PLC Paper No. CB(2) 9
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and cleared
with the Chairman)
Ref. : CB2/PL/SE/1
LegCo Panel on Security
Minutes of Meeting
held on Monday, 2 June 1997 at 2:30 pm
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Members absent :
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon LO Suk-ching
Hon Margaret NG
Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Public Officers attending :
- Mr Alex FONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 2
- Mr Ambrose LEE
- Deputy Director of Immigration
- Mr Raymond FAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
Clerk in attendance :
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1
Staff in attendance :
- Mr Alan YU
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1
I. Administration of the one-way permit quota
(Tabled at the meeting and sent to absent members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2545/96-97(01) dated 3 June 1997)
The Chairman said that the special meeting was convened to provide members with an opportunity to acquire a better understanding of the administration of the one-way permit (OWP) quota in the light of reports in the press that the number of OWPs issued for the past six years had been in excess of the agreed quota.
2. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 (DS for S2) highlighted the main points of the Administrations paper. He said that the system had been implemented for many years and referred to the guarantee in the Basic Law. Cooperation had been maintained between the Administration and the Chinese side and there had been frequent exchanges of views on the details of the system with a view to improving its operational effectiveness.
3. In response to the Chairmans enquiries, Deputy Director of Immigration (DD of I) said that figures on OWPs were monitored on a monthly basis to see whether the average daily arrivals adhered to the daily quota. If the excess persisted for more than a month, the department would alert the Chinese authorities. In 1996, for example, a marked increase in the number of arrivals was noticed in the summer months. D of I raised the matter at her meeting with the Chinese authorities in September 1996. A smaller number of OWPs had been issued in the following months. By and large, the system had been working satisfactorily.
4. Mr Fred LI considered that the present method of adjusting the surplus or shortfalls subsequently was unsatisfactory because it was difficult to draw the line as to where or when to effect the adjustment. He also liked to know whether the arrivals in the summer of 1996 were mainly children. DS for S2 said that the objective of the present system was to ensure the orderly and controlled arrival of Chinese immigrants coming to Hong Kong for settlement. The system had been in use since 1982 and was considered to be generally satisfactory. DD of I said that the excess OWPs issued in the summer of 1996 had used in advance the quota reserved for eligible children who would have the right of abode after 1 July 1997 and spouses who had been separated for lengthy periods. The problem was brought up for discussion with the Chinese authorities in late 1996, and the excessive number levelled off in the subsequent months. The Chairman remarked that it was desirable to reflect the problem to the Chinese side at an early stage since there was a time lag before the provincial authorities could respond to the requests of the central government. DS for S2 agreed that the Administration should immediately reflect the problem to the Chinese side if the excess noticed had been significant and persistent, as in the case in late 1996.
5. Mrs Selina CHOW queried the increase of more than 5000 arrivals in 1993 bearing in mind that the new quota of 105 daily was only implemented with effect from January 1994. She asked whether the Security Branch and the Immigration Department were aware of the problem, and if so, why nothing had been done to rectify the position. DS for S2 said that 1993 and 1995 were transitional years in that they witnessed the increase of the quota from 75 to 105 and from 105 to 150 respectively. The increase in the quota took time for various units of the Chinese provinces to adjust. In the early months of 1993 a large excess was noticed. Discussion was held with the Chinese side. Agreement in late 1993 covered the increase of the daily quota from 75 to 105, the reservation of a sub-quota for eligible children due to arrive after July 1997, and the involvement of the Hong Kong Government in the verification of the applications and transitional arrangement. However, Mrs Selina CHOW pointed out that the Legislative Council had never been informed of the Administration having reached an agreement with the Chinese side on a transitional arrangement in 1993. She did not object to the relaxation of the quota in principle. What she was concerned was that the quota had been increased before discussion was held between the two sides. She wondered whether any mismanagement had taken place and if so, whether the matter had been covered up. To enable members to have a better understanding of the matter, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide statistics on monthly arrivals since 1992 and to explain in writing when discussion took place with the Chinese side in 1993 and whether any agreement had been reached on the transitional arrangement.
6. Mr YUM Sin-ling expressed concern that another increase would occur in the coming summer and called for a review of the monitoring mechanism. DS for S2 said that under the present arrangement, the use of person per day as the unit measure was appropriate and the review of the figures on a monthly basis by the Immigration Department was reasonable. DD of I said that apart from maintaining the figures on a monthly basis, the trend was also being monitored. If the excess persisted, the matter would be reflected to the Chinese authorities.
7. Mr Howard YOUNG remarked that the important point was for the system to be monitored effectively in the future. In this connection, he wondered whether an instant record keeping method could be devised to save time and resources. He also asked whether separate records had been kept for eligible children under the sub-quota and whether the sub-quota had any relationship with the new points system. DD of I said that OWPs issued to eligible children under the sub-quota had a special identification code to enable the figures to be kept and monitored separately. Under the present quota of 150 per day, 45 were designated for eligible children. The operation of this sub-quota was not affected by the new points system.
8. Mr Andrew CHENG referred to the marked excess in the average daily arrivals in 1993 and in particular, in 1996 and asked whether any Government officials had committed any abuses. DS for S2 said that insofar as the Administration was concerned, no complaints had been received in respect of any Government officials and no evidence of corruption had been detected. DD of I said that the Chinese authorities had issued larger number of OWPs in the summer months of 1996 to enable eligible children to arrive in Hong Kong before the commencement of the school term in September. The Immigration Department had requested the Chinese authorities to notify the Administration in advance should they made similar decisions in future. He pointed out that the excessive number levelled off in the subsequent months.
9. In reply to Mr Fred LIs questions, DD of I said that the Immigration Department reviewed the monthly statistics with a view to monitoring the trend. The general guideline was that an increase of 10% above the agreed quota would be followed up. The situation would be reflected to the Chinese side if the increase persisted for a few months. Responding to Mrs Selina CHOWs concern about the lack of a system to monitor and forecast the surplus or shortfalls in the issue of OWPs, DD of I said that arising from the discussion in late 1996, the Chinese authorities had agreed to notify the Administration in advance if they planned to issue an excess number over a particular period, as in the case of the summer months of 1996. They had confirmed that a smaller number of OWPs would be issued in 1997 to offset the surplus in the previous year.
10. As a number of panels of the Legislative Council had a definite concern over the number of Chinese immigrants coming to Hong Kong for settlement, the Chairman suggested that the Immigration Department provide members with arrival figures on a regular basis, preferably with breakdowns on age and sex, , as in the case of Vietnamese migrants. DD of I agreed to provide the information as requested.
11. Mr Bruce LIU asked whether the Administration would consider setting up a complaints system to prevent abuse or corruption or conducting surveys among OWP arrivals to see whether any corruption had been involved in the issuing of OWPs. DD of I said that the new points system operated by the Chinese authorities was rather transparent. Successful applicants with points scored were displayed on the notice board of the Public Security Bureau for public scrutiny. If the Immigration Department received any complaints or requests concerning the acquisition of OWPs through illegal means, they would be referred to the Chinese authorities for investigation. DS for S2 remarked that insofar as the issue of OWPs was concerned, it was not the policy of the Administration to engage in assessment of the merits of each case.
II. Close of meeting
12. The meeting ended at 4:10 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
3 July 1997
Last Updated on 21 August 1998