LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1617/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by
Ref : CB2/PL/HA/G5
LegCo Panel on Home Affairs
Minutes of Meeting
held on Monday, 17 February 1997 at 2:30 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan (Chairman)
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Members Absent :
Hon LO Suk-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Public Officers Attending :
- Mr Stephen WONG Kai-yi
- Deputy Solicitor General
- Mr John Dean
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mr Raymond FAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Ms Sally WONG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
Clerk in Attendance :
- Mrs Percy MA
- Chief Assistant Secretary (House Committee)
Staff in Attendance :
- Mrs Eleanor CHOW
- Senior Assistant Secretary (House Committee)
I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 24 January 1997
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1150/96-97)
The minutes were confirmed.
II. Meeting with the Administration on the Fourteenth Periodic Report in respect of Hong Kong under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1185/96-97 (01)
British citizenship for non-Chinese ethnic minorities in Hong Kong
The meeting noted that the British Government had announced on 4 February 1997 its intention to make provisions to enable the solely British members of the ethnic minority community in Hong Kong to apply for registration as British citizenship and that the Private Members Bill introduced by Lord Willoughly de Broke had received Second Reading in the House of Commons on 14 February 1997.
As Miss Christine LOH had just returned from London, she updated members on the latest position of the issue. She said that there were a lot of uncertainties. As far as she was aware, the British Government was considering whether Committee stage amendments should be introduced to the Bill to tighten up the eligibility criteria of the scheme. The Bill was expected to be passed by the House of Commons and returned to the House of Lords by the end of February 1997, and to receive Royal Assent by mid-March. The registration procedures would be handled by the British Trade Commission in Hong Kong, instead of the Immigration Department.
The Chairman informed members that the Home Secretary had requested Members who had further views on the Bill to forward them to the British Government as early as possible and that the Panel on Security was also seeking the views of the non-Chinese ethnic minorities for onward transmission to the British Government for consideration.
Members asked the Administration to reflect their following concerns to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) -
- Stringent eligibility criteria should not be imposed to create unnecessary obstacles to the ethnic minorities;
- The Bill should be passed without further delay and the administrative machinery including allocation of sufficient resources for implementing the new scheme should be put in place as expeditiously as possible; and
- The registration process should start as soon as the Bill was passed and the implementation of the scheme should be completed before the change of sovereignty.
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS(HA)) said that the Administration was not aware of any developments beyond 14 February 1997. The Administration would continue to reflect the anxiety of the ethnic minorities to the British Government . Officials of the Home Office would be leading a United Kingdom delegation to attend the hearing of the UNCERD and that they would respond to any questions on the subject raised by the UNCERD.
Members agreed that the UNCERD should be urged to ascertain more details from the United Kingdom delegation and to monitor the implementation of the scheme.
The incorporation of the provisions of the ICERD into domestic legislation
Mr Bruce LIU asked whether the Administration would introduce anti-racial discrimination legislation in the current LegCo session. PAS(HA) said that the Government was conducting a study to ascertain the need for introducing anti-racial discrimination legislation in Hong Kong. The consultation document would be released shortly. Pending outcome of the consultation which would take about two months to complete, he could not advise at this stage whether legislation would be introduced. He hoped that, in considering a Members Bill against racial discrimination already introduced into LegCo, members would take into account this view and await the outcome of the study and consultation.
Mr LEE Wing-tat alerted the representatives of Administration to the proposal of the House Committee at its last meeting that the Administration should be requested not to introduce bills later than the first week of April. He questioned whether the Administration could meet the deadline for introduction of bills by the time the outcome of the study was known. Mr Bruce LIU was of the view that Members should proceed with the Members Bill already introduced into LegCo. PAS(HA) agreed to relay members view to his Branch.
(Post-meeting note: The Administration has agreed that the deadline for introduction of bills should be set at the sitting on 9 and 10 April 1997.)
In response to members on the question of whether comprehensive education program and facilities were provided to Vietnamese children, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (PAS(S)) replied that the Vietnamese migrant children were provided with community-type schooling from pre-school up to secondary education. The International Social Service, a non-government organization (NGO), was enlisted to co-ordinate the programme. NGO took Vietnamese migrant children for field trips. Due to resource constraint, teachers were recruited from within the detention camp. There was no plan to recruit teachers from Vietnam direct.
As regards Vietnamese refugees, PAS(S) said that they were managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). NGOs provided various services including education for the children. The children were taught syllabuses designed in Vietnamese and English aimed at either helping them to resettle overseas or to reintegrate into Vietnam. As these were quite different to the local syllabuses, it would be difficult for the children to enroll in local schools. On the Chairmans suggestion that special curriculum should be drawn up to facilitate their enrollment in local schools, PAS(S) said that this would place unnecessary additional burden on local schools. Besides, there had been no request from these children to attend local schools.
While Miss Emily LAU agreed with the Administration that it might not be necessary for Vietnamese children to attend local schools, she pointed out that depriving the right of these children to enjoy formal education in Hong Kong was against the spirit of the Convention. Miss LAU felt strongly that so long as Hong Kong had decided to provide refuge to these children, it had an obligation to ensure that the quality and standard of education they received should be commensurate with what was available to local children.
Miss Christine LOH asked about the position of those Vietnamese migrants who were ethnic Chinese. She was concerned that they would become stateless if Vietnam refused to accept them. PAS(S) said that about half of the 5,200 Vietnamese migrants in Hong Kong had yet to be cleared for return to Vietnam, and about 800 of those pending clearance were identified to be ethnic Chinese. Since 1989, Vietnam had accepted about 6,000 Vietnamese migrants which were ethnic Chinese. In further response to Miss LOH, PAS(S) said
that in the late 1970s, about 250,000 Vietnamese, almost all of whom were ethnic Chinese, fled from Vietnam to China where they were settled. Over the years, some of this group, known as Ex-China Vietnamese illegal immigrants or ECVIIs, had entered Hong Kong illegally. It had been agreed with China to repatriate ECVIIs in the territory to China. The policy of not according ECVIIs the same treatment as asylum seekers arriving from Vietnam was challenged in the courts and in November 1996 the Privy Council ruled in their favour. There were currently about 280 ECVIIs in the territory. The Government must now consider any claim for refugee status put forward by the ECVIIs involved in the case. As regards the group of 250,000 Vietnamese in China, she was not aware of any discussions between China and Vietnam.
Although members were concerned about the status of these migrants after July 1997, they noted that the subject was outside the scope of racial discrimination.
Existing laws containing provisions with racial undertones
Referring to paragraph 11 of the submission of the Legislative Council House Committee to UNCERD on the 13th periodic report under ICERD which highlighted seven Ordinances which contained provisions that might have racial undertones, the Chairman pointed out that the Administration had yet to make amendments to these Ordinances -
- Man Mo Temple Ordinance (Cap. 154) (section 3(d))
- Medical Registration Ordinance (Cap. 161) (section 31(1))
- Chinese Anglican Church Body Incorporation Ordinance (Cap. 1012) (section 2(c))
- Chinese Young Mens Christian Association Ordinance (Cap. 1013) (para 4, Article II of Schedule)
- Matilda and War Memorial Hospital Ordinance (Cap. 1035)
- Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Ordinance (Cap. 1051) (section 2); (para 1 & 6(2)of Schedule)
- Chinese Permanent Cemeteries Ordinance (Cap. 1112) and Chinese Permanent Cemeteries Rules 1986
PAS(HA) responded that the Administration had examined the seven Ordinances and concluded that while some of the terms were archaic and might be construed as racist, the provisions had no practical effect on racial discrimination. For example, although paragraph 6 (2) of the Schedule to the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Ordinance stated that "Every candidate for the post of director shall be a person considered by the advisory board to be held in high esteem by Chinese in Hong Kong", the candidate could be of any race. In view of the heavy legislative programme facing LegCo, introduction of legislation to deal with the matter was not given high priority.
Members did not agree with the Administrations approach in dealing with the matter and suggested that the Government should, before the transfer of sovereignty, conduct a comprehensive review of the existing laws to ensure that all undesirable racial references were removed and that all provisions of laws were in full compliance with the ICERD. PAS(HA) undertook to convey members view to his Branch.
In response to Miss Emily LAU, PAS(HA) said that the Governments position towards political asylum seekers was set out in LegCo Paper CB(2) 1185/96-97(01). With the special exception of refugees from Vietnam, no statutory basis existed for granting political asylum status in Hong Kong. He had nothing further to add to the paper.
III. Internal discussion (Closed meeting)
(3:30 pm -3:55 pm)
Submission to the UN Committee
Members present decided to form a Working Group to consider the draft submission to the UNCERD. The Working Group comprised the Chairman, Miss Emily LAU, Miss Christine LOH and Mr Bruce LIU. After discussion, members agreed that their observations made at the early part of the meeting on topics (a) - (c) below should be included in the draft submission. The additional comments made by members on topics (c) and (d) were summarized below -
- British citizenship for non-Chinese ethnic minorities in Hong Kong
- The incorporation of the provisions of the ICERD into domestic legislation
- Vietnamese refugees/migrants
Miss Christine LOH suggested that the problem of Vietnam refugees/migrants should be included into the
submission where appropriate. She opined that bringing the matter to an international level might help resolution of the problem before the change of sovereignty; and
- Reporting to UN after 1997
Members unanimously agreed that reporting to UNCERD should continue after 1997 and that future reports, subject to the consent of China, should be submitted to UN direct by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Delegation to attend the hearing
Members noted that although no funds had been set aside in 1996/97 for funding a delegation to observe the hearing of the UNCERD, some savings could be spared from elsewhere due to the close of the financial year. Members agreed to seek the House Committees endorsement on the draft submission prepared by the Panel to UNCERD and the recommendation of the Panel to send a delegation to observe the hearing to be held on 3 and 4 March 1997.
(Post-meeting note: The Panels draft submission and recommendation to send a delegation were endorsed by the House Committee on 21 February 1997.)
The meeting ended at 3:55 p.m.
Legislative Council Secretariat
21 March 1997
Last Updated on 19 August 1998