Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(2)439
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/HA
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Home Affairs
Minutes of Meeting held on Monday, 15 September 1997 at 10:45 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP (Chairman)
Hon LO Suk-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Members Absent :
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Public Officers Attending :
- Ms Cora HO
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (3) (Acting)
- Mrs Shelley LAU
- Director of Home Affairs
- Miss Angela LUK
- Assistant Director (3)
- Home Affairs Department
- Mr K K CHONG
- Assistant Director of Education (Services)
- Mrs Jennie CHOR CHAN Chui-yuk
- Assistant Commissioner for Labour
- Mr Y K CHENG
- Chief Housing Manager
- Housing Department
- Mrs TANG LAI Yuen-yee
- Chief Social Work Officer
- (Family and Child Welfare) (Acting)
Clerk in Attendance :
- Mrs Constance LI
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Staff in Attendance :
- Mr Stephen LAM
- Assistant Legal Adviser 4
- Mr Raymond LAM
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6
I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising
(PLC Paper No. CB(2)284)
The minutes of the meeting held on 22 July 1997 were confirmed.
2.Members noted the Administration's reply (issued vide PLC Paper Nos. CB(2)291 and CB(2)305) on the provision of services by the Government to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) residents outside the territory. The Deputy Chairman was concerned that overseas Chinese Consulates might not provide some of the services needed by HKSAR residents who were stranded, distressed or involved in accidents outside Hong Kong. He noted that the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in London had ceased its financial support towards the Chinese education of HKSAR residents' children in the United Kingdom, and had also reduced its community liaison work. He expressed concern about the scaling down of services provided by HKETOs after the change of sovereignty and called for a review of the range of services provided by HKSAR Government to overseas HK residents. The Director of Home Affairs (DHA) responded that, to her knowledge, HKETOs were still offering assistance to Hong Kong residents overseas after the change of sovereignty. She undertook to relay members' concerns to the Administration.||Adm
II.Regulation under the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance
(Paper No. CB(2)259(01))
3.At the invitation of the Chairman, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (3) (Acting) (PAS(HA)(Ag)) highlighted the salient points in the Administration's paper and informed members that the Family Status Discrimination (Proceedings by the Equal Opportunities Commission) Regulation sought to empower the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to bring legal proceedings under the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (FSDO) in its own name in circumstances specified under the Regulation.
4.Responding to a member on whether EOC would bear the legal costs for proceedings brought under its name, PAS(HA)(Ag) stated that though the EOC received subvention from the Administration, it was an independent body. The Legal and Complaints Committee of the EOC would consider the merits of each case before taking a decision as to whether legal proceedings should be brought about in the name of EOC.
5.A member was concerned that a victim who decided not to bring legal proceedings by himself/herself might be reluctant to give evidence or stand as witness. PAS(HA)(Ag) explained that EOC would carefully examine the justification and evidence of each case before proceeding with legal proceedings, also taking into account the victim's wishes and willingness to act as witness.
Family Status Discrimination Ordinance
6.To illustrate the circumstances which could be regarded as discrimination on the ground of family status, PAS (HA) (Ag) said that an employer's refusal to employ a person because of the latter's family responsibilities such as taking care of children would amount to discrimination under this Ordinance.
7.A member expressed concern that the FSDO might overlap with the existing employment legislation. PAS(HA)(Ag) explained that the FSDO outlawed family status discrimination in the area of employment, and in other areas such as education, provision of goods and services and Government activities, etc. Discriminatory practices would be subject to legal proceedings under the relevant anti-discrimination legislation.
|8.Responding to the member's concern about the application of FSDO, PAS(HA) (Ag) advised the previous LegCo Brief for introducing the Family Status Discrimination Bill in April 1997 provided useful information on the background and purpose of the Bill, which had been thoroughly discussed by the previous Legislative Council before enactment in June 1997. At the member's request, she undertook to provide members with the relevant LegCo Brief and copies of relevant sections of the FSDO in relation to the making of the Regulation.
(Post-meeting note : The background information provided by the Administration was circulated to members vide PLC Paper No. CB(2)348.)
III.Integration of new arrivals from Mainland into the Local Community
(Paper No. CB(2)259(02))
9.At the invitation of the Chairman, DHA and other representatives of the Administration presented the discussion paper.
10.DHA informed members that a Steering Committee (SC) chaired by herself and comprising representatives from policy bureaux and departments concerned had been set up to identify the special needs of new arrivals and consider measures to assist their integration into the community. She also paid regular visits to new arrivals and non-government organizations (NGOs) providing special education and socialisation programmes to new arrivals.
11.A member commented that the SC should include representatives of NGOs. DHA responded that NGOs providing service to new arrivals had been attending SC meetings on a regular basis. Commencing mid-1996, two representatives of International Social Service - Hong Kong Branch (ISS - HK) were invited to attend SC meetings regularly. Other NGOs such as the Caritas, Society for Community Organization and the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups had also attended some SC meetings. As the SC might discuss confidential information, it would be inappropriate to appoint representatives of NGOs as standing members of the SC. Nevertheless, she took note of the member's views and would consider ways to increase NGOs' participation.
Funding for services to new arrivals
12.As to whether separate provision should be made available for services to new arrivals, DHA advised that the policy objective was to assist new arrivals integrate into the local community, and that it would be unwise to segregate public funds specifically for new arrivals. Instead, the SC would coordinate requests from various departments for additional resources for providing services to new arrivals; an additional amount of $178 million had been provided in the 1997/98 financial year for this purpose. A member remarked that assuming an estimated number of 50,000 new arrivals each year, the Government would be investing about $3 000 per month for each arrival from Mainland.
DHA informed members that the Hong Kong Jockey Club had agreed to sponsor a project "Integrated Service Project for New Arrivals' to be undertaken by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups. The project would provide counselling, referral services and group activities for newly arrived families with difficulties in adapting to the way of life in Hong Kong.
13.Members noted that the second edition of the service handbook in Chinese for new arrivals had been published, and that consideration was being given to providing an English edition. The Home Affairs Department (HAD) and service-providing departments also provided telephone enquiry hot line services, and that a videotape on life in Hong Kong and services available had been produced to help new arrivals to obtain services required.
14.The Assistant Director of Education (Services) (AD of E) informed members of the following -
- The Education Department (ED) had been working closely with schools to assist new arrival children (NAC) in finding school places in the districts they lived. There had been a much lower number of complaints about difficulties in finding school places this year.
- To enable new arrivals to seek assistance for their children's education, information leaflets with a prepaid self-addressed reply slip were distributed to new arrivals at Lo Wu immigration checkpoints, District Education Offices and District Offices of HAD.
- Induction and English extension programmes were organized by NGOs to help NAC adapt to the local and school environment. To encourage the organizing of such programmes in schools, a School-based Support Programme had been introduced in the 1997/98 school year with a block grant to public sector schools which admitted NACs, at the rate of $2 000 and $3,330 per NAC respectively for primary and secondary levels.
- Evening courses offered by the Adult Education Section of ED and basic literacy courses organized by NGOs were available to new arrivals over the age of 15 and the illiterate respectively.
15.On a member's concern that children holding Recognizance issued by the Immigration Department might have difficulties in finding school places, AD of E assured members that school placement assistance would be offered to all new arrival children who were eligible to receive education in Hong Kong.
16.Assistant Commissioner for Labour (AC for L) informed members that the Labour Department (LD) provided a full range of free employment services to residents of Hong Kong, including new arrivals. In addition, an employment and guidance centre would soon be opened at Shaukeiwan to provide comprehensive employment and guidance services tailor-made for new arrivals, including the provision of labour market information, briefing on practices and conditions of work in Hong Kong, employment counselling and career guidance. The Employees Retraining Scheme had also been extended to new arrivals, with flexibility in the age requirement for intake of new arrivals.
17.In reply to a member, AC for L advised that the counselling services and briefings would also include training on job search and interview techniques which were also provided through the adult education programmes organised by NGOs. AC for L also noted a member's suggestion that the new arrivals should also be educated to adjust their work attitude in line with the rapid working pace and work culture in Hong Kong.
|18.A member stated that some new arrivals had experienced difficulties in finding employment because their academic qualifications were not recognized by employers in Hong Kong. He enquired whether the Administration would consider creating employment opportunities for these new arrivals. AC for L responded that according to the LD experience, the problem was not particularly serious, possibly because most new arrivals seeking employment services of LD did not possess high academic qualifications. Although job creation programmes were launched in some overseas countries, she had reservation on launching similar schemes specifically for new arrivals in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, LD would see to the need of individual cases with accreditation problem to see how best job matching could be facilitated in this regard. AD of E added that in recruiting teachers, applicants from Mainland received the same treatment as other applicants. However, for applicants who could not speak fluent Cantonese, they would have a problem in competing for a teaching post.
19.On the unemployment rate of new arrivals, AC for L said that the overall unemployment rate in the last quarter was 2.4%, but no statistics were maintained on the unemployment rate of new arrivals. She advised that about 22% of new arrivals were below 15 years of age, while a large number were housewives having to take care of their children at home. These persons could not therefore be regarded as unemployed. She informed members that since April 1995, out of about 11 000 unemployed job seekers who registered for the Job Matching Programme, about 1 400 had resided in Hong Kong for less than seven years. Nevertheless, this might not give a full picture of the unemployment situation of new arrivals, as participation of the unemployed in the Job Matching Programme was not mandatory.
20.CSWO (Ag) informed members that new arrivals were eligible for financial assistance under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme after their first year of residence in Hong Kong. The residence requirement could be waived by the Director of Social Welfare in cases of genuine hardship. In the past nine months, new arrivals accounted for 2.9% of the total number of CSSA applications.
As regards support for NGOs, CSWO (Ag) explained that since 1970s, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) had been providing subvention to ISS - HK which provided post-migration service to new arrivals. Lists of new arrivals with their consent were regularly supplied by ISS - HK to SWD for any follow-up services as required. To facilitate integration of new arrivals into the community, invitations for participation in community activities were constantly sent to new arrivals.
21.In response to a member, CSWO(Ag) clarified that new arrivals could apply for day nursery services offered by child care centres located throughout the territory. According to the statistics as at October 1996, 1.6% of the applicants for day nursery services were new arrivals.
22.The Chief Housing Manager (CHM) stated that new arrivals were encouraged to register on the waiting list for public rental housing (PRH) upon their arrival. Their applications would be processed once they met the seven-year residency rule. Meanwhile, new arrivals who were dependants of PRH tenants were allowed to live with these tenants; where this resulted in overcrowded living conditions, the households concerned could apply for moving into larger flats. New arrivals with genuine housing needs on medical or social grounds would be offered compassionate rehousing on the recommendation of SWD.
23.As regards a member's question on the provision of interim housing to new arrivals, CHM explained that new arrivals could live with their families who were existing licensees of interim housing. If this resulted in an average living area of less than 2.78 square metre per person in older type interim housing, the household could also apply for a larger unit. In the event that the interim housing concerned was demolished, PRH would be provided if the residents could satisfy the eligibility criteria.
24.A member considered that the existing rule requiring over 50% of the PRH applicants' family members to have at least seven years residency in Hong Kong should be relaxed to no more than 50%. Noting that the Chief Executive of HKSAR had pledged that, in ten years' time, the waiting time for PRH would be reduced to three years, he also commented that the seven year residency requirement was discriminatory against new arrivals. He opined that, in the longer term, the seven-year residency requirement should be abolished and priority for allocation of PRH should be based on needs. CHM responded that, to ensure fairness to all applicants in the allocation of PRH, applications had to be processed in order of the application date. To cater for genuine housing needs on medical or other compassionate grounds, the seven-year residency requirement could be waived on SWD recommentation.
IV.Items for discussion at the next meeting
(Paper No. CB(2)259(03))
25.Members considered the list of discussion items for future meetings and agreed that the next meeting would be held on Monday, 20 October 1997 to discuss the following -
- implementation of new election rules for rural elections; and
- problems in building management and maintenance in relation to owners' corporations.
26.A member suggested that the Panel might consider discussing "youth policy" at a future meeting. The Chairman also asked other members to give suggestions on new items for discussion at future meetings.
27.The meeting ended at 12:45 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
15 October 1997