PLC Paper No. CB(2)392
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and
cleared with the Chairman)

Ref : CB2/PL/CA

LegCo Panel on
Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of Meeting
held on Monday, 16 June 1997 at 10:30 am
in Conference Room A of the LegCo Building

Members Present:

    Hon SZETO Wah (Chairman)
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Members Absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Public Officers Attending :

    For Items III , IV, V, VI and VII

    Mr Nicholas NG, CBE, JP
    Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

    Mr Joseph LAI
    Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

    For Item II

    Mr Stephen LAM
    Director, Handover Ceremony Coordinating Office

    Mr Raymond WONG
    Deputy Director, Handover Ceremony Coordinating Office

    Mrs Ella TAM
    Assistant Director, Handover Ceremony Coordinating Office

Clerk in Attendance :

    Ms Doris CHAN
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2)3

Staff in Attendance :

    Miss Flora TAI
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2)3

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 26 May 1997

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2685/96-97)

The minutes of meeting held on 26 May 1997 were confirmed without amendment.

II. Handover Ceremony

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2686/96-97)

2. Members agreed to discuss this item first before dealing with the outstanding items from the last meeting under matters arising.

3. Mr Stephen LAM briefed members on the Administration'spaper (issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2686/96-97).

Guest List

4. Mr LAM told the meeting that over 40 countries and over 40 international organisations had been invited to attend the Handover Ceremony and other related events. Most countries had accepted the invitation and would be represented at foreign minister level or equivalent. Only a few countries were yet to confirm their representatives. Around 3000 invitation cards had been issued and the remaining invitation cards, which amounted to several hundred, would be served shortly.

5. Mr LEE Wing-tat and the Chairman asked and Mr LAM reiterated that the guest list was drawn up in concert by the British and Chinese sides in a pragmatic manner, and all invitations were issued jointly by both governments. As to the Taiwanese dignitaries to be invited to witness the Ceremony, more than 60 Taiwanese representatives would be invited in their personal capacity or as representatives of non-governmental organisations, including cultural groups and universities. In further reply to Mr LEE, Mr LAM said that the non-official contacts between the Hong Kong Government (HKG) and Taiwan, as provided in the Joint Declaration, would continue after 30 June 1997. Mr LEE and the Chairman then requested and Mr LAM agreed to relate to the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) members’ request for provision of the list of Taiwanese representatives who would attend the Ceremony for members’ reference.

6. In this connection, the Chairman asked and Mr LAM told the meeting that representatives from the executive, legislative and judicial arms of HKG would be invited to take part in the event and the invitation cards had been issued last week. In reply to Ms Emily LAU, Mr LAM said that he could not confirm at the present stage whether the Prime Minister would make a speech in Hong Kong, but he understood that the British Government was preparing actively for its participation in the Ceremony.

7. In response to Dr YEUNG Sum, Mr LAM said that all incumbent LegCo Members and Executive Councillors would be invited. However, due to quota constraints, only the chairmen of the district boards would be invited to witness the event.

Venue and stage design

8. Mr LAM informed the meeting that the Handover Ceremony would be held in the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) Extension, and the fitting-out of the venue had almost been completed.

9. In reply to Ms Emily LAU, Mr LAM explained that the existing stage at the Grand Hall of HKCEC Extension was too small to accommodate the British and Chinese senior representatives who would preside over the Ceremony, the official delegations from both sides, the incumbent Executive Councillors and the principal officials of the HKSAR Government. It was therefore decided that the area be used for setting camera and unilateral positions. In further reply to Ms LAU, Mr LAM said that the Finance Committee of the LegCo had approved the funding of 233 million dollars for preparation of the Handover Ceremony, which included the setting up and the lighting arrangements of the new stage. Since the Ceremony would be an important historic event which would be in the full glare of publicity, it was considered worthwhile to spend the sum required. Concerning the touch-up for the VIP room of the airport, he told the meeting it was not only for the purpose of the Handover Ceremony, but also for the Annual Meetings of the World Banks and International Monetary Fund to be held in Hong Kong in September 1997.

Demonstration zones

10. Ms Emily LAU asked and Mr LAM said that some organisations had indicated to the Police that they would stage protests during the Handover Ceremony. He assured the meeting that HKG would process these applications for demonstration in accordance with the law. Some organisations had already had approval from the Urban Council for staging protests in Statue Square. The Police would make necessary arrangements to facilitate protests to be conducted in an orderly manner. In further response to Ms LAU, Mr LAM said that due to security reasons, protesters would not be allowed in the security cordon between HMS Tamar and the HKCEC Extension. The roads closed in the aforementioned areas would not impede the traffic and pedestrian flow. The Administration was considering to designate areas near the Hong Kong Arts Centre and Great Eagle Centre in Wanchai for protests. With reference to Ms Emily LAU and Mr LEE Wing-tat'sremarks that the suggested areas for protests were too far from the venue and the arrangements were virtually an infringement on human rights, Mr Raymond WONG and Mr LAM said that the Police was still liaising with the organisations concerned for the appropriate locations for protests, and members’ concerns would be duly conveyed to the Police before a final decision was made. Mr LAM stressed that the setting up of security zones was based on interests of all parties. He then restated HKG'sposition that demonstrations and protests would be allowed before and after the handover so long as they would not disrupt the public order.

11. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked and Mr LAM told the meeting that guests would only be requested to undergo normal X-ray check similar to security checks at the airport. There would not be special security checks against banners and other protest materials. He believed that the guests attending the Ceremony would exercise self-restraint. In case there was disruption of order, the staff would take corresponding action.

Press and Broadcast Centre (PBC)

12. Mr LAM told the meeting that PBC was in operation from 15 June 1997 until 10 July 1997 for use by the media on a 24-hour basis. Accredited media representatives could use the facilities at PBC throughout that period.

Swearing-in ceremony of the provisional legislature

13. Dr YEUNG Sum, the Chairman and Mr Ambrose LAU asked and Mr LAM said that the swearing-in ceremony of the provisional legislature, which would be held on 1 July 1997, was arranged by the Chinese side. HKG did not have any details, such as the guest list, in that respect,. According to the media coverage, British ministers and those of the United States would not attend the ceremony. In reply to Ms Emily LAU and Mr Ambrose LAU, Mr LAM told the meeting that to his understanding, British delegates at ministerial level or above, including the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister, would not attend the swearing-in ceremony. Yet, he was not in a position to confirm whether the non-ministerial level British delegates would decline to attend the ceremony as well. He understood that the Chief Executive (Designate) (CE(Des)) would invite the British delegates who would stay in Hong Kong after the Handover Ceremony to attend the HKSAR Government celebration and cocktail reception to be held on 1 July 1997.

III. Matter Arising

British Government's stance on the provisional legislature

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2560/96-97)

14. At the last meeting, members asked the Administration to relate to the Foreign Secretary members’ request for a written statement regarding the British Government'sstance on the provisional legislature. The Administration later provided a letter (issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2560/96-97) relating to the Legislative Council (LegCo)'sestablished practice for conveying Members’ request to the British Government via the House Committee. Dr YEUNG Sum asked and Mr Nicholas NG said that the House Committee had, on many occasions, written to the Prime Minister direct conveying Members’ concerns, such as resettlement opportunities for Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong and non-Chinese ethnic minorities. The suggestion made in the letter simply reflected the Administration'srespect of the LegCo'sestablished practice. If members still wished, the Administration would convey members’ request to the Prime Minister accordingly. Mr NG reminded members that the British Government had already stated clearly on many occasions its stance on the provisional legislature.

15. Ms Emily LAU then suggested that the Chairman of the Panel should issue a letter direct to the Prime Minister regarding the following requests:

(a) the Prime Minister should, in his public speeches to be made during his forthcoming visit to Hong Kong to attend the Handover Ceremony, state clearly the British Government'sstance on the provisional legislature; and

(b) given that the British Government was opposed to the establishment of the provisional legislature, all British Government representatives should not attend the swearing-in ceremony of the provisional legislature.

Mr IP Kwok-him and Mr Ambrose LAU did not agree to Ms Emily LAU'sproposal. After further discussion, Ms LAU'smotion was passed by a 3-2 vote, with the Chairman casting the deciding vote. The meeting also agreed that the Chairman would indicate in his letter that a majority of, instead of all, the Panel members supported writing to the Prime Minister to convey the above requests.

Issue of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passports

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2697/96-97)

16. Members noted the letter from the Secretary for Security (issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2697/96-97) regarding the issue of HKSAR passports.

IV. The impact of different electoral voting methods on Hong Kong

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2681/96-97)

17. Mr Nicholas NG briefed members on the Administration'sletter (issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2681/96-97). He pointed out that the Administration'sposition on the current electoral voting system and the continuation of the system after the handover was clear and well-known. The Administration was not responsible for designing any changes to the electoral voting system after 30 June 1997. It was therefore for the HKSAR Government to deal with and to account to the public any changes to the electoral voting system after the handover. He also pointed out that the Administration had, in previous Panel and other LegCo meetings, discussed in broad and theoretical terms the strengths and weaknesses of different electoral voting systems. He believed that those theoretical analyses and the minutes of those meetings would provide adequate reference for members. Mr LEE Wing-tat then asked and Mr NG stressed that although, in technical terms, some electoral systems would be easier to implement than others, the first and foremost criterion which should be used in considering whether a particular system was to be adopted must be its fairness and openness as conceived by the public. In reply to the Chairman and Mr LEE, Mr NG stated that HKG had been adopting a gradual and progressive approach throughout the years to implement changes to the electoral voting system in the light of the experience gained and according to the practical needs of the society. Its overriding principle was that the system must be open and fair, though it did not imply that other systems, which had not been adopted, were not.

"Single-seat, single vote" voting system and "Double-seat, double vote" voting system

18. As regards the "Double- seat, double- vote" system adopted in 1991 and the "Single-vote, single vote" system in 1995, Mr NG pointed out that although both electoral voting systems had their technical weaknesses, these were problems that could be resolved. It was difficult to comment generally whether one electoral voting system was better than the other. In response to the Chairman, he told the meeting that before the "single-seat, single vote" system was adopted in 1995, the Administration had considered carefully various factors, including the views of the then LegCo Members and the public, and the experience gained from past elections.

19. Mr LEE Wing-tat then asked and Mr NG said that in considering which election system was to be adopted the Administration would only take into consideration whether a system was open and fair; other factors, such as whether the system would favour larger political parties, were not relevant.

"Proportional representation" voting system

20. Mr NG indicated that a few years ago the Administration had provided to a LegCo Select Committee a paper analysing the "proportional representation" voting system, including its strengths and weaknesses. This system was adopted by many countries. If Hong Kong were to adopt it, an indepth study and objective analysis had to be made with reference to the local situation and the implementation aspect. With reference to Dr YEUNG Sum'senquiry, Mr NG said that although a "proportional representation" system had not been implemented in Hong Kong before, it did not mean that it could not be adopted; its successful implementation depended very much on the circumstances and time available for preparation. He reiterated that it should be the HKSAR Government, not the current Administration, to account to the public any changes to be made to the electoral voting system after 30 June 1997.

"Multi-seat, single vote" voting system

21. Ms Emily LAU and Dr YEUNG Sum asked and Mr NG indicated that since the "multi-seat, single vote" voting system had not been implemented in Hong Kong, he could not comment or judge whether the system was open and fair.

22. After discussion, members present agreed that:

(a) the Administration would provide after the meeting past papers relating to the voting systems for geographical elections; and

(b) the Secretariat would circulate to members for reference the Report of the Select Committee on LegCo Elections and Members’ speeches during the debate on the subject.

Moreover, Mr LEE Wing-tat suggested and the meeting agreed that a special meeting would be held on 20 June 1997 immediately after the House Committee meeting to discuss the issue further.

V. Progress of work of the Joint Liaison Group (JLG)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2680/96-97)

23. Mr Nicholas NG briefed members on the Administration'spaper (issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2680/96-97), which included, inter alia, achievements at JLG XL and the way forward on the outstanding issues.

Advance personnel of the People'sLiberation Army (PLA)

24. In response to Ms Emily LAU and Mr James TO, Mr NG told the meeting that the despatch of around 200 PLA advance personnel was to prepare for the transfer of defence responsibilities. HKG was of the view that to facilitate the smooth transition of sovereignty and handover of defence responsibilities, advance preparation made in a reasonable and lawful manner was necessary. As to whether more advance personnel would enter into Hong Kong before midnight of 30 June 1997, he indicated that discussion with the Chinese side on the issue was still under way. Mr James TO asked and Mr NG said that the Administration would keep members posted of the development if JLG had reached further agreements on the issue. The meeting then took note of Ms Emily LAU'sview that if there would be further despatch of advance personnel, HKG should explain clearly to the public the reasons behind and the detailed arrangements.

Outstanding issues

25. Mr LEE Wing-tat and Ms Emily LAU asked and Mr NG clarified that paragraph 4 of the Administration'spaper outlined the outstanding issues to be followed up by the HKSAR Government after the handover. Due to time constraints, several technical issues relating to the bilateral agreements on reciprocal enforcement of judgements (REJ) in civil and commercial matters and the localisation of laws relating to arbitration and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) had not been resolved. The HKSAR Government would continue to follow up those issues after 30 June 1997. In further response to Mr LEE, he explained that in general, if Hong Kong had entered into bilateral agreement on REJ in civil and commercial matters with another country, it would provide greater facilitation to the local commercial and business sectors. In the event of, for example, commercial disputes, rulings made by the Hong Kong courts would be enforceable in countries with which we had reached agreements, and vice versa. As to the actual impact on Hong Kong if there were no REJ with a particular country, it was difficult to generalise; much depended on the circumstances.

26. In reply to Mr LEE, Mr NG said that the issue relating to MIGA fell within the ambit of the Trade and Industry Branch, and not the Constitutional Affairs Branch. To his understanding, as and when a solution would be found to the technical problem relating to REJ, similar solution could be extended to MIGA and arbitration.

27. Concerning the United Nations Development Programme and the Asian Productivity Organisation, Mr NG assured the meeting that though JLG could not reach agreement on them before the transfer of sovereignty, there would not be any significant impact on Hong Kong.

28. Ms Emily LAU asked and Mr NG said that the British and Chinese Governments had made clear their stances on the reporting obligations under the international covenants on human rights. The matter would continue to be pursued after the transfer of sovereignty. He then drew members’ attention that China was considering to become a party to one of the international covenants by the end of the year. In this connection, Ms Emily LAU suggested and the meeting agreed that the Chairman of the Panel would include in his letter to the Prime Minister members’ request for him to reiterate in his speeches to be made during his forthcoming visit to Hong Kong the British Government'scommitment to monitoring the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in particular the protection of human rights in Hong Kong and the reporting obligations under the international covenants on human rights.

VI. Issues related to the formation of the first HKSAR Government and co-operation with the Preparatory Committee

29. Mr NG indicated that he had nothing in particular to report on under this item.

30. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:30 pm.

Provisional LegCo Secretariat
1 July 1997

Last Updated on 13 August 1998