LC Paper No. CB(2)181/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/BC/1/98
Bills Committee on
Holidays (Amendment) Bill 1998
Minutes of Meeting
held on Thursday, 16 July 1998 at 10:45 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo (Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon SZETO Wah
Member Absent :
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Public Officers Attending :
- Item II
- Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG
- Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)
- Mr A M REYNALDS
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (5)
- Ms Susanne HO
- Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (5)
- Ms Shandy LIU
- Senior Government Counsel, Department of Justice
Clerk in Attendance :
- Mrs Constance LI
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Staff in Attendance :
- Miss Anita HO
- Assistant Legal Adviser 2
- Mr Stanley MA
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6
I. Election of Chairman
Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo was elected as the Presiding Member for election of Chairman of the Bills Committee.
2. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo was nominated by Mr LAU Chin-shek as Chairman of the Bills Committee, and the nomination was seconded by Mr Howard YOUNG. Mr CHENG accepted the nomination. There being no other nomination, Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo was elected as Chairman of the Bills Committee.
II. Meeting with the Administration
(LC Paper No. LS2/98-99)
3. At the invitation of the Chairman, Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1) (DS(EM)1) briefed members on the salient points in the LegCo Brief (EMB/CR1/876/80 IX) on the Bill. He said that the Executive Council advised and the Chief Executive in Council ordered on 23 June 1998 that two of the existing general holidays observed in 1997 and 1998, i.e. Sino-Japanese War Victory Day (the third Monday in August) and 2 October (the day after National Day) should be replaced by Labour Day (1 May) and the Buddha's Birthday (the eighth day of the fourth lunar month) from 1999 onwards. The Administration therefore introduced the Holidays (Amendment) Bill 1998 into the Legislative Council on 8 July 1998. Since there was an urgent need to put in place arrangements for the 1999 holidays, the Administration hoped that Members could examine the Bill expeditiously and support its early passage. In this connection, the Administration intended to resume the Second Reading Debate on 29 July 1998.
4. DS(EM)1 informed members that a targeted consultation exercise had been conducted in December 1997 to seek the views of major employers�and employees�associations and the financial services sector on which two existing general holidays should be deleted to make way for the two new general holidays from 1999 onwards. The majority view indicated that the Sino-Japanese War Victory Day (SJWVD) and 2 October could be deleted. DS(EM)1 also referred members to a Government press release issued on 26 June 1998 (which was tabled at the meeting) that although SJWVD would no longer be a general holiday from 1999 onwards, that day would still be known as SJWVD to commemorate those who took part in the resistance movement. DS(EM)1 stressed that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) would not forget our history. This underlined the importance and respect that the Government attached to maintaining the spirit of SJWVD. He added that an official ceremony would also be held annually on Chung Yeung Festival from 1998 onwards to pay tribute to those who died in defence of Hong Kong.
Scope of the targeted consultation exercise
5. Some members remarked that the Administration had only consulted the financial sector, major employers�organisations and some employees�associations. They were disappointed that the war veteran groups, teachers�associations, educational institutions and concerned groups were not consulted on the proposed deletion of SJWVD as a general holiday. The arrangement gave the impression that the Administration had pre-conceived ideas or preference about which general holidays should be deleted during consultation.
6. DS(EM)1 assured members that the Administration did not have any pre-conceived plans in this regard. He pointed out that there were only six existing general holidays that were not statutory holidays which could be considered for deletion in this exercise. As general holidays would affect a wide range of economic activities, the financial sector and major employers�and employees�associations were consulted on their preferences on which two existing general holidays could be deleted. Apart from the 34 organizations consulted, the Administration had also received written submissions from two other organizations which expressed similar views as those consulted.
Reasons for capping the number of general holidays at 17 days a year
7. Some members asked the Administration about the reasons for capping the maximum number of general holidays at 17 days a year. Mr LAU Chin-shek remarked that when the Labour Day was added as a new statutory holiday under the Employment Ordinance, there was no intention that this should lead to the deletion of an existing general holiday under the Holidays Ordinance.
8. DS(EM)1 replied that the decision to cap the number of general holidays at 17 days a year was made by the Executive Council in 1997 following wide public consultation. He pointed out that Hong Kong already compared favourably with other neighbouring economies in the number of general holidays. He stressed that adding an additional holiday would increase the employers�overall wage bill by 0.2% or approximately $600 million in economic cost. The addition of the Labour Day as a statutory holiday as from 1999 would increase the number of statutory holidays in Hong Kong from 11 to 12. On the question of whether the Labour Day should also be made a general holiday under the Holidays Ordinance, DS(EM)1 said that the Provisional Legislative Council had discussed the issues in detail. To avoid confusion to establishments such as banks as to whether they should open on Labour Day, it was finally agreed that it should also be made a general holiday. In view of the Executive Council's decision of capping the number of general holidays at 17 days a year, DS(EM)1 said that any addition would have to be offset by deletion of an existing general holiday.
Criteria for determining the schedule of general holidays
9. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung questioned whether there was any meaning in fighting for addition of new holidays if this would result in a reduction of existing holidays. While he supported the inclusion of the Labour Day and the Buddha's Birthday into the schedule of general holidays, he was disappointed that the SJWVD was chosen to be deleted. He considered the arrangement contrary to the stated policy of strengthening civic education and enhancing understanding of the national history of our mother country. In this connection, he asked the Administration about the criteria for determining the schedule of general holidays.
10. DS(EM)1 responded that the schedule of general holidays was drawn up mainly on the basis of existing traditional festivals and religious holidays celebrated in Hong Kong, with regard to those holidays celebrated by Hong Kong's major trading partners. He pointed out that the Labour Day was a holiday in many countries, and the Provisional Legislative Council and its Panel on Manpower also recommended this be included as a statutory and general holiday. As regards the Buddha's Birthday, the HKSAR Government had acceded to the persistent requests of the Buddhists�associations in Hong Kong to incorporate an important Asian religious festival as a general holiday of HKSAR. The decision was made with regard to the fact that there were over 800,000 Buddhists in Hong Kong and that it was also a holiday celebrated in many Asian countries.
11. DS(EM)1 stressed that given the ceiling of 17 days of general holidays, the Administration did have a difficult decision in determining which two general holidays should be deleted to offset the two additions. A targeted consultation exercise was therefore conducted in November 1997 to obtain views from concerned parties on their preferences. The majority of the 34 respondents indicated that they preferred to delete SJWVD and 2 October as general holidays.
12. On the question of whether other countries had holidays for World War victories, DS(EM)1 said that some countries had holidays on major victories during the First or Second World War.
13. Mr Howard YOUNG commented that different interest groups would have different preferences on the list of general holidays. Given that one could only choose from the six existing general holidays that were not statutory holidays, he supported the majority view that SJWVD and 2 October should be deleted to make way for the two new holidays. He considered, however, that official commemorative activities should be held in remembrance of those who took part in the resistance movement.
14. Mr HO Sai-chu also stated his position on the matter. He was in favour of maintaining the maximum number of general holidays at 17 days a year. Personally he would prefer offsetting the Buddha's Birthday by deleting one existing religious holiday such as the day after Good Friday or the Easter Monday. Nevertheless, he had been persuaded to go along with the majority view expressed during consultation that SJWVD could be deleted. He also supported the deletion of 2 October as a general holiday.
Commemorative activities for SJWVD
15. Mr Albert HO Chun-yan commented that the Administration's proposal to delete SJWVD as a general holiday would convey a wrong message to the community that the HKSAR Government no longer recognized the Sino-Japanese War Victory and the contribution of those who took part in the resistance movement. His view was shared by Messrs SZETO Wah and LAU Chin-shek. These members were of the view that the Government must make some concrete arrangements to demonstrate their respect of the importance or "spirit�of SJWVD. If SJWVD would no longer be a general holiday, the Government must at least organize official ceremonies which should be attended by the Chief Executive and senior officials to commemorate those who died in defence of Hong Kong.
16. DS(EM)1 responded that as stated in the press release, although the third Monday of August would no longer be a general holiday from 1999 onwards, it would still be known as SJWVD. Annual official ceremonies would be held on Chung Yeung Festival at the Memorial Shrine of the City Hall and would be attended by the Chief Executive, senior government officials, Legislative Councillors and community leaders. Representatives of the war veteran groups and concerned organizations would also be invited to participate. In addition, commemorative activities at the cenotaph in Central organized by the Hong Kong Ex-Servicemen's Association and other community groups would continue to be held on Remembrance Day (the Sunday nearest to 11 November).
17. Mr Albert HO Chun-yan and Mr SZETO Wah expressed reservation about holding the official ceremony on Chung Yeung Festival. They suggested the Administration consider holding the ceremony on another appropriate day to facilitate participation of Legislative Councillors and community leaders. Moreover, to strengthen civic education and the youth's sense of identity with the motherland, Messrs HO and SZETO proposed that there should be commemorative activities in schools on the day. In this connection, they suggested 7 July as a suitable day for holding school activities since most schools should have completed their normal curriculum and school examinations in July. Mr SZETO Wah suggested that this could be called the National History Education Day� The proposal was supported by the Chairman and all attending members of the Bills Committee. Members emphasized that the Administration should take the lead in organizing commemorative activities and make arrangements to facilitate community participation in these activities on a long-term basis.
|18. With regard to members�suggestions, DS(EM)1 undertook to discuss with the relevant Government offices and the Education Department and provide a written response as soon as practicable before the resumption of the Second reading debate.
19. The Bills Committee then proceeded to examine individual clauses of the Bill. Members generally found the Bill technically in order apart from some clarifications.
20. Referring to clause 3 of the Bill, the Chairman sought clarification on the legal implications of the proposed new section 6(3). In response, Senior Government Counsel of the Department of Justice advised that the two new sections 6(2) and 6(3) should read together which would replace the existing section 6(2). The proposal was to resolve a clash between two general holidays. Under the proposed subsection (2), if two general holidays fell on the same day, the following day not being a general holiday would be fixed as an additional holiday. For the sake of flexibility, the proposed subsection (3) would allow the Chief Executive in Council to appoint another day to replace the day on which an additional general holiday would otherwise be fixed under the proposed subsection (2). The interpretation was confirmed by Assistant Legal Adviser 2.
Committee stage amendments (CSAs) proposed by Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung
21. With the agreement of the Chairman, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung tabled his draft CSA (Appendix) which sought to re-instate SJWVD in the Schedule of general holidays from year 2000 onwards. He was of the view that SJWVD, being a significant national historic event and an existing holiday, should be retained in the Schedule of general holidays. However, he was aware that any changes to the proposed general holidays in 1999 might lead to delays and practical difficulties in the printing of calendars and other commercial activities. He therefore proposed the re-instatement to take effect from year 2000 instead of 1999.
22. In response to Mr Albert HO Chun-yan, DS(EM)1 advised that the proposed CSA would definitely have charging effects�within the meaning of Rule 57(6) of the LegCo Rules of Procedure. The reason was that the re-instatement of SJWVD as a general holiday from 2000 would have the effect of increasing the total number of general holidays from 17 to 18 a year. As an additional general holiday would increase the total wage bills of employers by 0.2 %, there would be extra staff costs on employers including the Government. DS(EM)1 also pointed out that the proposal was in contravention of the declared policy that the maximum number of general holidays should be capped at 17 days a year. With these considerations, DS(EM)1 said that the Administration could not support the CSA. He would agree, however, to consider members�alternative proposals in paragraph 17 regarding ways to promote civic education and commemorative activities on SJWVD.
23. After some discussion, members agreed that the Administration should provide a written response on the Bills Committee's proposal in paragraph 17 as soon as possible to facilitate members�further deliberations on the matter.
24. In response to the Chairman, DS(EM)1 said that the scrutiny of the Bill was subject to a very tight timetable as delay in enactment would affect the printing of calendars and banking/business arrangements for 1999. This would jeopardize the international image of Hong Kong as a major financial and service centre. He therefore urged members to support the resumption of the Second reading debate and the early passage of the Bill. He undertook to provide a response to members�suggestions in paragraph 17 as soon as possible.
25. The Chairman thanked representatives of the Administration for attending the meeting.
Discussion on the way forward
26. Members then discussed the issue of whether to support Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung's proposed CSA. Some members considered that it would be extremely difficult to have the CSA passed in the Legislative Council given the constraints in Rule 57(6) and the Administration's objection. They suggested that Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung could move the CSA in his name instead. Members noted that the deadline for CSAs would be 20 July 1998.
27. After discussion, members agreed that the Bills Committee would not propose any CSA and that the Chairman would make a verbal report to the House Committee on 17 July 1998, to be followed by a detailed report on the deliberations of the Bills Committee on 24 July 1998. Members agreed to include in the report the Bills Committee's divergent views over the proposed deletion of SJWVD as a general holiday and the consensus about designating a school day as National History Education Day�
|28. As the Bills Committee had discussed the Bill and related issues at length, members agreed that no further meeting need be held unless as directed by the Chairman. The Clerk would circulate the Administration's response to members in about one week's time.
(Post-meeting note : The Administration's response was circulated to members of the Bills Committee on 23.7.98 under LC Paper No. CB(2)96/98-99.)
29. The meeting ended at 12:25 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
21 August 1998