PLC Paper No. CB(2) 16/97-98
(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 Monday, 12 May 1997 at 10:30 am
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 CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon LO Suk-ching

Members absent :

    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing*
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan*
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok*
    Hon Margaret NG*
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing*
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling*

Public Officers attending :

    Agenda Item III

    Mr Philip CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E
    Mr FUNG Siu Yuen
    Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) RHKPF
    Mr David H Y TONG
    Assistant Commissioner, Customs and Excise Department
    Ms CHAN Yuet-ho, Evena
    Senior Assistant Crown Prosecutor, Legal Department

    Agenda Item IV

    Ms Sally WONG
    Refugee Co-ordinator

Clerk in attendance :

    Mrs Sharon TONG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1

Staff in attendance :

    Mr Alan YU
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1

I. Confirmation of minutes of previous meetings
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2103/96-97)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2090/96-97)

The minutes of meetings held on 14 February and 10 March 1997 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2 Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting to be held on 10 June 1997 at 10:30 am:

    (a)Deployment of Mainland troops in Hong Kong;

    (b)Statutory powers to shut down vice establishments; and

    (c)Independent inspectorate system for penal institutions.

III. Review of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2190/96-97(02))

3 Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E (PAS(S)E) highlighted the main points of the paper. He said that the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) had greatly assisted the law enforcement agencies and the prosecuting authorities in the fight against triad activities and organized crime. Law enforcement agencies had complied strictly with the codes of practice, guidelines and rules in exercising the powers under the OSCO.

4 In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) (ACP(C)) confirmed that some of the old and unsolved cases had been re-examined in the light of the new legislation but no result was forthcoming. Mrs Selina CHOW considered the amount of crime proceeds confiscated by the end of December 1996 to be rather low and asked whether the Police had encountered any difficulties in that respect. ACP(C) pointed out that as at that day, there was an additional amount of $2 million. Bearing in mind the number of cases handled and the time required to deal with such cases, the amount confiscated could not be considered as low.

5 Dr Philip WONG said that the OSCO in its present form was a watered-down version of the original proposal. He asked whether the present legislation had reduced the effectiveness of enforcement and whether those parts of the original proposal which had not been incorporated in the present legislation would be re-introduced for consideration. PAS(S)E said that the OSCO had been implemented for two years with encouraging results. The Administration would review the legislation in the light of experience. The important point was that the legislation should meet social expectations and operational requirements.

6 Responding to Mr LO Suk-ching's question on Hong Kong's role in the International Police Bureau after 1 July 1997, ACP(C) said that apart from the change of title from being the sub-bureau of the UK to that of China, everything would remain the same. On the question of staff resources as raised by Mrs Selina CHOW, ACP(C) said that the Police Central Witness Protection Unit had increased its establishment to 17 staff members since it was set up in April 1995. So far it had received 19 requests for protection, five of which had been considered unnecessary. No appeals had been received on those requests which had been turned down and nothing adverse had happened. The Unit had adequate manpower and had not encountered any major problem in its operation. On the application of the OSCO as raised by the Chairman and Dr Philip WONG, ACP(C) said that in view of the compelling nature of the powers under section 3, it was applied only after having failed in conventional methods. Each application was decided by weighing carefully all relevant factors and judging them in the light of the Attorney General's guidance. There were four applications as at 31 March 1997.

7 In reply to Mr IP Kwok-him's question as to whether the decrease in the number of triad-related crimes in 1996 as compared to 1995 was due solely to the OSCO, PAS(S)E said that the result was due to a combination of factors including the increase in Police front-line staff and preventive measures. Commenting on Mr Andrew CHENG's concern on the deteriorating law and order situation in Macao and the need for greater cooperation between Hong Kong and Macao in combating serious crime, ACP(C) said that cooperation with Macao was achieved through the International Police Bureau and high-level meetings between the two territories were held every six months. PAS(S) said that bilateral agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters had been signed with countries like the United States and Australia with which Hong Kong had frequent contacts on transnational crime matters. He noted members' concern on the need for similar agreements to be signed with Macao in view of its proximity with Hong Kong and indicated that the matter would be given due consideration within the Security Branch. Adm

8 In response to Mrs Selina CHOW's enquiries, ACP(C) confirmed that the OSCO had been used to combat sex crimes such as prostitution. On counterfeit goods, Assistant Commissioner, Customs & Excise (AC(C&E)) said that the OSCO had not been used in combating crimes associated with counterfeit goods. Offence relating to violation of intellectual property rights was not included in the OSCO in 1994 because the maximum penalty for that offence did not then justify the inclusion. However, consideration was being given to including that offence in the legislation. With regard to the fight against triads, ACP(C) stressed that the Police directed its attention to the crime as well as the people involved. However, Mrs Selina CHOW was of the view that the police should target at smashing the organization of triads whilst the Chairman pointed out that with more effective legislation, the community's expectation was for more prosecution to be taken against triads, in particular members in high positions and the organization itself.

9 At the request of Dr Philip WONG, PAS(S)E agreed to provide members with the Code of Practice for the questioning of persons and the production of material under section 3 of the OSCO. He said that no complaints about any breaches or abuse of powers under the OSCO had been received so far. On the schedule of organized and serious crimes, he said that the proposed inclusion of offence relating to intellectual property rights was under consideration. Responding to the Chairman's question, PAS(S)E confirmed that the reservations about the exempted provisions in the OSCO in relation to journalistic materials mentioned in para. 14 of the Administration's paper were not due to the possibility of having to exercise them in some marginal cases.

(Post -meeting note: A copy of the Code of Practice was sent to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2270/96-97 dated 14 May 1997.)

IV. Follow-up on repatriation of Vietnamese migrants
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2190/96-97(03))

10 Refugee Coordinator said that the Administration was continuing its strenuous efforts to repatriate Vietnamese migrants (VMs). Since January 1997, about 3000 VMs under the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) and about 600 Vietnamese illegal immigrants (VIIs) had been repatriated. As for Vietnamese refugees (VRs), progress had been slow mainly because resettlement had to depend on acceptance by other countries. Many of them had criminal record, or drug addiction problems, or were medically unfit for travel. She therefore envisaged that the majority of them would remain in Hong Kong by the end of June 1997. However, continuing efforts were made by the UNHCR to pursue resettlement opportunities for them. On VMs, she estimated that about 1000 of them would be repatriated this month. As for VIIs, as many of them as possible would be repatriated. It was difficult to estimate how many of those VMs would remain by the end of June 1997 since some of them were involved in court proceedings whilst others were medically unfit or serving prison sentences. The Administration's objective was to reduce the number remaining in the territory to a minimum.

11 Mr CHEUNG Hon-chung asked what the Administration would do in the case of those VMs whom the Vietnamese Government refused to take back on non-national grounds. He also asked whether the UK Government had any legal obligation in respect of asylum seekers from Vietnam arriving in Hong Kong as a port of first asylum. On the first question, Refugee Coordinator said that there were about 300 VMs belonging to this category. In consultation with the UNHCR, the Administration was continuing its efforts to provide Vietnam with new evidence about their nationality. She would confirm after the meeting whether there were any cases where the VMs had been accepted by the Vietnamese Government on production of fresh evidence. On the second question, she confirmed in the negative because the UK had not extended the 1951 UN Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees to Hong Kong. However, that did not mean that the UK had no responsibility for these refugees. As the sovereign state, the UK had been appealing to the international community to accept them for resettlement. Liaison was being maintained at all levels between the UK and Vietnamese Governments to discuss the matter. At the request of the Chairman, she undertook to respond in writing on the territories to which the 1951 UN Convention and 1967 Protocol had been extended and why Hong Kong had not been included. Adm


12 Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong considered that the UK Government was evading responsibility in the issue. He suggested that the UK Government should take on the 1,300 odd VRs and pursue resettlement opportunities for them, failing which, the UK Government should be openly reprimanded. He also suggested that the views of the Legislative Council should be reflected to the UK Government. Refugee Coordinator commented that the UK Government was discharging its responsibility under the CPA. As the sovereign state and one of the resettlement countries for VRs, it had taken on a considerable number already. It had also been defraying half of the expenses arising from the orderly repatriation programme. She said that the views of the Legislative Council had been reflected to the UK Government which maintained the stance that its responsibility was covered by the CPA and that the acceptance of all VRs would arouse unrealistic expectations from the remaining VMs and VIIs in the territory. The Chairman remarked that the concern of the UK Government was unfounded since the first asylum policy for Hong Kong would no longer apply after 30 June 1997. He suggested that the Administration should reflect once again the views of the Legislative Council to the UK Government. Refugee Coordinator undertook to do so after the meeting. Adm

13 Mrs Selina CHOW expressed concern about the high rate of VIIs in recent months. She asked what the average time was for them to be cleared for return and whether the Administration had encountered difficulties in the process. Refugee Coordinator said that there were about 1000 VIIs being kept at the High Island Detention Centre. The Administration had expressed concern over the high rate of VIIs to the Vietnamese Government and sought its assistance in stemming the flow of VIIs. It had also sought the assistance of the Chinese authorities in intercepting the movement of these VIIs in China. It had requested the Vietnamese authorities to expedite the clearance of VIIs for return. However, on average, the clearance process took at least several months to complete as the Vietnamese authorities had to verify such details as nationality and household address. The Vietnamese authorities had been requested to simplify their clearance procedures to enable repatriation to be done as soon as possible. Refugee Coordinator confirmed that VIIs were regarded as a separate category as distinct from VMs whom the Vietnamese Government had agreed to clear for return by the end of June 1997.

14 In reply to Dr Philip WONG's question, Refugee Coordinator said that after 1 July 1997, according to the Basic Law, the SAR Government had the autonomy to remove illegal immigrants from the territory, including VIIs. As for VRs, the Administration had requested the UK Government to resettle as many of them as possible before the end of June 1997. After that date, Hong Kong's relationship with the UK would be the same as that with other countries like the United States or Australia insofar as refugees were concerned. Responding to Mr LO Suk-ching's enquiries, Refugee Coordinator said that the issue of VMs was a standing item on the agenda of Joint Liaison Group meetings. The Chinese Government's stance was that no VMs should remain in the territory by 1 July 1997. As for the outstanding loan due to the Hong Kong Government, the UNHCR undertook to pay back to the SAR Government as soon as possible and that its commitment would not cease on 1 July 1997.

15 Mr Fred LI asked whether the Chinese Government would, similar to what had been done by the UK Government, send officers at ministerial level to discuss VM matters with the Vietnamese Government. He also asked why there had been a marked increase in VIIs in recent months and whether the Administration had discussed with the Chinese and Vietnamese Governments on how the problem could be solved. Refugee Coordinator said that she was not aware of any representation at the diplomatic level by the Chinese side since their consistent stance was that no more VMs should remain in Hong Kong by 1 July 1997. However, the Administration had requested the Chinese authorities to assist in intercepting the movement of VIIs in China.

16 In response to Mr Zachary WONG's question on whether the Administration had any specific plans to deal with the 1300 odd VRs who were certain to remain in the territory by 1 July 1997, Refugee Coordinator said that it would not be appropriate to devise any plans at this stage to pre-empt the thinking of the Chinese side or the SAR Government. It was likely that the Administration would wait until 1 July 1997 before discussion would be held with the Chinese side. What the Administration could do in the remaining days prior to the handover was to continue its efforts to pursue resettlement opportunities for VRs and to speed up the repatriation of VMs. She added that the UNHCR had recently taken more positive efforts to persuade VRs to return to Vietnam voluntarily with the help of ex-gratia payment.

17 At the request of the Chairman, Refugee Coordinator undertook to provide members with information on VRs including the number of family units, and number of persons with criminal record or having a drug problem. The Chairman said that the information would be helpful to members in their meeting with consulate staff of resettlement countries in the afternoon on that day. Adm

18 In reply to Mrs Selina CHOW's enquiries, Refugee Coordinator said that most of the VIIs were intercepted on land, the popular place being Chek Lap Kok. She agreed to provide members with statistics on the number of VIIs arriving in Hong Kong in 1997 showing the numbers intercepted on land and at sea respectively. She said that if VIIs came by sea and preferred to be arrested, it would be difficult to turn them away. Mrs Selina CHOW suggested that consideration be given to refusing VIIs to enter the territorial waters of Hong Kong, like what was being practised by some countries in South East Asia. However, the Chairman and Mr Zachary WONG expressed reservations on the proposal. The Chairman requested the Administration to explain in writing its policy on handling illegal immigrants before and after they arrived in the territory. Adm


(Post-meeting note: The information on VRs and VIIs was sent to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2270/96-97(03) on 14 May 1997)

19 Responding to Mr Howard YOUNG's question, Refugee Coordinator said that she was not aware of any countries having signed on agreement with Vietnam on immediate repatriation of VIIs. Informal sources indicated that many countries had been frustrated by the longer-than-normal time required to repatriate VIIs to Vietnam.

20 In response to the Chairman's question on the deliberations of the Panel on the issue, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong suggested that the Panel should urge the UK Government to take on all the remaining VRs and pursue resettlement opportunities for them. If the request was not met, the UK Government should be openly reprimanded. Members agreed that as a letter to this effect was being prepared by the House Committee, the Panel should wait until the next meeting when it would consider the way forward.

V. Close of meeting

21 The meeting ended at 12:50 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
3 July 1997

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Last Updated on 21 August 1998