Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(2) 632
(The minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref. : CB2/PL/SE/1
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Minutes of Meeting held on Thursday, 16 October 1997 at 4:10 pm
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP (Chairman)
Hon CHENG Kai-nam (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Allen LEE, JP
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Henry WU
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Member attending :
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Members absent :
Hon MA Fung-kwok ]
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP ]
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP] other commitments
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee]
Hon KAN Fook-yee ]
Public Officers attending :
- Mr Alex FONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 2
- Mr H T LUI
- Deputy Director of Home Affairs
- Home Affairs Department
- Mr W D CHENG
- Deputy Director of Buildings
- Buildings Department
- Mr K Y TSANG
- Deputy Director of Fire Services
- Fire Services Department
- Mrs Sarah KWOK
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security B
- Ms Maureen WONG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
- Mr Raymond FAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Mr TSE Chan-fai
- District Commander, Border District
- Hong Kong Police Force
- Mr TSANG Hing-kam
- Chief Superintendent (Control Points)
- Customs and Excise Department
- Mr MAK Kwai-yun
- Assistant Director (Control & Investigation)
- Immigration Department
- Mr Raymond WONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 1
- Mr Howard CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E (Acting)
- Mr LAI Pak-hay
- Chief Superintendent of Police
Clerk in attendance :
Staff in attendance :
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1
- Miss Salumi CHAN
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1
I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 18 September 1997
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 436)
The minutes were confirmed.
II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 433(01))
Items for discussion at the next Panel meeting
2.Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting to be held on 20 November 1997 :
- Emergency ambulance services (Item A1 of the Panel's list of outstanding issues) ;
- Transfer of prisoners of foreign nationalities to their countries of origin (Item A2 of the Panel's list of outstanding issues)
-As suggested by Mr LAU Kong-wah, this item would also cover arrangements for transfer of prisoners from the Mainland who wished to be sent back to the Mainland to serve their sentences ;
- Long-term Prison Sentences Review Regulations (Item B1 of the Panel's list of outstanding issues as proposed by the Administration) ; and
- Indebtedness of Police officers (proposed by the Administration).
(Post-meeting note : At the request of the Administration and with the concurrence of the Chairman, the item on " Indebtedness of Police officers' would be replaced by " Policy and arrangements on sharing of assets confiscated from drug traffickers'.)
Items for discussion at future Panel meetings
3.Members agreed to include the following items into the Panel's list of outstanding issues for discussion at future meetings :
- Policy review on the issues of Vietnamese Migrants/Refugees/Illegal Immigrants ;
- Processing of overseas applications for visas to Hong Kong ;
- Entry visa for Taiwan visitors ;
- Non-emergency ambulance service in the Restricted Area of the new airport at Chep Lap Kok and emergency drill for the new airport
|-The Chairman said that subject to clarification with the Administration that these subjects fell within the jurisdiction of the Security Bureau (SB), they could be discussed along with Item A3 of the Panel's list of outstanding issues - Security arrangements for the new airport at Chep Lap Kok ;||Clerk
- Problem of illegal workers in Hong Kong ;
- Frontier Closed Area and Frontier Permit ; and
- Domestic violence cases.
Schedule of Panel meetings in 1998
4.Members agreed to the schedule of Panel meetings in 1998 as follows :
--Thursday, 15 January 1998 at 2:30 pm
--Thursday, 19 February 1998 at 2:30 pm
--Thursday, 19 March 1998 at 2:30 pm
III.Measures to improve fire safety
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 424, CB(2) 449(01) and CB(2) 449(02))
Papers tabled by the Administration
5.The following papers were tabled by the Administration at the meeting :
- Statement by Deputy Secretary for Security 2 on " Measures to Improve Fire Safety " ; and
- The Administration's response and follow-up action to the recommendations in the Final Report of the Inquiry into the Garley Building Fire.
(Post-meeting note : The papers were issued to absent members after the meeting vide PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 449(01) and CB(2) 449(02).)
BBriefing by the Administration
6.In brief, Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that the Administration would adopt a five-pronged approach to improve fire safety, namely -
- strengthening the legislative and administrative framework to upgrade fire safety facilities in buildings, such as old commercial buildings ;
- stepping up enforcement actions ;
- strengthening the response capabilities of the emergency services ;
- promoting a fire safety culture among building management ; and
- promoting a fire safety culture amongst the community.
7.Deputy Secretary for Security 2 also briefed members on the Administration's programmes and strategies on the five elements mentioned above.
DiscussionsFire safety facilities for old commercial buildings
8.Mr Henry WU considered that the requirement for installation of an automatic sprinkler system in pre-1973 commercial buildings would pose technical and financial difficulties on building owners. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 said that the Administration was aware of the difficulties involved and was considering the possibility of providing financial support to the owners concerned through a loan scheme. As pointed out in the Chief Executive's Policy Address, the Administration was working to introduce a Mandatory Building Safety Inspection Scheme in 1998 and would set up a $500 million " Urban Rehabilitation Fund " to provide loans to owners of old buildings in targeted areas for rehabilitation. SB was looking into the feasibility of covering fire safety installations under the Fund. It aimed to finalize the details of the loan scheme by the time the new legislative requirements were put into practice.
Stepping up enforcement actions
9.Mr CHAN Choi-hi considered that as the Administration had secured additional resources for the coming financial year to support fire safety work, it should set its priority on stepping up enforcement actions by deploying more staff to inspect fire safety installations of various buildings. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 reiterated that the Administration would adopt the five-pronged approach to improve fire safety and all of the five elements involved were considered important. To strengthen enforcement actions, additional posts would be created in the Fire Services Department (FSD), Buildings Department (BD), Labour Department (LD) and Home Affairs Department (HAD). Deputy Director of Fire Services also advised that with the additional resources, FSD would adopt a more proactive approach in inspecting fire safety installations of buildings, instead of just acting on complaints.
10.Mr LAU Kong-wah asked for the duties of the additional posts. As it would take time to create and fill such posts, he was concerned whether the Administration had any short term measures to step up enforcement actions.
The Administration's responses were summarized as follows :
- 114 additional posts in FSD
About one third of the 114 additional posts in FSD would be deployed for stepping up enforcement actions, another one third for promotion and liaison work, such as training of the Fire Safety Ambassadors and assisting in the launching of a major publicity campaign on fire safety, and the remaining one third for assisting in the drafting of legislation and enforcement of the proposed requirements to upgrade fire service installations in old commercial buildings, and the fire safety aspects of the new statutory licensing scheme for karaokes. Before the creation of the additional posts in April 1998, FSD would, as a short term measure, continue to deploy staff of the operational units to take up enforcement and promotion work. In the first nine months of 1997, FSD had conducted various inspections as follows :
|No. of inspections
|Commercial buildings||around 10 000
|Industrial buildings ||around 4 000
|Residential buildings||around 5 000
|Karaoke establishments||around 700
During each inspection, FSD issued publicity materials on fire safety to members of the public. In the first nine months of 1997, it had distributed about 75 000 copies of the publicity pamphlets.
- 23 additional posts in BD
The 23 additional posts in BD would be deployed for fire prevention work particularly in the 400 pre-1973 commercial buildings. Before the creation of these posts, BD would continue to deploy 57 technical/professional staff on a part/full time basis to step up inspection. So far, inspections had been conducted on 40 buildings and the owners of 34 such buildings had given a positive response.
- 88 additional posts in LD
The 88 additional posts in LD would be deployed for implementing the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance and Regulation, under which the employers were required to take care of the safety of their employees, including safety against fire.
- Four additional Building Management Co-ordination Teams (BMCTs) and formation of a Special Liaison team in HAD
The four additional BMCTs, each comprising four members, would be established in the coming financial year to strengthen HAD's building management programmes. These, together with the existing nine BMCTs, would serve 13 districts respectively. Moreover, a Special Liaison team of 12 Liaison Officers would be formed to encourage the formation of Owners' Corporations in commercial buildings and to promote the fire safety culture among building management.
11.Responding to the Chairman, Deputy Secretary for Security 2 confirmed that the Administration would have to seek the approval of the Establishment Subcommittee of the Provisional Legislative Council in due course on the creation of some of the additional posts in accordance with established procedures. The Chairman said that the Panel noted the Administration's proposal on the creation of posts which needed to be examined in detail. At the moment, the Panel was not in a position to support the proposal.
Promoting fire safety culture amongst the community
12.The Administration's responses to the questions raised by the Chairman and Mr CHENG Kai-nam were summarized as follows :
- Major publicity campaign on fire safety
The Administration had already started to plan for the major publicity campaign on fire safety to be launched in 1998. Some initial ideas on the events to be included and media to be involved had been drawn up. Present intention was that a committee involving non-officials would be set up for this campaign.
- Fire Safety Ambassadors Scheme
FSD's Fire Safety Ambassadors Scheme, initially targeted at boy scouts and girl guides, would be expanded by encouraging building management personnel and interested members of the public to join the Scheme.
- Publicity at the district level
HAD was actively considering proposals to strengthen community involvement at the district level, including the setting up of committees with the participation of non-officials to advise on fire safety and prevention matters.
- Publicity in schools
Education on fire safety had been included in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools since two years ago. Teaching kits and video tapes on fire safety were provided to the Education Department (ED) for distribution to schools. At present, FSD and ED were jointly reviewing the need to strengthen education in this regard. References were made to relevant experience in overseas countries.
13.On the Fire Safety Ambassadors Scheme, Mr CHENG Kai-nam pointed out that recently, he had attended a meeting of an Estate Management Advisory Committee where two Fire Safety Ambassadors were elected within one minute. It seemed that the persons elected had no idea of their duties and obligations. He was therefore concerned how FSD would ensure the effectiveness of the Scheme. Deputy Director of Fire Services advised that the persons elected would be provided with the relevant training. When they had attained the required standard, FSD would issue to each of them a Certificate of Appointment as Fire Safety Ambassadors. They were mainly required to act as front line fire watchers and to help report fire hazards as well as disseminate fire safety messages to the public. FSD had also established a liaison group to maintain regular contact with them to keep up their interests and participation in the Scheme. Mr CHENG Kai-nam was concerned that the persons elected, being unaware of their duties and obligations before election, would not actively participate in the Scheme. Deputy Director of Fire Services noted his concern and undertook to reflect this within FSD. FSD
IV.Extension of operating hours of the cross-border checkpoints
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 433(02))
Briefing by the Administration
14.Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport advised that from 1994 to 1996, there had been a significant increase in the daily average passenger throughput at Lo Wu crossing, but the increase did not exceed 10% each year. In September 1997, the daily average passenger throughput at Lo Wu crossing increased to 157 120, representing an increase of 15% over the previous twelve months. At present, Lo Wu crossing operated from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm. At the working level the Shenzhen authorities had raised the possibility of extending its closing hour by one hour and the proposal was being considered. The Administration would pursue the proposal should there be substantial demand.
DiscussionsExtending the closing hour of Lo Wu crossing by 1 hour
15.Mr Ambrose LAU wondered why the Administration considered to extend the closing hour of Lo Wu crossing by 1 hour, but not 2 hours or other alternatives. He asked for the justifications of the proposal. Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport advised that the paramount factors to be considered was the demand from the public, compatibility with the opening hours on the Shenzhen side and availability of connecting transport services from the crossing. Community demand could be assessed in two ways. Firstly, the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau had started in October 1996 to study the transport pattern across the border. The information obtained from the study would be useful in assessing the demand for extending the operating hours. Secondly, the Administration was closely monitoring the daily passenger throughput at various crossing points and deploying additional resources particularly during peak hours to cope with increases in demand. Members considered it inappropriate to assess the demand on the basis of the existing passenger throughput as people's behaviour was governed by the availability of facilities. Knowing that the Lo Wu crossing closed at 11:00 pm, people who could not arrive at Lo Wu before then would stay at Shenzhen for the night. It was therefore important to assess the size of this group of people who originally wanted to cross the border through Lo Wu after 11:00 pm.
|16.To facilitate the assessment of the actual demand for extending the operating hours of Lo Wu crossing, Mr Howard YOUNG suggested the Administration to consider organizing an open day at Lo Wu crossing around Christmas or Chinese New Year, such as the one organized before the formal opening of the Western Harbour Tunnel. The Chairman requested the Administration to provide information on the number of Hong Kong people residing in Shenzhen in the recent three years. As this group of people travelled frequently across the border, the required information should be one of the useful indicators of the demand.||Adm|
Advancing the opening hour of Lo Wu crossing by 1 hour
17.Mr LAU Kong-wah pointed out that some people, such as students, needed to cross the border early in the morning. He asked whether the Administration had considered the feasibility of advancing the opening hour of Lo Wu crossing from 7:00 am to 6:00 am. Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport advised that in considering proposals to extend the operating hours of crossing points, the Administration had to assess if the demand from the public justified it, if there was available public transport from Lo Wu and if the Shenzhen authorities would agree to the proposal.
Facilitating the accessibility of Lo Wu by public transport vehicles
|18.Mr LAU Kong-wah opined that the Administration should consider making arrangements to facilitate the accessibility of Lo Wu by public transport vehicles other than the railway, such as by designating a place near Lo Wu crossing as their terminal. Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport undertook to look into the proposal and provide a response later.||Adm
Proposed 24-hour opening of the Lok Ma Chau crossing to tourist buses and private cars
|19.Responding to Mr Howard YOUNG, Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport advised that since November 1994, the operating hour of Lok Ma Chau crossing had been extended to 24 hours each day for goods vehicles to spread the flow of traffic and to match the 24-hour opening of container terminals in Kwai Chung. As there was only about an average of 1 000 goods vehicles using the crossing from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am each day, keeping the crossing open overnight did not involve much resources. In the circumstances, Mr Howard YOUNG requested the Administration to consider opening the Lok Ma Chau crossing 24 hours daily to tourist buses and private cars. He pointed out that most of the tourist spots in Shenzhen closed at 10:00 pm and tourists from Hong Kong might not be able to cross the border through the Lo Wu crossing before 11:00 pm. The only option they had was to stay in Shenzhen for the night. If this proposal was implemented, they could cross the border through Lok Ma Chau crossing at any time. Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport commented that such arrangements had to be compatible with those on the Shenzhen side to be operable. However, she undertook to look into this proposal. ||Adm
20.Responding to Mr CHENG Kai-nam, Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport advised that the Administration was discussing with the Shenzhen authorities on the proposal of allowing those vehicles crossing the border through Man Kam To or Sha Tau Kok crossing in the day time to return through the Lok Ma Chau crossing at night. The proposal would soon be implemented, the exact timing would depend on the availability of the computer network being established on the Shenzhen side.
V.Handling of traffic accidents involving Police officers
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 433(03))
Briefing by the Administration
21.Deputy Secretary for Security 1 briefed members on the information paper provided by the Administration.
DiscussionsStatistics on traffic accidents involving Police officers on duty
22.In response to Mr WONG Siu-yee's enquiry, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 provided the following statistics on traffic accidents involving Police officers on duty :
(Jan to June)
|No. of traffic accidents|| 640||560||247
|No. of Police officers prosecuted for careless driving|
|No. of Police officers prosecuted for reckless driving|
| -||- 1|| -
23.Referring to the number of around 14 000 traffic accidents each year, Mr WONG Siu-yee pointed out that the number involving Police officers on duty was on the high side. To improve the situation, he requested the Administration to provide suitable training to Police officers. Chief Superintendent of Police responded that the situation had been improving as revealed from the relevant statistics as follows :
|Average no. of traffic accidents involving Police officers on duty per month|
24.Deputy Secretary for Security 1 added that Police officers were required to attend basic and further driving training courses in the Police Driving School. Remedial training might be provided, if necessary, for Police officers involved in traffic accidents on duty.
|25.On the statistics at paragraph 22 above, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide information on the number of traffic accidents involving Police officers on duty and members of the public, e.g. careless driving of a Police officer on duty causing injury to a member of the public, and the number of complaints lodged by the affected persons.||Adm
Impartiality of investigations
26.The Chairman considered that as traffic accidents involving Police officers were investigated by the Police itself, members of the public were concerned about the impartiality of the investigations. She quoted that recently, a senior Police officer had openly commented on a traffic accident involving a Police officer on duty before formal investigation of the case. She considered it unwise to do so. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 and Chief Superintendent of Police advised that stringent procedures were in place to ensure impartiality of investigations on traffic accidents involving Police officers. Their responses were summarized as follows :
VI.Close of meeting
- Traffic accidents involving Police officers off duty were handled in the same way as any other traffic accidents involving members of the public, except that the investigation of the case was scrutinised by a more senior Police officer, usually at the rank of Superintendent. Traffic accidents involving Police officers on duty were investigated by the Special Investigation Team of the respective Traffic Region where the accident occurred. Such cases would be drawn to the attention of the Senior Superintendent in charge of the Regional Traffic formation who would personally endorse action to be taken ;
- The decision of whether to prosecute a Police officer on duty involved in a serious traffic accident was taken by the Department of Justice ;
- The decision of whether to conduct an inquest into the death of a person involved in the traffic accident was taken by the Coroner ; and
- Members of the public who were not satisfied with the investigation results could lodge their complaints to the Complaints Against Police Office.
27.The meeting ended at 5:35 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
10 November 1997