication of the number of convicted cases. Mr Robin McLeish undertook to provide a written reply after the meeting. Dr Patricia IP commented that there was no breakdown of ill treatment and neglect figures.


19. Mr LAW Chi-kwong suggested the Administration to devise a mechanism that effectively prevented children from being left unattended at home.

20. Miss Ann LAU highlighted the Administration's effort on assisting children who were unattended at home, which included the following :

  1. Publicity and education of public and parents to protect their children;
  2. The strengthening of child care service; and
  3. The encouragement of mutual assistance among neighbours in child care.

Statistics on injuries involving unattended children

21. On the statistics provided under paragraph 7 of the Administration's response, Miss Ann LAU explained that the figures were provided by the Fire Services Department (FSD) and included both injuries and non-injuries. Mrs Priscilla LUI commented that the figures did not give a full picture of child injury since a number of cases might not require the assistance of FSD.

22. Mr Bruce LIU suggested the Administration to review the method of collecting statistics on child abuse.

23. Mr Thomas Mulvey informed the meeting that a hospital had reported 5,000 children injuries in a year, 50% of which occured at home, among which 50% related to unattended children. He undertook to provide the details to the Administration and the Panel.

24. At the request of members, Mr Y C CHENG undertook to check with the Hospital Authority as to whether statistics on injuries involving unattended children were available.


Minimum age of marriage without parental consent

25. Miss Emily LAU requested the Administration to provide details on the surveys mentioned in paragraph 3 of the Administration's response. Mr Bruce LIU added that a comparison of the findings in 1992 and 1995 should be provided. In reply, Mr Gordon LEUNG stated that the surveys, which were conducted by the City and New Territories Administration, were public opinion polls and not comprehensive surveys. He agreed to provide details of the two public opinion polls and a comparison of the findings. He assured that the Administration adopted an open attitude towards the minimum age of marriage without parental consent.


Regulation of formation of student associations and expression of political opinion in schools

26. As regards the implementation of Regulation 98 of the Education Regulations made under the Education Ordinance (Cap. 279), Mr Robin McLeish stated that, to his understanding, the regulation was not aimed at regulating students but at people who wish to influence or indoctrinate students. He undertook to seek clarification from the Education and Manpower Branch on how the Regulation was implemented.


27. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan suggested that the UN Committee's attention should be drawn to the fact that Regulation 98 was not mentioned in the Report.

Education for children of Vietnamese migrants

28. Mr Gordon LEUNG explained that primary and secondary education for Vietnamese children in detention centres was provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under the 1988 Statement of Understanding. At the Sixth Steering Committee meeting of the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees held in March 1995, it was reaffirmed that all screened-out non-refugees must be repatriated and that the services in the places of first asylum should be streamlined. The UNHCR withdrew the provision of secondary education in the detention centres in 1995 after the current school year ended, and the migrants then began organising their own secondary education, with the assistance of some NGOs. The Administration would provide basic educational facilities to these self-organised classes and assist in the provision of accommodation and furniture. The Administration would monitor the situation and consider providing other forms of assistance as necessary. In response to Miss Emily LAU, Mr LEUNG confirmed that the Vietnamese children referred to in paragraph 377 were the children in detention centre who had undergone the screening process and had been determined to be non-refugees. As regards secondary education for Vietnamese refugees, it had always been, and was being provided by the UNHCR.

29. Mrs Pam Baker stated that since the implementation of the detention policy on Vietnamese people, the obligations under the Convention in the detention centres had either been ignored or delegated to UNHCR. If UNHCR was unable to fulfill these obligations, it was incumbent for the HK Government to fulfill them. The Chairman commented that as long as the Vietnamese children were in Hong Kong, proper education should be provided to them. Mr Bruce LIU added that as Vietnamese people would only be staying for a short period, the provision of education should not incur substantial expenditure.

30. At the request of Miss Emily LAU, Mr Gordon LEUNG undertook to provide the number of Vietnamese migrants whose secondary education was provided by VAs since UNHCR decided to terminate such education at the end of the last school term.


Follow-up arrangements

31. It was agreed that a working group comprising the following members would meet on 10 June 1996 to discuss the contents to be included in the draft report :

Dr John TSE
Miss Emily LAU

The meeting ended at 12:45 p.m.
LegCo Secretariat
26 June 1996

Last Updated on 19 Aug, 1998