LegCo Paper No. CB(2)2447/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref: CB2/PL/WS

LegCo Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 11 April 1997 at 10:30 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming (Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Members absent:

    Hon David CHU Yu-lin (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon MOK Ying-fan

Member attending:

    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka

Public officers attending :

    Items III and IV

    Mr HO Wing-him
    Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)

    Item III

    Ms Miranda CHIU
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)

    Mrs Nancy TSE
    Assistant Director of Social Welfare
    (Family and Child Welfare)

    Item IV

    Ms Lorna WONG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)

    Miss Ann HON
    Acting Assistant Director of Social Welfare
    (Elderly and Medical Social Services)

    Item V

    Mr Augustine CHOI
    Commissioner for Rehabilitation

    Mr John WONG
    Acting Senior Assistant Law Draftsman

    Dr W M KO
    Deputy Director (Operations)
    Hospital Authority

    Ms Venus CHOY
    Chief Legal Counsel

    Mr FUNG Man-lok
    Senior Social Work Officer
    (Medical Social Services)

    Mr NG Ting-kwong
    Senior Social Work Officer

    Miss Priscilla TO
    Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

    Item VI

    Mr Carlson K S CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

    Mr Carlos LEUNG
    Assistant Director of Social Welfare
    (Youth & Training)

    Mr Joseph K C LEE
    Assistant Director of Housing

By invitation:

    Dr Iris CHI
    Department of Social Work & Social Administration
    University of Hong Kong

    Dr Paul YIP
    Deaprtment of Statistics
    University of Hong Kong

Clerk in attendance:

    Mrs Mary TANG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2)4

Staff in attendance:

    Mr LEE Yu-sung
    Senior Assistant Legal Adviser

    Miss Joanne MAK
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1783/96-97)

The minutes of the meeting held on 20 January 1997 were confirmed.

II.Items for discussion at the next meeting to be held on 9 May 1997

2.Members agreed to review the rapid expansion of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) and its role in the provision of direct social services at the next meeting. The Administration was requested to suggest other items for discussion.Adm

III.Briefing on the Child Abduction and Custody Bill

(Paper No. CB(2)1721/96-97 (01))

3.The Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare) ( DS(W) ) briefed members on the objectives of the Bill and the provisions of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Convention).

4.A member questioned what actions the Administration would take in case a child was abducted to mainland China. DS(W) explained that since China was not one of the Contracting States, the Convention would not apply in such a case. There was an urgent need to introduce the Bill to ensure its passage before the end of June 1997. He agreed that separate discussions with China on child abduction might have to be considered.  

5.Members were generally supportive of the Bill but were concerned about the need for administrative arrangements to be made with the Chinese authorities in handling cases involving the abduction of children to China. In reply, DS(W) explained that passage of the Bill might help to facilitate future liaison with China in this regard.

6.In response to the Chairman*s enquiry, the Assistant Director for Social Welfare (Family and Child Welfare) ( AD(FCW) ) reported that SWD had no statistics on the number of cases of children being abducted from Hong Kong to China. Members reiterated their concerns about child abduction to China and requested the Administration to consider possible measure to address the issue.Adm

IV.Support network for vulnerable elderly people and the elderly suicide problem

(Paper No. CB(2)1721/96-97 (02) and (03))

7.Dr Iris CHI and Dr Paul YIP of the Social Science Faculty of the University of Hong Kong gave a presentation on the Survey Report on Elderly Suicides compiled by the Befrienders Association. They highlighted the following salient points -

  1. The suicide rate among the elderly persons was the second highest in the world and was higher than the rate for the general population by several times;

  2. Nearly 70% of the elderly persons who committed suicide had revealed to their family members or doctors of their suicidal inclination but were ignored;

  3. Jumping from buildings was a common method of elderly suicide and there had been a marked increase from 29% to 52% over the past 15 years;

  4. The suicide ratio of economically inactive elderly persons to economically active elderly persons was 6 to 1;

  5. Higher suicide rates were found in more crowded districts or in those developing areas with limited community support services, such as Sham Shui Po, Kwun Tong, Wong Tai Sin, Kwai Tsing and Sai Kung;

  6. 60% to 70% of the elderly persons who committed suicide had suffered from chronic diseases; 22% had suffered from terminal illness.

8.Dr Paul YIP pointed out that the following areas should be strengthened-

  1. providing better aftercare service for the elderly persons suffering from chronic diseases;

  2. training medical practitioners to take appropriate actions when detecting suicidal signals from their elderly clients;

  3. helping the elderly to develop an active and healthy lifestyle; and

  4. providing better medical and housing services for the elderly.

9.Dr Iris CHI advocated the promotion of public awareness on the elderly suicide problem, and the provision of counselling service to the elderly. Judging from the fact that 27 % of the elderly suicide cases studied had consulted doctors months before their deaths, Dr CHI casted doubt on whether sufficient attention and time had been given to elderly clients by doctors.

10.A member commented that the survey in most parts resembled closely the findings of a similar survey conducted by the Association for the Promotion of Elderly Rights in 1986, both pointing at the fact that the majority of elderly persons who committed suicide were those who had suffered from chronic diseases. He was concerned that there had not been much improvement on the elderly suicide problem.

11.A member opined that wide coverage of elderly suicide might lead to increase in occurrence based on the past experience in handling suicide problem of teenagers. Therefore, the Administration should exercise care in handling the problem. In response, DS(W) stated that the media should help to raise public awareness in elderly suicide as a problem but refrain from giving wide coverage on individual suicide case. Dr Iris CHI shared the view but pointed out that coverage on elderly suicide was mostly short and brief. The general attitude of society was that little could be done to help the elderly persons. She also considered that elderly suicides were different from teenager suicides in that elderly persons rarely did it on impulse.

12.A member suggested that guidelines should be issued to medical practitioners advising on what they should do when they found their elderly clients were suicidal. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare) (PAS(W)) undertook to liaise with the Hospital Authority (HA), the Department of Health (DH) and the Medical Council.Adm


13.Regarding the higher suicide rate amongst those economically inactive elderly persons, a member commented that volunteer programmes were important to help the elderly persons develop a positive outlook of life. PAS(W) replied stating that the Older Volunteers Programme had stepped up its publicity to attract more participants. She added that the Programme had helped the elderly persons in maximising their potentials and contributions to the society.

14.On public education, Dr Iris CHI considered that Family Life Education (FLE) should include training on the skills of family members in expressing their concern and care for the elderly persons instead of merely advocating that the younger generation should respect the elderly. In response, the Acting Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Elderly and Medical Social Services) (AD(EM)) explained that fostering communication between the elderly and the younger generation and providing training on practical skills had been important topics in FLE. She added that 79 teams were responsible for implementing FLE, with particular attention being given to old urban districts with a large elderly population.

15.A member doubted the effectiveness of FLE and criticised that there was inadequate publicity programmes to promote care for elderly persons. She also suggested that courses should be organized to help elderly persons adapt to their post-retirement life.

16.PAS(W) agreed that there was room for improvement with the existing service and suggested some new services to be developed for elderly persons.

17.The meeting noted that the suicide rate of elderly persons living alone was higher than that of elderly persons living with families by 50%. Dr Paul YIP revealed that while most of the cases studied belonged to the very low income group, only 7% of them were receiving public allowances. Members were of the view that this reflected again the problem of inadequate publicity of the Comprehensive Social Security Allowance Scheme.

18.A member was concerned about the aftercare support to the elderly since 70% of the elderly persons who committed suicide were suffering from chronic diseases. He requested HA to provide information on the number of suicides committed by elderly persons within one week after discharge from hospitals. Dr Iris CHI pointed out that the existing service of out-patient clinics for elderly persons was poor. They always had to wait for a long time for consultation but were given very short consultation time. She also criticised that minimal resources were allocated for rehabilitation, which was much needed by the elderly persons suffering from chronic diseases. It was found that many of the elderly persons had committed suicide to avoid being a burden to the family. PAS(W) undertook to follow up the matter with HA and DH. HA



19.Since elderly persons suffering from chronic disease and those living alone were the highest risk groups in this analysis, the Chairman concluded that the Administration should improve the rehabilitation service for elderly persons and enhance social support for the elderly singletons.

V.Discussion on the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 1997

(Paper No. CB(2)1721/96-97 (04))

20. The Commissioner for Rehabilitation (C for R) stated that the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 1997 (the Bill) was generally acceptable to the concerned parties and that its proposed arrangements were all practicable.

Mental incapacitated person

21.C for R explained that in order to avoid repeating constantly the phrase "mentally disordered or mentally handicapped persons as the case may be" which would make the Bill very clumsy, the term "mentally incapacitated person" (MIP) was proposed for reference to these two groups of people in the Bill. Although the Administration was of the view that "MIP" and "精神上無行為能力的人" carried a neutral connotation, it was willing to consider replacing it by "concerned person" if this was members' preference.

Mental incapacity

22.A member considered that the Administration should address the parents' concern that "mental handicap" and "mental disorder" were different, and their wish to reflect the difference in the Chinese rendition for "mental incapacity" In response, C for R explained that "精神/智能上無行為能力" proposed by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) was against the Chinese syntax and thus should not be adopted. He also made reference to the Chinese name for the Bill which was neither "精神/智能健康條例". He drew members* attention to the fact that "mental incapacity" was defined in the Bill by reference to the definitions of "mental disorder" and "mental handicap" and did not have a definition of its own. Moreover, the Administration had checked against Chinese dictionaries that the Chinese term "精神" included the meaning of "智力" and "智能". Thus, it would stick to the Chinese rendition "精神" for "mental" and did not accept the proposal made by HKCSS to translate "mental" as "精神/智能".

23.As regards the Chinese rendition "無行為能力" for "incapacity" the Administration did not intend to change it as the term had already been adopted for use in other legislation. C for R undertook to further explain the above to the concerned parents' groups. In addition, he would take into account other comments made by the parents' groups as far as possible, such as to review the definition for "MIP's relatives or next-of-kin" under the Bill.Adm

24. At the request of the Chairman, C for R agreed to provide written comments to the Panel regarding the submissions from HKCSS and the Parents' Association of Pre-school Handicapped Children on the Bill. Adm

Treatment for autistic persons under the Bill

25. A member asked what arrangements had been proposed under the Bill for autistic persons whose IQ were not necessarily below 70 and therefore should not be considered as mentally handicapped. In response, C for R pointed out that the Bill only applied to those who were certified by medical practitioners that they met the definitions for "mental handicap" and "mental disorder" laid down in the Bill.

26. With reference to Part II of the Bill, C for R explained that a person had to be proven as incapable, by reason of mental incapacity, of managing his own property before the Court would decide to appoint a committee of the estate for the management of his property and affairs. Similarly, Part IVB of the Bill dealing with guardianship only applied to MIPs. As far as autistic persons were concerned, they had to be proven as a person suffering from mental disorder or mental handicap of a nature or degree which warranted his reception into guardianship before the Guardianship Board would decide that they should be received into guardianship.

27. In response to the Chairman, the Senior Assistant Legal Advisor (SALA) advised that he would continue to scrutinise the legal aspects of the Bill.

28. Members were of the unanimous view that the scrutiny of the Bill should be expedited so that it could be passed within the current LegCo session. As for difference in opinion on the choice of terminology or Chinese renditions, members agreed that they might choose to move Committee stage amendments, where necessary. The Administration would proceed to prepare the remaining amendments to the Bill and submit them to the Chairman of Bills Committee concerned and LegCo Legal Service Division for endorsement in two weeks' time. The Chairman would then report at the House Committee meeting that the Panel recommended the Bill to resume its Second Reading and that the activation of Bills Committee was not necessary.Adm

IV. Follow-up on Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project (NLCDP) services

(Paper No. CB(2)1721/96-97 (05))

29. On the Chairman's instruction, the submission from the Environmental Concern Group of Fu Yung Shan Tsuen requesting for provision of NLCDP to old urban areas was circulated to members for information.

30. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS(HA)) informed members that the Review Group could be finalising its report in May 1997 and would be submitting it to the Executive Council (ExCo) by May/June 1997. He suggested that the Panel should provide a submission to the Review Group to state members' views.

31. A member questioned the basis of the Administration's proposal of absorbing the project at the prefabricated type of Interim Housing (IH) at the Long Bin Temporary Housing Area (THA) site by the existing NLCDP serving the Long Bin THA and Hung Shui Kiu with no additional resources.

32. In reply, PAS(HA) said that in agreeing to provide NLCDP service to the IH at the Long Bin THA site, the Administration had taken account of the fact that an existing NLCDP team was serving the Long Bin THA. The team should have adequate spare capacity to extend its service to the IH at Long Bin. The Assistant Director of Housing was requested to provide details on the estimated population of the prefabricated IH to be built at the Long Bin, and the existing population of the Long Bin THA and Hung Shui Kiu to the Panel.Adm

33. The Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Youth and Training) (AD(YT)) supplemented that the Long Bin THA with a population of 839 had been served by the NLCDP team from Caritas since October 1996. However, a member pointed out that before October 1996, the Long Bin THA had its own NLCDP team provided by the Salvation Army. The team was later redeployed and the service provided to Long Bin THA was being absorbed by the NLCDP team for Hung Shui Kiu. He considered it unfair to the residents of Long Bin THA that they had to further share NLCDP service with the residents of the future prefabricated IH nearby. In response, PAS(HA) said that the committee on NLCDP, on which the Hong Kong Council of Social Service was represented, conducted reprovisioning and absorption exercises as when necessary to rationalize the service areas of existing NLCDP teams. The integration of Hung Shui Kiu with Long Bin THA had been endorsed by the Committee on NLCDP and the concerned agency. The Chairman requested the Administration to provide information on the redeployment of resources upon disbandment of the NLCDP team from the Salvation Army.Adm

34. The member further argued that at the time when the Long Bin THA was served by the NLCDP team from the Salvation Army, the population there was below 4,000. He also questioned whether IH to be built at Long Bin could be judged as near to Hung Shui Kiu. In response, AD(YT) explained that the Committee on NLCDP, with representatives of HKCSS, had considered in May 1996 that Long Bin THA was near to Hung Shui Kiu and therefore accepted the proposed arrangement. However, the member pointed out that the representatives had accepted the absorption arrangement on the understanding that no NLCDPs would be provided to IH at Long Bin otherwise. He considered that the services provided by the existing NLCDP team would not be sufficient to cater for the needs of the three areas involved. The Chairman directed that the Panel should give a submission to ExCo summarising members* views on NLCDPs. He also requested the Administration to provide full justifications of its proposal to extend the existing NLCDP for Hung Shui Kiu to cover the future IH at Long Bin.Clerk


35. A member pointed out that members of this Panel had expressed support at the earlier meetings to the provision of NLCDP service to old urban areas. She asked if the Administration had conveyed their views to the Review Group. In response, PAS(HA) said that as far as he could recollect, the Panel had not discussed in any detail regarding the Review and had not passed any motion supporting the extension of NLCDP services to old urban areas. Nevertheless, he agreed to pass on to the Review Group any views that Members might have. Members were dissatisfied with the reply as they considered that the Panel*s views on this matter were clearly recorded in the minutes of earlier meetings when the subject of NLCDPs was discussed.

36. A member queried the basis of the Administration*s proposal of combining the NLCDP projects at Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau and Hing Shing THA/Hon Man Village since the former had all along been served by an independent NLCDP team before the dissolution of the Tsuen Wan Ecumenical Social Service Centre in January 1997. In reply, PAS(HA) said that in considering how best NLCDP service was to be continued in Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau, the Administration had taken into account the fact that the population at Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau (around 2,200) and that at Hing Shing THA/Hon Man Village (1,100) was significantly below the criterion of 3,000 - 15,000 for NLCDP service. The only possible and cost-effective option to enable the provision of NLCDP service to these two under-populated areas was to integrate the two teams, the combined population of which was only around 3,000. However, the member considered that the proposal would adversely affect the standard of service provided to residents at Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau since they would have to share resources with those at Hing Shing THA/Hon Man Village. In response, PAS(HA) said that given the fact that the combined population of Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau and Hing Shing THA/Hon Man Village was only around 3,000, there was little reason to believe that the proposed absorption would have any adverse impact on the service standards.

37. Members criticised the Administration's policy on the non-provision of NLCDP services to IH areas. They would pursue on the extension of NLCDP service at the case conference to be held on 16 April 1997 for discussion on the provision of NLCDP to Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau.

38. The Chairman suggested conducting a site visit to the pilot NLCDPs in old urban areas before the next meeting. The Administration would make the necessary arrangements.

(Post-meeting note : On the Chairman*s instruction, the visit on 22 April 1997 was subsequently cancelled as most of the members were unable to attend on that day.)

39. The meeting ended at 12:55 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
27 May 1997

Last Updated on 22 August 1998