LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 760/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/HA

LegCo Panel on Home Affairs

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 22 November 1996 at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan (Chairman)
    Hon LO Suk-ching (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Member Attending :
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
Members Absent :
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP
Public Officers Attending:
Item IV
    Mrs Shelley LAU
    Director of Home Affairs
    Mr Dominic LAW
    Deputy Director of Home Affairs
    Mr David PUN
    Assistant Director of Education (Services)
    Mrs Jennie CHOR
    Assistant Commissioner for Labour
    Miss Theresa WONG
    Chief Social Work Officer (Family and Child Welfare)
    Mr CHENG Yiu-kong
    Chief Housing Manager (Application)
Item V
    Mr NG Hon-wah
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
    Miss Juliana CHAN
    Legal Aid Counsel
    Miss Theresa WONG
    Chief Social Work Officer (Family and Child Welfare)
Item VI
    Mr LEE Lap-sun
    Deputy Director of Home Affairs
    Mr Carlson CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
    Miss Cynthia WONG
    Administrative Officer
Item VII
    Mr Stephen LAM
    Senior Administrative Assistant to Chief Secretary
    Mrs Brenda FUNG
    Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs
    Mr Peter P Y LEUNG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
    Mrs Ella TAM
    Assistant Director of Information Services
Clerk in Attendance :
    Mrs Anna LO
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Staff in Attendance :
    Mr Raymond LAM
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings and matters arising

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 389 and 447/96-97)

1. The minutes of the meetings held on 10 and 25 October 1996 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 463/96-97(01))

2. Members agreed that the next regular meeting would be held on Friday, 20 December 1996 at 8:30 am to discuss the following:

  1. Building management and maintenance
  2. problems of building (particularly old buildings) management and maintenance
  3. publicity activities in private buildings
  4. Minor public works under the Rural Planning and Improvement Strategy

III. Information papers issued since the last meeting

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 336/96-97, CB(2) 402/96-97 and CB(2)407/96-97)

3. Members noted that two papers had been issued since the last meeting.

IV. Integration of new arrivals from China into the community

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 463/96-97(02) and (03))

4. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Director of Home Affairs (DHA) presented the paper provided by the Administration and informed Members that the Administration had strengthened publicity on service to new arrivals from China (new arrivals) and established channels to gauge the views of non-government organisations (NGOs) on this issue on a regular basis. She assured Members that all views gathered at this meeting would be referred to the Steering Committee for follow up.

5. DHA informed Members that requests for additional staff for service to new arrivals had been made by policy branches and departments in the Resource Allocation Exercise for 1997-98. Initial response from the Finance Branch indicated that there was a high chance for the requests to be met.

Information service

6. On information service for new arrivals, DHA stated that the Administration had discussed the issue with Hong Kong Council of Social Service and was looking into the possibility of establishing information centres in some districts. A second edition of the service handbook for new immigrants was being prepared.

7. In response to the Chairman, DHA and Deputy Director of Home Affairs stated that the district staff of Home Affairs Department (HAD) was capable of providing one-stop service to general enquiries from new arrivals. Where in-depth information was needed on particular issues, they would be referred to the relevant departments. As regards a member’s concern on the manner of HAD staff in handling enquiries, DHA assured that the Administration had stressed the importance of patience and effective communication to its staff. Although their front-line staff could speak Putonghua, a major language problem was that many new arrivals neither speak Cantonese nor Putonghua. In this respect, assistance was being sought from clansmen associations, such as the Fujian Clansmen Association, to organise Cantonese courses for new arrivals.


8. In response to a member, the Assistant Director of Education (Services) (ADE) made the following points :

  1. New arrival children were expected to integrate into the school environment as soon as possible. Induction and extension programmes were provided to help these children to adapt to the local and school environment more readily. More and more of these programmes, formerly organised outside schools, were now organised within schools for convenience of new arrival children.
  2. The Education Department (ED) had reviewed service provision to new arrival children and was seeking resources to implement its recommendations.
  3. ED was working closely with schools to assist children aged over 15 in finding a school place. While the Government policy was to provide free and compulsory education up to the age of 15, formal education evening courses offered by the Adult Education Section of ED or craft courses offered by technical institutes of the Vocational Training Council were available to children aged over 15.

9. A member commented that ED should work closely with schools to meet the needs of new arrival children, which comprise 10% to 15% of students in some classes. He added that failure in the education of new arrival children aged over 15 would result in a large group of unskilled labour population in the long term. ADE responded that ED was aware of the problem and was working with the schools concerned, the VTC and some of the NGOs on this issue.

10. With regard to the question of many new arrival children having to attend lower classes as a result of their poor English standard, ADE stated that ED was fully aware of the problem and had submitted recommendations to the central government to alleviate the problem. Subject to availability of resources in the next financial year, members would be informed of these recommendations before implementation in early 1997.

11. In response to a member, ADE stated that extra-curricular activities and orientation programmes were provided by NGOs through a subvention scheme by ED for new arrival children.

Social welfare

12. As regards a member’s question on a case in which the educational allowance of the comprehensive social security assistance (CSSA) for a 18 years old new arrival child was ceased as a result of his failure to advance to the higher form and had to repeat Form Three, the Chief Social Work Officer (CSWO) stated that such should not be the case and the new arrival children were entitled to the same benefits as other local resident children once they were eligible for CSSA. She undertook to follow up the case if more details of the case were available. A member remarked that the Administration should review its policy on educational grant of CSSA for children aged over 18.SWD

13. In response to a member, CSWO stated that the International Social Service - Hong Kong (ISS-HK) would refer the new arrivals who were identified to be in need of intensive casework service through its Travellers’ Aid Desk at Hung Hom railway station and its service counter at the Registration of Persons’ Office in Tsim Sha Tsui to Social Welfare Department (SWD) for follow up. The member asked SWD to provide statistics on these cases later on. As regards the list of new arrivals to be forwarded to the District Social Welfare Officers (DSWOs) by ISS-HK, a member suggested that a general consent be obtained from the new arrivals such that the list could also be shared by NGOs. CSWO agreed to consider the suggestion.SWD

14. As regards some Members’ query on the usefulness of the one-day orientation tour for new arrivals, CSWO explained that the purpose of the tour was to acquaint new arrivals with local community and social services available.


15. In response to Members, the Chief Housing Manager (Application) (CHM) stated that since 1993 the eligibility requirement that over 50% of family members had to be resided in Hong Kong for at least seven years had been waived for tenants of temporary housing areas in the event of rehousing to public rental housing.

16. In response to a member, CHM stated that in the past 12 months, compassionate rehousing was provided to 450 households. In addition, public rental housing and temporary housing were provided to 183 and 191 households respectively.

17. As regards overcrowding in public housing estates, CHM stated that the 9 000 overcrowded families rehoused in the past 12 months included families of new arrivals. This was in line with the Administration’s pledge of rehousing 24 000 families with living space below 5.5 square metre per person. The number of families with living space below 4.5 square metre per person had decreased from about 13 000 to 8 000.

V. Problems encountered by divorced women in recovering alimony

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 463/96-97(04) and (05))

18. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS(HA)) highlighted the point in the Administration’s paper that overseas experience cast doubt on the effectiveness of an intermediary body in collecting maintenance payments. In response to questions, he said that if the intermediary body were to make payments to the payees even where it could not collect money from the payers, it would - as experience in some countries showed - result in a high rate of default by the payers because they would regard the payment as a tax and not a responsibility which they had to shoulder to provide for the needs of their children or ex-spouses. Such an arrangement would also result in the taxpayers subsidising maintenance payees who were well off. He emphasised that in Hong Kong, maintenance payees who suffered financial hardship owing to the payers’ default in payment could obtain assistance through CSSA. Unlike those countries where an intermediary body had been set up, SWD did not reduce a person’s benefit under the CSSA on the ground that he or she could - but did not - file a claim for maintenance. Amendments to existing legislation to improve the mechanism for making and enforcing maintenance orders were considered a more appropriate and quicker solution to the present problem. Legislative amendments were drawn up after considering the recommendations of a Working Group appointed by the Chief Justice to review practices and procedures relating to matrimonial proceedings. Apart from the amendments highlighted in paragraph 58 of the Administration’s paper, amendments to relevant subsidiary legislation would also be necessary.

19. As regards judgement debtors with poor maintenance payment record, the Legal Aid Counsel (LAC) explained that under the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Ordinance, the court could order these persons to secure periodical maintenance payments.

20. In response to Members, PAS(HA) stated that under existing legislation, judgement debtors in default of payment without reasonable cause were liable for imprisonment. LAC added that existing legislation also empowered the court to issue an injunction and/or a charging order on the assets of a judgement debtor. However, a common problem was that the defaulting party had neither asset nor bank account.

21. A member questioned the effectiveness of legislative amendments in solving the problems of recovery of maintenance payments. He commented that the society was bearing, through CSSA, the cost of child maintenance for persons in default of maintenance payment.

22. A member referred to the Attachment of Earnings Order mentioned in paragraph 58(c) of the Administration’s paper and commented that the Administration should establish mechanisms to allow deduction of maintenance payment from the wages of judgement debtors without obtaining a court order.

Processing time for applications with Legal Aid Department

23. As regards the Legal Aid Department’s processing time for applications relating to matrimonial proceedings, LAC stated that applications in which all necessary information were available were processed within a very short period. Applications which involved obtaining previous information would usually incur more time and require one to two months to process.

24. In response to the Chairman, LAC stated that the normal time to fix a court date for judgement summons was in the region of two to four months.

Intermediary body for collection and enforcement of maintenance payments

25. Members were generally in support of establishing an intermediary body for the collection and enforcement of maintenance payments. A member commented that according to overseas experience indicated in the Administration’s paper, an intermediary body was financially viable. Another member added that according to paragraph 34 of the paper provided by the Administration, voluntary compliance under the Child Support Scheme in Australia had increased from 30% of liabilities registered under the scheme to 56%. Further savings by the Administration would result with reduced CSSA payments.

26. In response, PAS(HA) stated that the savings in social security payments in those countries were due partly to the fact that child maintenance payments there were assessed by the intermediary body. In Hong Kong, such assessments were made by the court and it would be a significant constitutional change to transfer the power from the court to an executive body. Establishment of an intermediary body should be the last resort as it involved substantial changes. Legislative amendment was a quicker solution. He added that Hong Kong was actually providing better protection in that divorced persons and their children eligible for CSSA could still receive CSSA, without any deduction, if they, for one reason or another, decided not to claim maintenance from their ex-spouses or parents.

27. A member commented that the Administration’s recommendations were too discrete. He suggested that the court or SWD should establish a unit to process the collection of overdue maintenance payments. The mechanism for recovery of maintenance payment should also be simplified. PAS(HA) responded that the collection of maintenance payments was easier in overseas countries since taxes were directly deducted from wages.

28. The Chairman commented that SWD should be allowed to recover payment from judgement debtors directly to CSSA recipients. He stated that the intermediary body should be delegated the power to obtain information on a judgement debtor’s bank account and access the Land Registry’s record on properties in the judgement debtors’ names.

Legislative time-table

29. Members were generally of the view that the introduction of legislative amendments should be expedited. The Chairman remarked that the legislative amendments should be introduced two months earlier than the Administration’s proposed schedule in April 1997.

30. A member stated that he intended to follow-up the issue with a motion debate.

VI. Implementation of the new election rules for rural elections

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 236/96-97)

31. The Deputy Director of Home Affairs (DDHA) informed Members that 513 (92.4%) out of 555 villages had implemented the new election rules by 15 November 1996, representing an increase of 12 villages over the number reported at the Panel meeting on 28 June 1996. The working time-table provided by the Administration was compiled by District Officers after liaison with the relevant villages. He reiterated that the timetable was meant to be a reference and was subject to changing circumstances. The Administration would continue to pursue the implementation of the new election rules in all villages. It would periodically report the progress to the Panel.

32. DDHA stated that the following 14 villages were behind schedule in implementing the new election rules -HAD

Sha Kiu Tsuen, Ping Shan

Ko Po Tsuen, Kam Tin

Shek Wai Kok

Fung Ka Wai, Ping Shan

Chuk Yuen, San Tin

Chau Tau, San Tin

Fung Kat Heung, Kam Tin

Yung Shue Wan Village, Lamma North

Six villages in Yuen Long

33. A member commented that many villages were delaying implementation of the new election rules in the hope that this would not be required after the change of sovereignty in July 1997. DDHA responded that the Administration had never regarded 30 June 1997 as a factor in its effort to implement the new election rules in all villages and would continue to work closely with the Heung Yee Kuk to bring full compliance with the new election rules, even after 1997. It would not tolerate any deliberate delaying tactics. A member commented that the Administration should be firm towards uncooperative villages.

34. A member was very concerned about the delay in implementation of new election rules in Cheung Chau Island. He questioned why the Administration had not, in accordance with its ultimatum served on the rural committee in March 1996, refused to recognise the status of the kaifong representatives who were not elected in accordance with Heung Yee Kuk’s model rules. DDHA responded that the ultimatum was issued earlier this year in response to the Cheung Chau Rural Committee (CCRC) Chairman’s public announcement that it would not conduct election under the Heung Yee Kuk rules. Following receipt of the ultimatum, the CCRC had promised to hold elections under the new rules and active preparations for the election had resumed. Re-election of kaifong representatives for the CCRC would be held in three batches. Registration of eligible voters was in progress and 3 500 voters had been registered. The Administration had been pressing for elections for some 10 seats to be elected as soon as possible. Owing to the large number of voters involved and that it was the first time the elections were held on the one-person-one-vote basis, registration had taken longer time than expected.

35. At Members’ request, DDHA agreed to report further progress on this issue to the Panel in February 1997.HAD

VII. Any other business

Handover Ceremony : Press and Broadcast Centre

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 494/96-97)

36. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Senior Administrative Assistant to the Chief Secretary highlighted the progress made on the setting up of the Press and Broadcast Centre (PBC). He informed Members that the Chief Secretary’s Office had taken over the task of overseeing the Handover Ceremony and reception of guests, while the Home Affairs Branch would continue to oversee ancillary events and matters relating to the Handover Ceremony. A total of 20 staff (11 from the Home Affairs Branch and nine from the Information Services Department) would report to him in this area of work. Situated at the seventh floor of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the PBC would comprise a Press Centre and a Broadcast Centre. He then referred to the Administration’s paper and explained the design of the PBC.

The meeting ended at 1:10 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
9 December 1996

Last Updated on 19 August 1998