PLC Paper No. CB(2) 5/97-98
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and cleared
with the Chairman)
Ref. : CB2/PL/SE/1

LegCo Panel on Security

Minutes of Special Meeting held on Thursday, 24 April 1997 at 10:30 am in the Conference Room A 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 Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon LO Suk-ching
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Members attending :

    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU, OBE, JP
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong

Members absent :

    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling*
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing*
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin*
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan#
    Hon IP Kwok-him#
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok#
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee#

Public Officers attendance:

    Agenda Item I

    Mr Philip CHAN
    Acting Deputy Secretary for Security 1
    Miss Vega WONG
    Assistant Secretary for Security E2
    Mrs Jenny CHAN
    Chief Labour Officer
    Labour Department

    Agenda Item II

    Mr Alex FONG
    Deputy Secretary for Security 2
    Mr Ambrose LEE
    Deputy Director of Immigration
    Immigration Department
    Mr FOO Tsun-kong
    Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations)
    Royal Hong Kong Police Force
    Mr Raymond FAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
    Mr LEUNG Ping-kwan
    Principal Immigration Officer (Investigation)

Clerk in attendance :

    Mrs Sharon TONG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1

    Staff in attendance :

      Mr Alan YU
      Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1

    I. Security and Guarding Services (Amendment) No. 2 Bill 1997 - Briefing by Hon CHAN Wing-chan

    (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1939/96-97(01)
    (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1939/96-97(02)
    (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1939/96-97(03)
    (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 449/94-95
    (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2001/96-97(01))

    1. Mrs Miriam LAU declared interest as Chairman of Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority.

    2. Mr CHAN Wing-chan outlined the reasons for, and the main points of, his amendment Bill. Since the legislation came into effect on 1 June 1996, he and the trade unions concerned had received many complaints from security workers that the new legislation had adversely affected their livelihood. During the three-month period from June to August 1996, the Federation of Trade Unions received 415 cases of enquiries. There had been many cases where security workers aged over 65 had been dismissed. The Hong Kong General Union of Security and Property Management Industry Employees and the Hong Kong Building Management Industry Employees Trade Union had requested him to alleviate their members’ concerns through amending the legislation. Mr CHAN said that the reason for his proposal was to protect the employment opportunities of serving security personnel. According to his proposal, serving security personnel included those who were employed under the Watchmen Ordinance on 31 May 1996 and those who had been employed within 24 months before 1 June 1996 under the Watchmen Ordinance provided that they could obtain a certificate of service from their employers or trade unions. The purpose of the Bill was to exempt these personnel from the permit requirement under the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance (Ordinance).

    3. Deputy Secretary for Security 1(Acting) (DS for S1(Ag)) expressed serious reservations about Mr CHAN’s proposal for the reasons set out in the Administration’s paper. On the employment of security personnel over the age of 65, he said that there were provisions in the Ordinance enabling them to apply for a Category A permit and work in single private residential buildings, i.e. buildings with one main access point and used substantially for residential purpose. As there were large numbers of single private residential buildings in Hong Kong, the employment of aged security personnel would not be unduly affected. However, Mr CHAN Wing-chan was concerned that the number of such buildings could not cater for the demand, since according to his estimate, more than 20,000 security personnel would become unemployed by the year 2000. The Chairman requested the Administration to consider providing members with statistics on single private residential buildings so that the concerns of Mr CHAN could be considered in perspective.

    4. Responding to Mr Howard YOUNG’s enquiry on the statistics in Annex B to the paper, Chief Labour Officer explained that the 30 claims cases settled meant that the claimants concerned had been given termination benefits in accordance with the Employment Ordinance. She added that one of the two cases pending had also been settled since the issue of the paper. In reply to Mr TSANG Kin-shing’s question, DS for S1(Ag) said that since 1 June 1996, 64,900 new applications had been received and so far 60,000 permits had been issued. He added that accurate and up-to-date records were now kept on computer by the Police.Adm

    5. Mrs Miriam LAU pointed out that when the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance came into effect on 1 June 1996, there were about 110,000 watchman’s permit holders. About 50,000 permits had been issued under the Ordinance, making a total of about 160,000 old and new permit holders. How many of the 110,000 watchmen were still serving could not be ascertained until they turned up to renew their permits under the requirement of the Ordinance. The reliability of the estimate that in five years’ time, more than 20,000 security personnel would be unemployed was therefore open to question. Referring to Mr CHAN’s Bill, Mrs LAU said that the aim of the Ordinance was to improve the quality of the security industry. The legislation was enacted after many years of research and consideration and adequate provisions had been included so that the effect on serving security personnel, in particular those aged over 65, would be reduced to the minimum. Mr CHAN’s proposal was in direct conflict with the spirit of the Ordinance and could not be accepted by the Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority. Nor could it be accepted by the Government from a policy point of view. She asked members to consider carefully the effect of Mr CHAN’s proposal on the implementation of Government’s policy. Mr CHAN Wing-chan did not dispute the aims of the Ordinance but emphasized the need to strike a balance between improving the quality of the security industry and protecting the employment opportunities of serving security personnel.

    6. Mrs Selina CHOW said that Mr CHAN’s proposal to exempt all serving security personnel would mean that the objective of the Ordinance could never be achieved. She stressed that the quality of the industry could not be improved if parties concerned were not prepared to accept any form of restrictions or compromise. Responding to members’ enquiries, Mr CHAN Wing-chan confirmed that his Bill would exempt all the 110,000 watchman’s permit holders from the new licensing requirement indefinitely and enabled them to be employed for as long as they wished, subject to the consent of their employers.

    7. Members expressed confusion and concern as to how many security workers would actually be exempted under Mr CHAN’s proposal since the amendments in section 2 (a) and (b) would include more than 110,000. In particular, the number of workers under section 2 (b) was uncertain and had yet to be estimated. The Chairman requested Mr CHAN to clarify in writing how many serving security workers were intended to be covered by the Bill, in particular the respective numbers as categorised under section 2 (a) and (b). Mr CHAN Wing-chan

    II. Child illegal immigrants from Mainland China

    (LegCo Paper No. CB(2)2001/96-97(02))

    8. As an introduction, Deputy Secretary for Security 2 (DS for S2) highlighted the following points relating to the issue. Firstly, there was a legal difference in respect of children of Chinese nationality born outside Hong Kong to Hong Kong permanent residents before and after 30 June 1997 in that these children did not have the right of abode before 30 June 1997 but would have the right of abode after 30 June 1997 under Article 24(2)(3) of the Basic Law. Secondly, the issue involved exit and entry problems affecting China and Hong Kong respectively and therefore the cooperation between the two governments was essential. Thirdly, different levels of authorities were involved in China whilst in Hong Kong, both the Hong Kong and SAR Governments had a role to play. Effective co-ordination would be necessary in tackling the problem. He then explained how the estimated number of eligible children in China had been arrived at. Applications for one-way permits (OWPs) received in China were forwarded to the Hong Kong Immigration Department (HKID) for verification that the parents concerned had permanent resident status. Speaking in broad figures, so far HKID had received 95,000 applications. Of these, 62,000 applications had been approved and out of these 62,000 applications, 35,000 had arrived Hong Kong. The remaining 27,000 applications together with 8,000 others from provinces outside Guangdong had not yet been referred to Hong Kong, making a total of 35,000. However, compared with the figure of 130,000 as reported to be released by the Guangdong authorities, and on the understanding that the 95,000 was inclusive, there was still a difference of about 40,000 to be accounted for. HKID would contact the Guangdong and other relevant authorities shortly to clarify the figures. Pending clarification, the figure of 35,000 would be used as a basis for consideration. Deputy Director of Immigration (DD of I) confirmed that the Director of Immigration would be meeting with the Head of the Guangdong Publicity Security Bureau to discuss issues of mutual concern including that of OWP.

    9. Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations) (ACP(O)) informed members that early that month the Commissioner of Police had visited China and discussed with authorities concerned, among other things, the issue of illegal immigrants(IIs). On his return, a Task Force had been set up to tackle the minor II problem. The Director of Operations had also visited Shenzhen the previous week to discuss the issue of IIs. Exchange of intelligence on IIs with the Chinese authorities had been enhanced, targeting against snakeheads in particular. A joint Guangdong - Hong Kong coordinated anti-illegal immigrants exercise would be staged the following month. Referring to the number of surrendered II children as reported in paragraph 7 of the information paper, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide figures on arrested II children so that the matter could be seen in perspective. DS for S2 agreed to do so after the meeting.

    10. In response to Mr CHEUNG Hon-chung’s observations, DD of I agreed that the treatment of arrested II children should be more humane to reduce the adverse effect on TV viewers. On the question of release on recognizance, he said that these were necessary as an alternative to detention while administrative processing or court proceedings were underway. In this connection, DS for S2 stressed that plans were in hand to simplify the appeal procedures so as to reduce the waiting time. Redeployment of resources was also being considered. With regard to the method of dealing with II children after 30 June 1997 bearing in mind the change of their legal status, he said that the Chief Executive (Designate)’s Office had come up with some proposals which were under consideration by the Administration. Commenting on Mrs Selina CHOW’s observations on the recognizance form issued to a minor II, DD of 1 clarified that the case referred to involved a temporary stay of about two years and not eight years as alleged since the illegal stay of the child was detected in 1995 when her mother, as an II, gave birth to another baby. At the request of the Chairman, he agreed to provide members with statistics on recognizance forms issued showing periods of stay pending removal.Adm

    11. Ms Margaret NG considered that whilst any policy after 30 June 1997 would be the responsibility of the SAR Government, any new policy to be adopted then would affect the remaining administrative procedures before the handover. The situation on 30 June 1997 would not be any different from that at present. The important point was that the Administration had an immediate responsibility to devise appropriate measures which would not conflict with any policy to be implemented by the SAR Government. Such measures should be able to assure parents of eligible children that they could all be admitted to Hong Kong by a certain date. DS for S2 reiterated that the proposals put forward by the Chief Executive (Designate)’s Office on the issue were still under consideration by the Administration. He informed members that the Chinese authorities were considering the introduction of a points system for the issuing of OWPs. That would be a step in the right direction since the system would be more transparent. According to the existing quota of 150 OWPs per day of which 66 were allocated for children, it was estimated that the 35,000 eligible children would be admitted to Hong Kong by the end of 1998.Adm

    12. Responding to Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong’s enquiries concerning the alleged consensus being reached between the Director of Immigration and the Secretary of Justice (Designate) on the issue of II children as reported in the press on that day, DS for S2 denied that any such consensus existed. The present position was that the Chief Executive (Designate)’s Office had put up some proposals which were being considered by relevant departments in the Administration. When a firm view on the matter had been formulated by the Administration, it would be forwarded to the Chief Executive (Designate)’s Office and, through normal channels, to the Chinese authorities. On the question of whether the Administration would strive to obtain the right to approve the grant of OWPs, DS for S2 said that under the existing legal framework, a more practical alternative would be to increase coordination between the Administration and the Chinese authorities and to enhance the transparency of the system. The important point was to establish a fair and effective system under which parents would have more certainty on their applications and therefore would not subject their children to the risks of illegal immigration. Commenting further on the proposal as raised again by Mr TSANG Kin-shing, DS for S2 said that the Administration already had a role to play in the process in that it was responsible for verifying the permanent resident status of the applicants. However, in order to solve the present problem, Mr TSANG suggested that the Administration should immediately register the number of children in China who were born to parents of Hong Kong permanent residents and send the list with priorities to the Chinese authorities for further processing. DS for S2 remarked that a similar proposal had been raised by a SAR Executive Committee Member and its practicability was being considered by the Administration. In this connection, the Chairman suggested that Mr TSANG forward details of his proposal to the Administration for further consideration. Other members were also requested to do the same should they come up with any proposals.

    13. Referring to Mr Fred LI’s observations on the statistics in paragraph 7 of the information paper, DS for S2 explained that the reason why figures of surrendered II children were used was because the Administration was concerned about their stay in the territory. As for those II children arrested, they were immediately repatriated. On the question of the average number of children born to parents of Hong Kong permanent residents who were married in China and the annual projections of the estimated number of eligible children in China, DS for S2 said that the Administration had made some assumptions and projections and the relevant statistics could be provided to members after the meeting.

    14. Mr LAW Chi-kwong supported the proposal for registration as raised by Mr TSANG Kin-shing because through registration and verification, the Administration could obtain a more accurate number of eligible children. DS for S2 remarked that whilst the estimated number of 35,000 was the current best estimate, this would be clarified when officials of the HKID met with their counterparts in China. The opportunity would also be taken to consider how the projected estimates should be worked out. He reiterated that under the existing system, the granting of OWPs was under the control of the Chinese authorities. Whilst the Administration had a role to play, what it could do was to put forward suggestions so that the system might be improved. With regard to the observations of Mr LAW Chi-kwong on how II children should be dealt with under the Basic Law, DS for S2 said that he did not wish to make any further comments on the issue at this stage pending advice from Attorney General’s Chambers. In this connection, Mr LAW Chi-kwong requested that legal advice be sought on the position of children born to unmarried couples since under present Hong Kong laws, their rights were not different from those born to married couples.Adm

    15. In response to Mrs Selina CHOW’s queries on the estimated number of eligible children as provided in paragraph 10 of the information paper, DS for S2 confirmed that the current best estimate was 35,000 by 1 July 1997.

    16. In conclusion, the Chairman reminded members that the issue of right of abode would be discussed at another special meeting to be held on 29 April 1997 at 4:30 pm. Item 3 of the agenda on "Minimum safeguards against unfair deportation" would be deferred for discussion at that meeting.


    III. Close of meeting

    17. The meeting ended at 1:00 pm.

    Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
    3 July 1997

    *..away from Hong Kong
    #.. other commitments

    Last Updated on 21 August 1998