Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(2) 1302
Paper for the House Committee Meeting
on 27 March 1998
Report of the Bills Committee on
Adaptation of Laws (Nationality Related Matters) Bill
This paper reports on the deliberations of the Bills Committee on the Adaptation of Laws (Nationality Related Matters) Bill and seek members' support for the Bill to resume its Second Reading debate at the Provisional Legislative Council meeting commencing on 7 April 1998.
2. The Bill seeks :
The Bills Committee
- to introduce necessary adaptations to references to "British national", "commonwealth citizen" and similar expressions in the laws of Hong Kong to bring them into conformity with the Basic Law and with the status of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China(HKSAR); and
- to make supplementary provisions for right to land in Hong Kong enjoyed by former permanent residents.
3. At the House Committee meeting on 28 February 1998, members decided to form a bills committee to study the Bill. The membership list of the Bills Committee is in Appendix I.
4. Under the chairmanship of Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, the Bills Committee held two meetings with the Administration.
Deliberations of the Bills Committee
5. The Bills Committee has examined in detail the practical implications of the Bill. The main deliberations is summarized below.
6. Clause 1 (2) of the Bill provides for retrospective effect to 1 July 1997 subject to non-application to criminality. Clause 1(3) provides for the Secretary for Security to appoint a different commencement date for amendments to the Registration of Persons Ordinance (RPO)(items 4 and 5 of Schedule 1).
7. The Administration explains that section 3A of RPO provides for, inter alia, the issue of a Hong Kong permanent identity card to an overseas applicants in conjunction with his/her application for a British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) Passport. Although applications for BN(O) Passports ceased to be accepted after 30 September 1997, and the vast majority of applications have been processed by 31 December 1997, a very limited number of cases due to despatch delays at the British overseas accepting offices are still being processed by the Immigration Department. The provisions at clause 1(3)
is therefore necessary in order to enable the Immigration Department to complete processing the outstanding cases of application for permanent identity cards by BN(O) Passport applicants.
8. The proposed amendments to 16 Ordinances contained in Schedule 1 of the Bill are for the purpose of adapting reference of "British nationals", "British citizen", "British dependent territories citizen", "Commonwealth citizen" and "Commonwealth country", which have not been dealt with in the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance. Members have questioned the differences in the adaptation in that these terms are proposed to be replaced by "permanent resident of HKSAR", "resident of HKSAR", "individuals", "individuals who are ordinarily residents in Hong Kong" or "Chinese citizen". Members are concerned that these might involve changes in the policy intent of existing ordinances.
9. The proposed amendments to the Air Passenger Departure Tax Ordinance under item 3 serve to exclude Chinese citizens or permanent residents of HKSAR or other residents in China from air passenger departure tax exemptions. Members have queried the definition of "other residents in China" and the practical difficulties in application. The Administration agrees that the reference to "Chinese Citizens" and "permanent residents of HKSAR" are already sufficent for the adaptation and agrees to delete "other residents in China" from the proposed amendment.
10. On items 2, 10 and 9, the Administration proposes that a majority of directors of a grantee under the Ferry Services Ordinance and Public Bus Services Ordinance, and that of the Cross Harbour Tunnel Company respectively shall be any individuals who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong. The Administration confirms that there is no nationality requirement under the relevant ordinances for the members of the Board of Directors of the two Railway Corporations.
11. Having examined in detail the rationale as given by the Administration for the proposed adaptations and their practical implications in each of the items of Schedule 1, and subject to Committee stage amendment to be proposed for item 3, members accept the adaptation amendments as proposed.
12. The proposed amendments in Schedule 2 of the Bill are to provide for the "right to land" in Hong Kong for the former Hong Kong permanent residents. These former Hong Kong residents are conferred the "right to land" status upon ceasing to enjoy right of abode pursuant to the Immigration (Amendment) (No.2) Ordinance 1997.
13. The Administration clarifies in response to members that persons who enjoy "right of abode" or "right to land" in Hong Kong equally enjoy the right to enter, stay and work in Hong Kong unconditionally without any visa requirements. The only difference between "right of abode" and "right to land" is that a person who enjoys the "right of abode" may not be deported. The proposed amendments in Schedule 2 provide in more detailed form the nature of "right to land" and which of the existing provisions in the Immigration Ordinance would apply to people with "right to land" status. Persons who have the right to land would not lose this right pursuant to enactment of the Bill.
14. The Administration further clarifies that ethnic Chinese Hong Kong residents who have settled abroad and acquired a foreign nationality can apply to change their nationality by making a declaration of change of nationality to the Immigration Department. Those who have made that declaration will be treated as foreign nationals. These foreign nationals can retain their right of abode if they return to settle in Hong Kong within 18 months from 1 July 1997. They can also retain their right of abode if they return to settle after 30 June 1997 but have not been continuously absent from Hong Kong beyond a period of 36 months immediately before the date when they return to settle in Hong Kong. Those who lose their right of abode will be given the right to land.
Committee stage amendments
15. The Administration has proposed some technical amendments to the Bill. A set of the draft Committee stage amendments to be moved by the Administration is in Appendix II.
16. The Bills Committee recommends that the Second Reading debate of the Bills Committee be resumed at the Provisional Legislative Council meeting commencing on 7 April 1998.
17. Members are invited to support the recommendation of the Bills Committee as at paragraph 16 above.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
20 March 1998
Bills Committee on
Adaptation of Laws (Nationality Related Matters) Bill
|Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP (Chairman)
|Hon Henry WU
|Hon MA Fung-kwok
|Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
|Hon CHENG Kai-nam
|Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
|Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
|Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
|Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
|Hon IP Kwok-him|
|Total : 10 Members