LegCo Paper No. CB(2)712/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/CA

LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of Meeting
held on Monday, 18 November 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in Conference Room A of the LegCo Building

Members Present :

    Hon SZETO Wah ( Chairman )
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP ( Deputy Chairman )
    Hon CHEUNG Man-Kwong
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Members Absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP *
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing *
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee *

Public Officers Attending :

    Mr Nicholas NG, JP
    Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
    Mr NG Sek-hon
    Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
    Mr Joseph LAI
    Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
    Ms Venner CHEUNG
    Chief Electoral Officer-- Registration and Electoral Office

    Clerk in attendance :

    Mrs Betty LEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2)3

    Staff in attendance :

    Miss Erin TSANG
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2)7

    I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 14 October 1996

    The minutes of the meeting held on 14 October 1996 (issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 449/96-97) were confirmed without amendment.

    II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion

    2. The next meeting would be held on Monday, 16 December 1996 at 10:45 a.m. and Members present agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting:

    (a) Progress of work of the Joint Liaison Group (JLG); and

    (b) Issues related to the formation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government and co-operation with the Preparatory Committee (PC).

    (Representatives from the Administration were invited to join the meeting at this juncture.)

    III. List of information papers circulated to Panel members since the last meeting

    3. The meeting noted that two information papers (issued vide LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 179/96-97 and CB(2) 180/96-97) had been circulated to Members since the last meeting.

    IV. Economic disbenefits and social impact if localising legislation cannot be enacted before 1 July 1997

    4. Mr Nicholas NG referred Members to his letter of 28 October 1996 (issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 298/96-97), Section C of Annex A of which had set out the economic disbenefits and the likely undesirable impact if the localising legislation could not be enacted before 1 July 1997. He assured the meeting that the Administration was confident that the localisation programme could be completed before the transfer of sovereignty.

    5. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong was concerned that if the localised bill on state immunity could not be enacted before 1 July 1997, Hong Kong’s importance as an international financial centre would be undermined and there would be uncertainty in the business sector. Mr Nicholas NG undertook to relay to the relevant policy branch Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong’s concern and request for more information on the subject. Members might then consider whether it should be followed up at the relevant Panel.

    6. In response to Members, Mr Nicholas NG confirmed that discussion with the Chinese side on the localisation of laws was in good progress. The Hong Kong Government (HKG) had repeatedly reflected to the Chinese side the importance of reaching early agreement on the remaining localisation proposals. The Administration was preparing the drafting of the legislation and would certainly introduce the bills to the LegCo as soon as possible. However, it was not solely for HKG to control the time frame.


    7. In reply to Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mr Nicholas NG said that the next JLG meeting would be held in December 1996. Mr LEE expressed that it would be expedient if JLG could conclude discussion on these proposals at the meeting so that the bills could be introduced to the LegCo early.

    8. In view of the imminence of the transfer of sovereignty and the importance to enact these bills in time before 1 July 1997, Mr James TO suggested that HKG should request the JLG to waive the confidentiality rule so that Members could be provided with the draft of the nine localised proposals for forethought. Mr Nicholas NG agreed to consider how Members should be provided with more information on these legislative proposals.

    9. The chairman said that both the British and the Chinese governments would be held responsible if the legislation concerning the localised proposals could not be enacted before 1 July 1997.


    V. Progress of work of JLG

    10. Mr Nicholas NG said that the next JLG meeting had been scheduled for December 1996 and that there had not been any meeting held since the last panel meeting. He would report on its work progress at a later meeting.

    11. In reply to the chairman, Mr Nicholas NG said that expert groups had held meetings from time to time. Apart from the standing Sub-group on International Rights and Obligations which met on a regular basis, the following expert groups had held meetings recently:

    (a) Expert Group on Transitional Budget;

    (b) Expert Group on Transfer of Archives -- the earlier sets of meeting were held prior to the broad agreement in 1990 and discussion between the Chinese and British sides would continue;

    (c) Expert Group on Defence and Public Order; and

    (d) Expert Discussion on Localisation of Laws.

    At the request of the chairman, Mr Nicholas NG agreed to furnish members with a list of active expert groups for reference.


    12. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked and Mr Nicholas NG confirmed that agreement had not yet been reached on the stationing of advance personnel from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong before the transfer. Mr LEE said that the community was very concerned about such arrival which was well before the handover. If it were to prepare for the handover of military sites, Mr LEE said that he did not see the need for the stationing of a large number of soldiers and for them to carry weapons since the Hong Kong police would be responsible for their safety. In response to the chairman, Mr Nicholas NG said that HKG had lodged a protest to China over the disclosure of the content of discussion on the subject as it violated the confidentiality rule of the JLG. The HKG had not contemplated any further action.

    VI. Issues related to the formation of the first Hong Kong SAR Government and co-operation with the Preparatory Committee (PC)

    13. The chairman asked and Mr Nicholas NG said that the Administration was committed to providing necessary assistance to the Chief Executive (Designate) (CE(Des)) as soon as he was in post in order to ensure a timely preparation of the SAR Government. In response to Dr YEUNG Sum’s enquiry on whether a large number of senior officials would be seconded to assist the CE(Des), Mr Nicholas NG said that the Government’s objectives were to ensure a smooth transition and the continuation of effective administration up to 30 June 1997. The secondment of a large number of senior officials would not be conducive to the attainment of these objectives. As regards the exact level of staffing support to be provided, the Administration would discuss the matter with the CE(Des) when he was in place.

    14. Dr YEUNG Sum enquired whether the Legal Department would provide drafting assistance to the CE(Des) to repeal the laws amended by HKG in accordance with the Bill of Rights Ordinance. Mr Nicholas NG said that all assistance rendered to the CE(Des) would be on the basis of the three established parameters, i.e. that the assistance must be consistent with the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, that it is in the interests of the community, and that it would not subject the civil servants to conflicting loyalties. Mr James TO said that the money appropriated for the employment of government officials would be spent illegally if they were directed to draft legislation against the interest of Hong Kong before the handover.

    VII. Progress report on the implementation of the computerised voting and counting system of the Registration and Electoral Office

    15. Mr NG Sek-hon said that the optical scan system recommended by the consultant could reduce human errors in the counting process. He advised the meeting that the Administration was still studying the issue.

    16. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong pointed out that the optical scan system was to apply to vote counting only. It would still be very time-consuming to transport the ballot papers from individual polling stations to the central counting station. Hong Kong should refer to the system in Taiwan where individual polling station conducted the counting and transmitted the results to the central station electronically. Where necessary, the Registration and Electoral Office should conduct a study tour.

    17. In response, Ms Venner CHEUNG said that there was a need to consider the following issues before it could adopt the Taiwan model:

    (a) how to ensure that there would be consistency in the handling of questionable ballot papers; and

    (b) how to preserve the secrecy of vote in respect of small constituencies in individual polling stations.

    18. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong suggested that questionable ballot papers could be sent to the central station for determination via a designated facsimile line, and that polling for small constituencies could be done at selected polling stations instead of at all polling stations so as to preserve secrecy of vote.

    19. The chairman asked whether consideration had been given to computerising the polling process to make it possible for a voter to vote at any polling station he might attend, and said that Government should take steps to encourage a greater voter turnout. In response, Ms Venner CHEUNG informed the meeting that the Consultancy had examined the option of computerising the polling process and pointed out that in order to support this function, there would be a need to redevelop the existing computerised voter registration system. Operationally, there would be a need to identify suitable polling station to house the computer hardware which would be sensitive to humidity and temperature of the environment, and to provide a backup system. A rough estimate by the Consultancy was that this would incur a capital cost of up to HK$100 million. The Consultancy was therefore unable to recommend this at the present stage. The Consultancy recommended that optical scan system for the counting process only.

    20. After discussion, members requested and the Administration agreed to report on the progress of the issue in three months’ time.


    21. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:25 p.m.

    LegCo Secretariat

    22 November 1996

    * -- Other Commitments

    Last Updated on 13 August 1998