PLC Paper No. CB(2) 10/97-98
(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 Tuesday, 10 June 1997
at 10:30 am in the Chamber
of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon LO Suk-ching

Members absent :

    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP (Deputy Chairman) *
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong *
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong*
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo *
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung*
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan *
    Hon Margaret NG *
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing*
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling*

Public Officers attending :

Item II

Mrs Carrie YAU
Deputy Secretary for Security 1
Mr Clement LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A1
Mr James CHAN
Assistant Secretary for Security A1

Item III

Mr Philip CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Support)

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1

Staff in attendance :

Mr Alan YU
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1

I. Opening remarks

The Chairman reminded members that at the request of the Sham Shui Po District Board, a special meeting of the Panel would be held on 13 June 1997 at 10:30 am to discuss the District Board’s proposal for setting up a licensing committee for massage establishments. The meeting would be an informal exchange of views between Sham Shui Po District Board members and Panel members. On the agenda for the meeting today, the Chairman said that the item on "Independent inspectorate system for penal institutions" raised by Mr Albert HO had been deleted because Mr HO had not provided details of his concern to enable the preparation of a discussion paper.

II. Follow-up on deployment of Mainland troops in Hong Kong

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2585/96-97(01))

2. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 (DS for S1) informed members that the Administration had sought to clarify with the Chinese side through various channels on the issues relating to the implementation of the Garrison Law as stated in para. 5 (a) - (e) of the Administration’s paper but no information was forthcoming. Apart from para. 5(a) which was a matter for the Chinese side to decide, the Administration’s view on the remaining issues was that the existing arrangements, suitably modified where appropriate, should continue to be used. She did not consider it to be appropriate to disclose the Administration’s views on the various issues in more detail at this stage because they had not been discussed with the Chinese side. Moreover, as the issues would continue to be discussed at the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) meetings, there was a need for confidentiality.

3. In response to Ms Emily LAU’s questions, DS for S1 said that no information was available on the number of Chinese Garrison who would eventually be stationed in the territory. If the various issues in para. 5 of the paper remained unresolved by 1 July 1997 and if anything happened, the law then prevailing should apply and the case would be dealt with on its individual merits. The Garrison Law had stated clearly what matters should be dealt with by local courts, military courts or the Supreme People’s Court, and that members of the Chinese Garrison had to abide by the Garrison Law and the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). What remained to be discussed with the Chinese side was mainly on procedural matters. The Administration shared members’ concerns and had requested the Chinese side to clarify matters as soon as possible. On the question of the size of the Chinese Garrison, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A1 (PAS(S)A1) said that it would not be appropriate to estimate the size of the Chinese Garrison on the basis of the capacity of existing military barracks for the British Forces because they had different establishment structures. What the Administration was concerned was the orderly and safe arrival of the Chinese Garrison. Responding to Ms Emily LAU’s further question, DS for S1 said that the Security Branch had not arranged for school children to welcome the arrival of the Chinese Garrison. She had no knowledge as to whether any local organizations had made such arrangements.

4. Mr Fred LI asked whether detailed and specific arrangements had been made for the arrival of the Chinese Garrison and how the Administration would respond in the event of a traffic accident involving them. DS for S1 said that the Administration had requested through the JLG and the Chief Executive (Designate)’s Office the required details, including number, routing, military sites involved, etc. to enable the smooth and orderly arrival of the Garrison, as in the case of the phased arrival of the advance personnel. On the second question, she said that the matter would be dealt with in accordance with the law then in force, consulting the Secretary for Justice where necessary. However, she hoped that the various outstanding issues would have been resolved by then.

5. In reply to Mr IP Kwok-him’s enquiries, PAS(S)A1 said that the differences between the Garrison Law and existing legislation had been explained previously to members. In brief, on criminal matters, the arrangements would be similar to those at present. However, clarification had to be sought with the Chinese side on the interpretation aspects if the case involved an officer whilst on duty. For civil matters, if the infringement was committed while the officer was on duty, the case would be tried in People’s Court in Beijing. Otherwise, it would be tried in the HKSAR court. Any cases on contractual disputes involving the Garrison and civilian would also be the jurisdiction of Hong Kong courts. In the case of a civil claim relating to traffic accident, if it occurred while the officer was off duty, it would be dealt with by the officer in his personal capacity, as in the present arrangement. If the case occurred while the officer was on duty, any civil claims against the military could be settled out of court. If the matter still could not be resolved, legal action would have to be taken through the courts in Beijing, just as the case at present when it had to be dealt with in UK courts. Referring to para. 5(e) of the Administration’s paper concerning traffic accidents, PAS(S)A1 said that the Administration’s main concern was procedural matters. The British Forces had an internal code of practice on how traffic accidents involving military vehicles should be handled. It had to be ascertained whether similar codes would be produced by the Chinese Garrison. From the Administration’s point of view and in the interest of the public, it would be preferable if the existing code of practice would continue to be used.

6. Mr Howard YOUNG considered the possibility of traffic accidents on that occasion to be high bearing in mind the intense interest of the public, particularly the media in the matter. He wondered whether a legal vacuum would exist in the early hours of 1 July 1997 prior to the promulgation of the Garrison Law by the Chief Executive. DS for S1 said that the Administration shared members’ concern but had not had any opportunity to discuss these matters with the Chinese side. She added that traffic accidents could be avoided if careful and detailed planning had been made in advance. PAS(S)A1 remarked that the Administration was prepared to discuss the various outstanding issues with the Chinese side through whatever channels and at any time and place.

7. At the request of the Chairman, PAS(S)A1 agreed to provide information after the meeting on the authority of Hong Kong courts before the Garrison Law could effectively apply in the HKSAR.

8. On the suggestion of Ms Emily LAU, members agreed that the Panel should write to the Chinese side reflecting members’ concern on the matter and urging them to discuss with the Administration as soon as possible on the detailed arrangements to enable the Chinese Garrison to arrive in Hong Kong in an orderly and efficient manner.

(Post-meeting note: The Chairman wrote to the Chinese Premier on 12 June 1997)

III. Statutory power to shut down vice establishments

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2585/96-97(02))

9. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E (PAS(S)E) briefed members on the Police measures in combating vice activities including the legislative provisions under which the Police could apply for closure orders and removal of signboards. Assistant Commissioner of Police (Support) (ACP(Sup)) stated that the main problem was the time required to close these establishments due to the judicial process. Suggestions had therefore been made to reduce the time frame. Another problem was the re-opening of these vice establishments. Since the beginning of 1996, the Police had closed 106 establishments but 81 had since re-opened. There was therefore a need to strengthen the existing legislation.

10. In response to Mr Fred LI’s enquiries, PAS(S)E envisaged that there were difficulties in reducing the waiting period for court hearing in view of the workload of the Judiciary. Proposals to shorten the existing grace period and extend the closure period and to impose heavier penalties on repeated offenders were under consideration. These proposals would require legislative amendments. On the removal of vice signboards, he said that it had a definite effect on the business of vice establishments and was one of the measures to combat vice activities. On the length of closure, ACP(Sup) said that currently the time frame for closure was based on the date of conviction. For initial offence, a possible option was for the notice to be served on the landlord/owner on the institution of prosecution. Once conviction had been registered, the landlord/owner was given two months (instead of four months as at present) to enable him to rectify the situation with regard to his tenant. That would reduce the current time frame by half. Whilst the problem regarding waiting period for court hearing was a matter for the Judiciary to resolve, the tactic of the vice establishment operators was to plead not guilty thereby extending the use of the premises for a longer period. A possible solution would be to impose mandatory closure on any subsequent conviction once a closure order had been implemented.

11. Referring to Mr Howard YOUNG’s questions on the removal of vice signboards, ACP(Sup) said that removal was done by contractors and the Police were mainly involved in the control of pedestrians and traffic. On the test case concerning the prosecution of people responsible for manufacturing vice signboards, he said that he was not optimistic about the outcome for reasons of legal technicality.

12. The Chairman considered that proposed changes relating to closure orders were steps in the right direction but that removal of signboards as a measure for combating vice-related activities should be further explored. He suggested that more efforts be targeted at preventing re-erection at the same premises, with the help of legislation where necessary. In this connection, the establishment of some form of application procedures for the erection of signboards in general and approval having regard to the contents of signboards were also worthy of consideration. ACP(Sup) commented that the priority of the Police was closure of the premises and removal of signboards was incidental. The difficulty concerning the latter issue was the frequent change of tenancy and the implicit nature of many of the signboards. PAS(S)E agreed that the feasibility of the proposal could be further looked into.

13. In reply to Mr Zachary WONG’s enquiries, ACP(Sup) confirmed that the Police had constant liaison with the Immigration Department in Hong Kong as well as its counterparts in China and other countries for controlling the entry of people convicted of vice related offences such as prostitution. He said that these vice-related activities were usually organized crimes in which triads were involved. Intelligence-based operations were conducted from time to time but prosecutions were manpower intensive and difficult to make. He confirmed that the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance had been applied in the prosecution of vice-related crimes.

14. Responding to the Chairman’s question, ACP(Sup) believed that there was a degree of collusion between the owner of the property and the operator of the vice establishment. Because of the rapid change of ownership of the property, there was considerable difficulty in ascertaining the actual owner at a particular time to enable the serving of a closure order. On the Chairman’s proposal to confiscate the premises concerned as a deterrent, ACP(Sup) considered that the proposal was probably too harsh a measure to be contemplated. From the Police’s point of view, its objective was to provide legitimate landlords with an early notice to enable them to remove vice operations from their premises, shorten the time required before a second conviction could effect a closure and ensure that the closure order, once issued, would remain effective for a longer period. PAS(S)E said that the proposal could be further looked into. He stressed, however, that it would need to be considered with the utmost care bearing in mind the nature of the penalty and the need to protect innocent landlords. Mr Fred LI remarked that confiscation of mobile food lorries and vans was being practised by the Urban Services Department. He pointed out that when the Copyright Bill was considered, the possibility of prosecuting landlords who knowingly allowed their premises to be used for selling copies of audio/visual goods was discussed at some length. PAS(S)E stated that it was a criminal offence for a landlord to allow his premises to be used for vice activities with his full knowledge. ACP(Sup) said that the guilty knowledge of the landlord was difficult to establish unless the evidence of those that he employed was forthcoming.

15. In conclusion, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide the Panel with results of its review of the existing legislation to keep members informed of developments on the matter.

IV. Close of meeting

16. The meeting ended at 12:15 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
27 June 1997

* other commitments

Last Updated on 21 August 1998