Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(2) 308
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref. : CB2/PL/SE/1
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Minutes of Meeting held on Thursday, 21 August 1997 at 2:30 pm in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP (Chairman)
Hon CHENG Kai-nam (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Members absent :
Hon Allen LEE, JP ]
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP ] away from Hong Kong
Hon Henry WU ]
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung ]
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP] other commitments
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho ]
Public Officers attending :
- Mr Raymond WONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 1
- Mr Clement LEUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A
- Mr Patrick CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V
- Mr Alex FONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security 2
- Mr C B CHAN
- Assistant Director of Immigration
- Mr T P WONG
- Assistant Director of Immigration
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 22 July 1997
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 102)
The minutes were confirmed.
II.Date of next meeting and items for discussion
2.Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting to be held on 18 September 1997 :
III.Plan for Panel visits
- The problem of overcrowdedness in penal institutions in Hong Kong and measures taken/to be taken by the Administration to alleviate the problem ;
- The case of violent death of a prisoner in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre - details of the case, outcome of the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the case and steps taken/to be taken by the Administration to prevent recurrence of similar incidents in the future ; and
- Follow-up on issues of Vietnamese migrants and Vietnamese illegal immigrants (Please refer to paras. 22 and 25 below).
3.The Chairman advised that the Commissioner of Correctional Services had extended an invitation to all Provisional Legislative Council (PLC) Members to visit the Stanley Prison on 2 September 1997. The Secretariat had issued a circular to all Members for the purpose (PLC Paper No. CB(2) 129 issued on 13 August 1997). She encouraged members to join the visit.
4. Regarding the plan for the Panel to visit the relevant government departments/public bodies within the session of the PLC, members agreed that liaison be made with the Administration on the proposed visits as follows :
|(a) To visit the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People ' s Liberation Army ;|
(b) To visit the Police, preferably by the end of 1997, so as to have a better understanding of the latest technology applied in Police ' s investigation, e.g. fingerprint matching.
|Please see para. 6 below|
5.The Chairman said that the Panel might visit other relevant government departments in early 1998, the details of which would be discussed later.
IV.Liaison channel between the Administration and the People ' s Liberation Army stationed in Hong Kong
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 151(01))
The proposal to visit the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People ' s Liberation Army (the Garrison)
|6.Responding to the Chairman, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 agreed to liaise with the Garrison to see if arrangements could be made for the Panel to visit them.||Adm
Liaison between the Garrison and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG)
Communication between the Garrison and the HKSARG
7.Referring to para. 6 of the Administration ' s information paper, Mr IP Kwok-him wondered whether it would be better to have one department of the HKSARG serving as the co-ordinator so that there was no need for the Garrison to liaise with each individual departments. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 advised that before the arrival of the Garrison on 1 July, the then Security Branch served as the contact point between the advance personnel of the People ' s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Hong Kong Government. Since the arrival of the Garrison on 1 July, the Security Bureau (SB) maintained daily contacts with it and provided assistance to it whenever necessary. However, various departments of the HKSARG could contact the Garrison direct on practical matters. For example, the Police had direct contacts with the Garrison in handling traffic accidents involving vehicles of the Garrison. It would be inefficient for the Police to contact the Garrison through the SB in such cases. So far, these arrangements were found to be satisfactory. The Administration would continue to develop its relationship with the Garrison in accordance with the principles provided under the Basic Law and the Garrison Law.
8.Responding to Mr Ambrose LAU, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 advised that two-way communication was maintained between the Garrison and the departments of the HKSARG. Both parties could raise matters of mutual concern for discussion. In the course of discussion, individual departments could make decisions on practical matters. Policy matters were handled by the relevant Bureaux.
9.In response to Mr MA Fung-kwok ' s enquiry, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A advised that it would be more appropriate for the Garrison than the HKSARG to organize leisure activities for members of the Garrison. In this connection, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 added that the HKSARG had offered to organize briefings, if necessary, for members of the Garrison to facilitate their understanding of the operation of the various departments and local affairs.
Provision of maintenance services to the military sites
10.In response to Mr CHAN Choi-hi ' s enquiry on para. 5 of the Administration ' s information paper, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A advised that the arrangements for the Architectural Services Department and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department to provide maintenance services to all the military sites occupied by the Garrison from 1 July were similar to maintenance services provided by the two departments to the buildings of the Provisional Urban Council, Provisional Regional Council and the Hospital Authority. The parties concerned had signed an agreement to confirm the arrangements.
Seeking assistance from the Garrison in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief
11.Mr CHENG Kai-nam noted that under Article 14 of the Basic Law, "The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may, when necessary, ask the Central People ' s Government for assistance from the garrison in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief." He asked whether there were any stipulated procedures for the HKSARG to put up such a request to the CPG when necessary. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 advised that basically, the disciplinary forces of the HKSARG had full capability to deal with any conceivable threat to Hong Kong people ' s lives and properties. It would be highly unlikely that the HKSARG would need to call upon the assistance of the Garrison. However, members considered it necessary to set out clear procedures for invoking the relevant provisions of the Basic Law and the Garrison Law. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 said that this would be discussed with the Garrison in due course.||Adm
Communication between the Garrison and the public
|12.In response to some members ' enquiries, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 advised that so far, the Administration had not received any complaints against the Garrison. The Garrison was well aware of the need to maintain a good relationship with the people of Hong Kong and had established a spokesman system to communicate directly with the media on garrison affairs. The Garrison might also consider organizing some community activities after its members had settled down in Hong Kong. Mrs Elsie TU considered it desirable for the Garrison to maintain direct communication with the public as soon as possible so as to remove any misunderstanding on it. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 undertook to convey this message to the Garrison. ||Adm
13.In response to Mr Howard YOUNG ' s enquiry, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 advised that local organizations, such as youth organizations, could contact the Garrison direct to invite them to participate in local activities.
Power of search by local law enforcement authorities
14.In response to the Chairman ' s enquiry, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A advised that before 1 July, the legal status of members of the PLA advanced party was the same as that of members of the public. As from 1 July, however, the Garrison Law which was added to Annex III to the Basic Law had been applied to the HKSAR. According to Article 7 of the Garrison Law, the law enforcement officers of the HKSAR had no power to inspect, search, examine or detain members or vehicles of the Garrison with documentary proof that they were in the course of official duties.
15.In response to Mr LAU Kong-wah ' s enquiries on paras. 8 and 9 of the Administration ' s information paper, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A advised that apart from verifying advance information on the military personnel and vehicles involved in cross-border movement provided by the Garrison, immigration and customs officials would key in the same types of data in their computer systems in the same manner as they handled other civilian cross-border vehicles and travellers. Mr LAU Kong-wah queried whether it was sufficient to rely on such an arrangement based on trust. Some members were concerned that the customs might be unaware of any prohibited materials being brought in or out of Hong Kong. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A said that the law enforcement officers would not search any person or vehicles unless they had reasonable grounds to suspect that there were irregularities. If they had reasonable grounds to suspect that individual military personnel had committed an offence under the laws of the HKSAR, they could conduct a search if that military personnel was not in the course of duty. However, if that military personnel had documentary proof that he was in the course of duty, the law enforcement officers would be in contact with the commanding officer in charge of the convoy, or the PLA Headquarters to take appropriate actions. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 also advised that under the Basic Law and the Garrison Law, members of the Garrison should abide by national laws and the laws of the HKSAR. The Garrison was very alert in keeping its discipline and ensuring the observance of the relevant legislative provisions by its members.
16.Responding to Mr MA Fung-kwok, Deputy Secretary for Security 1 advised that it was necessary for the Garrison to provide advance information to the Civil Aviation Department on its military aircraft entering the airspace of Hong Kong.
V.Follow-up on repatriation of Vietnamese migrants and resettlement of Vietnamese refugees
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 151(02))
Vietnamese migrants (VMs)
17.Members noted form para. 5 of the Administration ' s information paper that out of the 800 remaining VMs in Hong Kong, about 400 had been rejected by the Vietnamese Government as ' non-nationals ' and another 100 were their family members. Responding to Mr Ambrose LAU, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that it was difficult to verify the status of this group of people because they had no documentary proof to support their claim that they were Vietnamese nationals. The Chairman was concerned whether the Administration had any plans to handle this group of people who might become stateless and remain in Hong Kong. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that the issue was included in the Administration ' s policy review on Vietnamese refugees (VRs), migrants and illegal immigrants. The Administration would also seek the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in finding a long-term solution to solve the problem.
Vietnamese illegal immigrants (VIIs)
Speeding up the clearance process
18.Responding to the Chairman and Mr IP Kwok-him, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that VIIs referred to those arriving in Hong Kong on or after 16 June 1995. As at 21 August, there were about 990 VIIs in Hong Kong. The time required to complete the clearance process for individual VIIs varied from case to case. The average time required to clear one case was four to six months. However, the clearance process of some cases took more than one year to complete. The Administration considered the situation not satisfactory and would discuss with the Vietnamese Government on ways to speed up the clearance process.
Intercepting the VIIs
19.Responding to the Chairman and Dr LAW Cheung-kwok, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that according to latest information provided by the VIIs, about 10% of them came to Hong Kong by the land route while 90% by the sea route. The Administration had sought the assistance of the mainland authorities in intercepting the movement of the VIIs transiting in China. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V said he was not aware of the precise arrangements between the Mainland authorities and the Vietnamese Government over the repatriation of VIIs intercepted in China. He had no knowledge of whether the two governments had signed any formal agreement on the repatriation of VIIs either.
|20.Members urged the Administration to step up its efforts in intercepting the VIIs. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V assured members that the Administration would review this aspect.||Adm
Repatriation of VIIs upon arrest
21.Mr LAU Kong-wah pointed out that at the motion debate on VRs and VIIs at the PLC Meeting on 20 August 1997, the Secretary for Security had advised that the Administration was willing to enter into agreement with the Vietnamese Government on repatriation of VIIs upon arrest, subject to the latter ' s agreement and reasonable conditions. Mr LAU asked what conditions the Administration would consider as reasonable. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that the Administration wished that the conditions of the agreement would be similar to those of the agreement between the mainland authorities and Hong Kong on repatriation of illegal immigrants upon arrest. However, this proposal would not be feasible if the Vietnamese Government insisted on the current clearance process before repatriation.
|22.In response to some members ' request, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V agreed to provide the Panel at its next meeting on 18 September 1997, with detailed information on the existing arrangements for the repatriation of Chinese illegal immigrants upon arrest.||Adm
The Administration ' s policy review
Scope of the policy review
23.In response to Mr LAU Kong-wah ' s enquiry, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that the scope of the policy review covered all the problems involving VRs, VMs and VIIs, such as :
- whether to abolish the port of first asylum policy ;
- how to handle those VRs who were not accepted for resettlement by overseas countries ;
- how to handle those VMs who had been rejected by the Vietnamese Government as "non-nationals" ;
- how to speed up the clearance and repatriation process of VIIs and whether further assistance should be sought from the mainland authorities and the UNHCR.
|24.Responding to Mr CHAN Choi-hi, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V confirmed that in connection with the policy review, the Administration would also look into the consequential legislative amendments that had to be introduced.||Adm
Timetable of the policy review
|25.In response to members ' enquiries, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that it was the Administration ' s wish to proceed with the review as soon as possible. However, as this was a complex review requiring lots of information some of which had to be obtained from outside parties, the Administration had yet to have a timetable for the review. It was also difficult to predict at this stage when the review would be completed. Whilst appreciating the difficulties involved, members considered that the Administration should at least have a target date for completing the review. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V undertook to report the progress of the review to the Panel at its next meeting on 18 September 1997.||Adm
Results of the policy review
|26.In response to members ' enquiries, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security V advised that as the policy review would probably involve future negotiations with other parties such as the Vietnamese Government, it might not be appropriate for the Administration to make public the results of the review. However, the Administration would report any subsequent policy changes to the PLC. ||Adm
VI.Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports and other travel documents
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 151(03))
Appeal mechanism under the HKSAR Passport Ordinance
27.Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that the form, composition, procedures of the appeal mechanism under the HKSAR Passport Ordinance were still under consideration by the Administration and the final proposal was yet to be concluded. Basically, the Administration was comparing two options : the establishment of a new appeal mechanism or the expansion of the existing appeal mechanisms provided under the Registration of Persons Ordinance (RPO)(Cap. 177) and the Immigration Ordinance (IO)(Cap. 115). Under the RPO, the Registration of Persons Tribunal should have the jurisdiction to hear and decide any appeal by a person who was aggrieved by a decision of a registration officer not to issue a permanent identity card to that person, or to declare a permanent identity card issued to him to be invalid. Under the IO, a person against whom a removal order had been made by the Director of Immigration or Deputy Director of Immigration might appeal to the Immigration Tribunal against the removal order on the ground that on the facts of his case he enjoyed the right of abode in Hong Kong. These categories of appeal cases might be related to those under the HKSAR Passport Ordinance. It therefore appeared that it would be more cost-effective to expand the existing appeal mechanisms to cover the latter. However, the Administration needed more time to study the feasibility and desirability of this option.
28.In response to Mr Bruce LIU ' s enquiry, Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that the Administration ' s plan was to finalize the proposal on the appeal mechanism by the end of 1997. Members considered it too late as the Administration had already started processing the applications for HKSAR passports and there could be appeal cases emerged any time. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that so far, the Administration had received more than 228,000 applications and had not rejected any of them. Hence, there had not been any complaint or appeal. Nevertheless, with or without an appeal mechanism, a person aggrieved by a decision of the Director of Immigration made under the HKSAR Passport Ordinance might :
- seek judicial review of the decision ;
- seek a review of the Director ' s decision from more senior officials viz. the Secretary for Security, the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Chief Executive.
|29.Members pointed out that it would be difficult for the aggrieved person to seek judicial review, having regard to the costs and time involved. The Chairman suggested that before the appeal mechanism came into force, the Administration should consider setting up a consultative committee with unofficial members to give a second opinion on the relevant cases. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 reiterated that without an appeal mechanism, the aggrieved person might seek a review of the Director ' s decision from more senior officials as stated at para. 28(b) above. Nevertheless, the Administration would monitor the situation in the coming few months and would consider the Chairman ' s suggestion if there was an upsurge in the number of rejected cases.||Adm
|30.At the request of Mr IP Kwok-him, Assistant Director of Immigration agreed to report to the Panel in due course on the rejected cases, if any.||Adm
Eligibility for applications for travel documents by non-ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong
31.Responding to Mrs Elsie TU, Deputy Security for Secretary 2 advised that under Article 154 of the Basic Law, the HKSAR passports should be issued to the Chinese citizens who held permanent identity cards of Hong Kong. In the circumstances, the non-ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong would in general not be eligible for applying for the HKSAR passport unless they could satisfy the two conditions i.e. Chinese nationality and permanent residency of the HKSAR. If they could not satisfy these two conditions, they could apply for other types of travel documents, such as the Document of Identity for Visa Purposes.
32.Mrs Elsie TU asked whether a person who was not of Chinese blood could apply for Chinese nationality. Assistant Director of Immigration (Mr T P WONG) advised that the person could apply in accordance with the provisions of the Nationality Law of the People ' s Republic of China. Assistant Director of Immigration (Mr C B CHAN) added that the Administration would issue a pamphlet on the subject later.
|33.At the request of the Chairman, Deputy Secretary for Security 2 agreed to provide information on the following after the meeting :||Adm
- the channel for the non-ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong to apply for Chinese nationality; and
- the ways for enhancing the travel convenience of those non-ethnic Chinese who were permanent residents of Hong Kong, e.g. making visa-free access arrangements for them.
Visa-free access arrangements for holders of travel documents of Hong Kong
Visa-free access arrangements for BN(O) passport holders
34.Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that before 1 July 1997, a total of 80 countries had granted visa-free access to BN(O) passport holders and the situation remained unchanged. Though some of those countries had certain misunderstanding of the situation in Hong Kong after the handover on 1 July, the Administration had taken prompt action to liaise with the relevant countries or consulate generals. For example, at the request of the HKSARG, the Malaysian Government was considering to reverse its decision to impose a visa requirement on HKSAR passport holders and BN(O) passport holders. A formal reply was being awaited. However, according to press reports, the Malaysian Government had just decided to reverse its decision.
35.In response to Mr Howard YOUNG ' s enquiry, Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that the Administration had sought clarification with the authorities of Indonesia and confirmed that they would continue to grant visa-free access to BN(O) passport holders. However, the period involved might be shorter than before and would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Visa-free access arrangements for Certificate of Identity (CI) holders
36.Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that before 1 July 1997, Singapore, South Africa and Republic of Korea had granted visa-free access to CI holders and the situation remained unchanged. With effect from 10 July, Bangladesh granted visa-free access to CI holders, BN(O) passport holders and HKSAR passport holders. Moreover, some other countries were considering to offer the same.
Visa-free access arrangements for Document of Identity for Visa Purposes (DI) holders
37.Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that after 1 July 1997, the Administration was informed by France and Spain that they needed to reconsider whether to grant visa-free access to DI holders. According to the Consulate General of these two countries, they were concerned whether, after 1 July 1997, DI holders could be repatriated back to Hong Kong when necessary. The Administration had reassured them that the situation remained unchanged after 1 July. Representatives of the Administration might go to France and Spain to have a direct dialogue with them if situation warranted.
Visa-free access arrangements for HKSAR passport holders
38.Referring to the Annex to the Administration ' s information paper, Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that at present, a total of 40 countries had granted visa-free access to HKSAR passport holders and another 8 countries had publicly announced that HKSAR passports holders would be accorded the same treatment as BN(O) passport holders. In the coming few months, the Administration would focus its efforts in persuading the European countries. Apart from maintaining close contacts with the consulate general of the relevant countries, representatives of the Administration might go to the relevant countries to promote the HKSAR passport. The Chief Executive would also promote the HKSAR passport during his visit to Europe in October 1997.
39.Mr Howard YOUNG suggested the Administration to focus its promotion efforts on those European countries which had granted visa-free access to BN(O) passport holders, such as Italy, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 advised that one difficulty in discussing with the European Union was that members of the European Community tended to the common positions on visas. Nevertheless, apart from discussing with European Union countries direct, the Administration would maintain close contact with the British Government through the British Consulate General who would be closer to the thinking of members of the European Community. The HKSARG might seek the assistance of the Chinese authorities if necessary.
40.In response to Mr Howard YOUNG ' s enquiry, Assistant Director of Immigration advised that all of the 40 countries granting visa-free access to HKSAR passport holders enjoyed visa-free access to Hong Kong.
VII.Close of meeting
41.The meeting ended at 4:55 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
8 September 1997