LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1477/95-96
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/HA
LegCo Panel on Home Affairs
Minutes of Special Meeting
held on Saturday, 25 May 1996 at 9:30 a.m.
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon HO Chun-yan (Chairman)
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
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 LEE Wing-tat
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Public Officer Attending :
- Mr Robin McLeish
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Attendance by Invitation :
- Hong Kong Committee for United Nations Children's Fund
- Ms Vivien CHAN
- Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights
- Mr Thomas Mulvey
- Mrs Pamela Baker
- Mrs Priscilla LUI
- Amnesty International (Hong Kong Section)
- Ms Robyn Kilpatrick
- Ms Angela LEE
- Human Rights Education Officer
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
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1370, 1387 and 1398/95-96)
The Chairman welcomed the deputations for attending the meeting to present their views on the Report.
2. Ms Vivien CHAN presented the salient points of the submission of UNICEF. With the lowering of voting age to eighteen, the age of majority under the Marriage Ordinance (Cap. 181) should also be lowered to eighteen. The UNICEF considered leaving children at home as a kind of child abuse. She called for the development of an early warning system and highlighted the following recommendations of UNICEF :
- The creation of an official register for recording non-accidental injuries;
- The development of a multi-disciplinary case conference system, and;
- Establishment of a centralised child safety council.
3. In reply to members' questions, Ms Vivien CHAN stated that while UNICEF was supportive of legislative measures to protect children, it considered that an early warning system was better than punitive legislative measures. Separate legal representation should be made available to children. A mechanism should be established to decide whether a child should be separately represented in each case.
4. On the issue of sexual abuse, Ms Vivien CHAN stated that sex education as well as family education should be strengthened. As regards the desired level of government intervention on child protection, she referred to the mandate of UNICEF and commented that the Administration should provide a minimum threshold of protection.
5. Representatives of HKCCR presented their submission and made the following points :
General comments on the Report
- HKCCR was of the view that the Report gave the false impression of full implementation of CRC in HK. The Report should have given an account of children's rights in HK and it should have reflected limitations, difficulties encountered, and inadequacies. HKCCR noted with regret that its proposals put forward to the Administration in October 1995 had not been adopted.
- A comprehensive child ordinance should be enacted. Children's rights were human rights as applied to persons under the age of eighteen. The Administration should ensure that appropriate legislation and mechanism were in place to guarantee the rights of children to appropriate care, protection and consideration. There was a lack of coordination among existing legislation on children. While some legislative amendments had been made over the years, there was not a consolidated ordinance for children. The consolidated ordinance could be modelled on the 1989 Children Act in England, with appropriate adaptation to meet the specific needs of children in HK.
Implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- Little had been done by the Administration to promote public awareness of the CRC since its extension to HK in September 1994. More resources should be allocated for the implementation of the CRC in HK.
- In contrast to HK, the Philippines government, which ratified CRC in July 1990, had taken prompt actions within a short period. By December 1991, it had prepared an action plan incorporating measures for the implementation of CRC. A council for the welfare of children was also established for ensuring implementation.
- On the desired level of government intervention, HKCCR did not advocate government intervention. Nevertheless, there were times when the government should provide support through provision of necessary resources.
- HKCCR expressed concern on the reservation of the United Kingdom (UK) and HK Government on the implementation of Article 22 of CRC, which related to the children of refugees and illegal immigrants. It called for the Administration's clarification on whether the reservation precluded application of any article of the CRC to the asylum-seeking children and the children of illegal immigrants. While HKCCR had raised the issue with the Home Affairs Branch (HAB) many times, HAB had only reiterated the reservation with the addendum that full implementation of CRC was desirable if resources permit. HKCCR was of the view that HK was not short of resources and it had an obligation to fully implement CRC for all children in HK. The reservations were unacceptable as it had allowed for a lower level fulfillment of the obligations set out by the United Nations.
Separate legal representation for children
- HKCCR supported the suggestion that separate legal representation should be available to children. The Matrimonial Causes Rules (Cap. 179) stipulated that the court might direct a child to be separately represented in matters relating to settlement of money or custody. HKCCR suggested that a practice direction should be issued to judges of family courts to alert the provision of separate legal representation for cases in which a child's best interest had not been represented.
- As regards the question of how a young child could inform a lawyer of his best interest, HKCCR considered that the legal representative could be a solicitor or a person having experience in and understanding of the proceedings, as the main task involved discussing the case with relatives of the child and forming a view to the court. Reference might be made to the UK, which had introduced a system of guardianship, under which an independent social worker would draw up a report to the court and instruct a solicitor to act on behalf of the child.
- The HKCCR recommended the Administration to adopt a comprehensive, updated and coherent policy on children. While the HAB was responsible for coordinating the work of various branches, it had no statutory power for enforcement. The Administration's network of advisory boards and committees were functioning independently with their own terms of reference and there was a lack of consensus in the standard of child care and management. Effort should be made by the Administration to document the cases handled, analyse the contributing factors, and develop preventive measures. Resources should be provided for the training of police, social workers, judges and lawyers in handling cases relating to children. Adequate counselling and rehabilitation service should also be provided by the Administration.
- HKCCR questioned the percentage of ill-treatment cases in the figures listed under paragraph 215 of the Report.
- While nine-year free education had been provided to children in HK, more resources were still required in the provision of quality education to children, especially education for children of Vietnamese refugees and illegal immigrants. In the past, service to the Vietnamese refugee children were provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The service was totally discontinued with the withdrawal of the UNHCR. Vietnamese children were deprived of the rights enjoyed by other children in Hong Kong. The Administration should fill the service vacuum arising from the withdrawal of UNHCR.
- HKCCR considered that the power of the Director of Education under the Education Ordinance (Cap. 279) to regulate the formation of student unions and the dissemination of information or expression of political opinion in schools was an infringement into the rights of children.
- HKCCR recommended the establishment of a child commission to enforce legislation. They opined that the Administration was inconsistent in its argument against the establishment of a child commission, as it had set up the Youth Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission. The child commission proposed by HKCCR differed from the child safety council proposed by UNICEF in that the former covered a wider spectrum, including education and health of children. They added that an early warning system had been in place in HK for 12 years and there was an official register, accessible by social workers, on child abuse. A multi-disciplinary case conference system was in place since 1984.
- HKCCR was of the view that besides the death of children arising from accidents, the Administration should also look into cases of children injuries.
- HKCCR considered that every school should be physically accessible by disabled children.
6. Members were concerned about the number of children who died of accidental injury as highlighted in paragraph 6.18 of the submission.
7. As regards children accident, Mrs Elizabeth WONG informed members that to her knowledge, some research funded by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club was being conducted.
8. Mr Robin McLeish stated that the Administration was committed to applying the Convention to the fullest extent to children seeking asylum in Hong Kong subject to the practical constraints of conditions and resources. He noted that the HK community had expended considerable resources on Vietnamese migrants. The Administration was considering some suggestions on education for refugee children. He informed members that the Child Protection Registry and multi-disciplinary case conferences had been dealt with in paragraphs 203 and 205 of the Report. The issue of accessibility to premises by disabled children had been addressed in paragraph 246 of the Report.
9. Representatives of AI presented their submission and called for the development of human rights education in HK as well as the establishment of a child commission. They opined that the CRC had not been fully implemented in HK.
10. In connection with paragraph 248 of the Report on the disabled and physically handicapped, representatives of AI stated that a recent survey, jointly conducted by Oxfam Hong Kong and AI on students and teachers, indicated general unacceptance and discriminatory attitude towards disabled children. More education should be done on discrimination. In reply to members, they explained that the survey was a comprehensive one, covering many other aspects in addition to the attitudes towards the disabled and physically handicapped. Members agreed that the LegCo Secretariat should obtain a copy of the survey findings from AI for circulation to Panel members. The Chairman suggested that a copy of the survey findings might be provided to the Education Panel.
11. As regards paragraph 349 of the Report, representatives suggested that more time, resources and training should be provided to enrich the knowledge of teachers and students in human rights. They called for the strengthening of human rights education in schools and the enrichment of contents on human rights in the new guidelines on civic education to be issued in September 1996. Miss Emily LAU shared the view that human rights education was important. She commented that more effort should be made by the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education in the area and suggested that the Administration should, at the meeting on 6 June 1996, explain its promotion of public awareness of the CRC, and brief members on the proposed new guidelines on civic education.
12. On the role of non-government organisations (NGOs) and assistance that should be provided by the Administration in human rights education, Ms Robyn Kilpatrick stated that NGOs should work in tandem with the Administration, which should provide more resources, especially for the education programmes organised by NGOs. She informed members that the AI was running joint projects with the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education.
13. As regards the future role of AI in human rights education, Ms Robyn Kilpatrick stated that AI was optimistic since China had endorsed human rights education in many international forum. As China was a signatory of CRC, it had an international obligation to honour human rights education.
14. In reply to the Chairman's question on whether AI had encountered any difficulties with human rights education in schools, Ms Robyn Kilpatrick stated that as resources of AI were limited, the programmes were mainly organised upon invitation from schools. Apart from the recent reluctance of a school, there was general indication of increasing interest from schools.
15. In reply to members, Ms Robyn Kilpatrick commented that the Hong Kong Government was not fulfilling the requirements under Article 4 of CRC. Members requested the Administration to respond to the comment at the meeting on 6 June 1996 and provide information on the practice in other countries.
16. Ms Robyn Kilpatrick informed members of a serious shortage of desks and chairs at Whitehead Detention Centre, where students had to use upturned buckets as desks and chairs. Funds for education were donated by members of the public. In response, Mr Robin McLeish stated that the problems with the provision of education in the detention centres had been drawn to his attention and he had raised them with the Security Branch, which was looking into the matter.
17. Members also noted a written submission from the Hong Kong Paediatric Society.
18. Members agreed that a meeting with the Administration would be held on 6 June 1996. Mr Robin McLeish emphasised that the Administration stood by the Report, which addressed most of the points raised by NGOs. He would provide the relevant references to Members. As for matters, such as a child safety council, that had not been covered in the Report, responses would be sought from relevant policy branches. Members welcomed the NGOs to attend the meeting on 6 June 1996.
19. The meeting ended at 11:45 a.m.
4 June 1996
Last Updated on 19 Aug, 1998