Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)584
(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, 20 October 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 Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

Member Absent :

Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho

Public Officers Attending :

Item II

Deputy Director of Home Affairs

Item III

Deputy Director of Home Affairs

Mr Francis LO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Item IV

Mr Francis LO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Miss Angela LUK
Assistant Director of Home Affairs

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Raymond LAM
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising
(PLC Paper No. CB(2)439)

The minutes of the meeting held on 15 September 1997 were confirmed.

2.Members noted that the Administration had provided the LegCo Brief and sections of the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (FSDO) in relation to the making of the regulation under FSDO (PLC Paper No. CB(2)348). The Secretary for Home Affairs would move a motion on 29 October 1997 to make the regulation by Resolution.

3.Members noted that the Administration had provided further information on the range of government services and assistance available to Hong Kong residents outside the territory (PLC Paper No. CB(2)425). As the subject was not within the policy purview of the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB), the Chairman advised that any further enquiries on government services available to Hong Kong residents in the Mainland and overseas countries should more appropriately be dealt with by the Constitutional Affairs Panel and the Security Panel respectively.

II.Implementation of the new election rules for rural elections
(Paper No. CB(2)426(01))

4.Deputy Director of Home Affairs (DDHA) informed members that the new model rules for rural elections promulgated by the Heung Yee Kuk provided for, among other things, one-person-one-vote, equal voting rights for men and women and fixed four-year terms for elected representatives. There had been good progress in the implementation of the model rules, as some 94% out of a total of 555 villages had already adopted the rules. He did not envisage any particular problem in the full implementation of these rules in the remaining 6% of villages. He added that while some villages on outlying islands had made a slow start in adopting the new rules, most of them had now complied with the new arrangements, and female residents were elected representatives of some villages.

5.As regards the time-table for implementation of the new election rules in the remaining 6% of villages, DDHA said that the Administration would review the situation by the end of 1997. The aim was to ensure full implementation of the new rules in all villages by March 1998. To his knowledge, no village objected to the new rules in principle, except that some villages had experienced difficulty in the verification of eligible voters.

6.On the question of whether non-indigenous residents of villages were entitled to vote in rural elections, Hon LAU Wong-fat, also Chairman of Heung Yee Kuk, explained that all non-indigenous residents over the age of 18, who satisfied the seven-year permanent residency requirement of HK and possessed proof of their residential address, were entitled to vote and stand as candidates in rural elections.

7.In response to a member, DDHA said that rural elections usually attained high voting rates, probably because of the long history of rural elections, and the fact that villagers had a good understanding of the candidates. In this respect, he undertook to provide information on the rates of voter registration and voting in rural elections. He also noted a member's suggestion of re-scheduling rural elections to tie in with District Board elections.Adm

III.Problems in building management and maintenance in relation to owners' corporations
(Paper Nos. CB(2)426(02) and CB(2)426(03))

8.At the invitation of the Chairman, DDHA highlighted the salient points in the Administration's paper. He stressed that while Home Affairs Department (HAD) would try its best to assist owners' corporations (OCs) to deal with building management problems, the Administration should avoid encroachment on private property rights, and should not make decisions for OCs.

Licensing of property management companies

9.In response to a member, Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS(HA)) said that most reputable private management companies were members of the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies. The Association had issued a code of practice to its members and played an effective role in regulating the conduct of property management companies. A list of its members was available at HAD offices. The Administration did not intend to introduce a licensing system for property management companies.

Building Management Co-ordination Teams

10.DDHA informed members that 9 Building Management Co-ordination Teams (BMCTs) had been set up in 9 urban districts throughout the territory. Each BMCT comprised one Housing Manager, one Assistant Housing Manager and two Housing Officers, all of them were seconded from the Housing Department. The work of a BMCT was supervised by the Building Management Co-ordination Committee (BMCC) at district level. The Administration was considering strengthening community participation by appointing non-official members to BMCCs. The Administration also planned to establish 4 additional BMCTs in other districts next year, subject to availability of resources. A member commented that HAD should consider providing permanent staff of HAD to BMCTs in order to build up expertise in building management matters. He considered that regular rotation of secondees from the Housing Department might not be conducive to the continuity of knowledge and experience in this area. DDHA responded that secondees from HD were experienced officers and they worked with HAD staff as a team in providing services to OCs.

Proposed Building Management Resource Centres

11.Members generally welcomed the proposal to set up a Building Management Resource Centre (BMRC) in Kowloon on a pilot basis. DDHA said that the participation of the Law Society of Hong Kong (LAWSO), Hong Kong Society of Accountants, Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies, and the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors had been enlisted in providing information and free professional advice to owners and OCs of private buildings. A wide range of building management-related information, such as the register of owners of buildings and precedent cases related to building management, would be made available at the BMRC. In addition to the general information and advice given by staff at the Centre, owners or OCs could make appointments to obtain professional advice from the professional bodies. While basic mediation would be provided at the Centre, legal arbitration would be dealt with by the Lands Tribunal or higher courts under the Building Management Ordinance (BMO).

12. A member commented that the Administration should take a more pro-active approach in assisting owners to form OCs, and to help them tackle building management problems. He was concerned that one BMRC was far from adequate in meeting the needs of the large number of OCs throughout the territory. He suggested that both standard information packages and professional advice should be available at all District Offices. Moreover, some Liaison Officers (LOs) of HAD should be given special training to provide advice on building management problems. DDHA responded that if the first BMRC proved to be effective, it was the Administration's intention to establish more BMRCs, subject to availability of resources. He assured members that the BMRC materials would also be made available at all District Offices. As regards training of LOs, HAD frequently organized workshops to enhance LOs' knowledge of building management, and that HAD staff in District Offices were able to answer enquiries relating to building management. As regards the suggestion of enlisting the support of LAWSO to station a duty lawyer at each District Office to provide professional advice, DDHA said that it would depend on the availability of volunteers from LAWSO. In this regard, he would relay the member's suggestion to LAWSO for consideration.Adm

Proposed legislative amendments to the Building Management Ordinance

13.PAS(HA) informed members that the Administration would introduce legislative amendments to BMO in February 1998 to expressly empower OCs to carry out renovation, improvement or decoration works to the common parts, facilities and services of a building, in addition to repairs and maintenance.

14.A member commented that the proposed legislative amendment could possibly lead to more disputes among OCs and heavier financial burden on owners of buildings. He doubted whether the bill was essential to the normal operation of the HKSAR Government, and suggested that introduction of the bill could be deferred until the first Legislative Council of HKSAR was formed. PAS(HA) explained that as there were many private buildings in the territory, building management was an issue affecting the daily life of a large number of people. There was therefore a need for early introduction of the proposed legislative amendments to address the current problems in building maintenance. In view of the High Court ruling that OCs were not empowered under the BMO to renovate or improve the common parts of buildings unless with the consent of all owners, many OCs had been reluctant to carry out building maintenance works which often involved some degree of building improvement or renovation works. These works were often intertwined. Responding to a member, PAS(HA) said that HAB would introduce the necessary legislative amendments based on feedbacks on problems encountered in this respect.

Fire Drill

15.In response to the Chairman, DDHA assured members that the Administration was committed to encouraging fire drills for private buildings, and that fire drills were organised for all government buildings on a regular basis.

IV.Review of Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance
(Paper Nos. CB(2)426(04) and CB(2)426(05))

16.PAS(HA) highlighted the salient points in the Administration's paper. He informed members that the Hotel Accommodation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1996 had been introduced to the former Legislative Council in 1996 seeking amendments to the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance (HAGAO). However, due to the large number of bills which must be passed before 1 July 1997, the Second Reading Debate on the Bill was not resumed. The Administration was considering re-introducing the Bill in 1998. The question of whether compliance with the Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC) of a building should be made a licensing requirement under HAGAO was under consideration.

Issues arising from the Lands Tribunal's injunctions on two guesthouses for non-compliance with DMC of a building

17.Referring to a recent case in which the Lands Tribunal (LT) issued an injunction order on two guesthouses for breach of DMC of the building, some members expressed concern that the Administration had not yet taken action against the two guesthouses. They were of the view that the Administration should immediately suspend or cancel the licence of the guesthouse in question. In response, PAS(HA) explained that while HAD was implementing the licensing scheme under HAGAO, HAB or HAD was not responsible for the execution of injunction orders issued by LT. On the licensing aspect, HAB was seeking legal advice on the appropriate action to be taken under section 10 of HAGAO, and would take action as soon as legal advice was available. In this connection, the Administration was also reviewing its licensing policy in respect of -

  1. guesthouses which had been issued an injunction by LT for non-compliance with the DMC of a building; and

  2. guesthouses which appeared to be in breach of the DMC of a building, but not subject to an LT injunction.

In considering changes to the licensing policy, PAS(HA) said that the Administration would need to assess the impact on the guesthouse industry and tourism. He hoped to be able to report the Administration's decision to the Panel in December 1997.Adm

18.A member asked about the penalty to a guesthouse which continued to operate after its licence was suspended or cancelled. In reply, PAS (HA) said that, under section 5 of HAGAO, the owner of the guesthouse was liable on conviction to a fine of $200,000 and to imprisonment for two years, and to a fine of $20,000 for each day during which the offence continued.

19.Noting that there were at present a total of 621 licensed guesthouses, a member enquired about the number of licensed guesthouses which were in breach of the DMC of the buildings concerned. PAS(HA) replied that the Administration did not have such information as compliance with the DMC of a building was not a licensing requirement under the existing HAGAO. The Government held the view that as DMC was a private contract among the owners to which Government was not a party, the Government should not attempt to interpret private contracts such as DMC in a non-judicial manner. In view of members' concern, PAS(HA) undertook to try to identify the relevant information from available records.Adm

20.As regards a member's concern on the possible attempt of guesthouses to amend the DMC of a building, PAS(HA) responded that this should be resolved by the owners themselves as DMC was a private deed among owners of a private building.

V.Items for discussion at the next meeting
(Paper Nos. CB(2)426(06) and CB(2)426(07))

21.Members considered the list of discussion items for future meetings and agreed that the next meeting would be held on Monday, 17 November 1997 to discuss the following -

  1. proposed court procedures and other matters concerning the attachment of income orders for enforcement of maintenance orders (item proposed by the Administration);

  2. youth policy (item proposed by Hon Kennedy WONG); and

  3. protection of rights of women (item proposed by Hon Mrs Peggy LAM).

22.Members also agreed to include the following in the list of discussion items for future meetings -

  1. progress of work of the Equal Opportunities Commission;

  2. overhanging advertisement signboards outside buildings; and

  3. power of OCs' in relation to the control of vice activities in private buildings.

(Post-meeting note : As Hon Kennedy WONG will be out of Hong Kong on 17 November, he suggested to defer discussion of youth policy to the December meeting. The Chairman therefore suggested to advance discussion on the progress of work of the Equal Opportunities Commission to the November meeting. The proposed changes to the agenda were circulated to members vide PLC Paper No. CB(2)471 and were agreed.)

VI.Any other business

Schedule of regular Panel meetings for January to March 1998

23.Members agreed to schedule the meetings for January to March 1998 as follows -

    --Monday, 19 January 1998
    --Monday, 16 February 1998
    --Monday, 16 March 1998

24.The meeting ended at 12:30 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
13 November 1997