Council Meeting (Hansard) 6 Jan 99


OFFICIAL RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Wednesday, 6 January 1999
The Council met at half-past Two o'clock

MEMBERS PRESENT:

THE PRESIDENT
THE HONOURABLE MRS RITA FAN, G.B.S., J.P.

THE HONOURABLE KENNETH TING WOO-SHOU, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE JAMES TIEN PEI-CHUN, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE DAVID CHU YU-LIN

THE HONOURABLE HO SAI-CHU, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE CYD HO SAU-LAN

THE HONOURABLE EDWARD HO SING-TIN, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE ALBERT HO CHUN-YAN

THE HONOURABLE MICHAEL HO MUN-KA

DR THE HONOURABLE RAYMOND HO CHUNG-TAI, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE LEE WING-TAT

THE HONOURABLE LEE CHEUK-YAN

THE HONOURABLE MARTIN LEE CHU-MING, S.C., J.P.

THE HONOURABLE ERIC LI KA-CHEUNG, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE LEE KAI-MING, J.P.

DR THE HONOURABLE DAVID LI KWOK-PO, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE FRED LI WAH-MING

THE HONOURABLE NG LEUNG-SING

PROF THE HONOURABLE NG CHING-FAI

THE HONOURABLE MARGARET NG

THE HONOURABLE MRS SELINA CHOW LIANG SHUK-YEE, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE RONALD ARCULLI, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE MA FUNG-KWOK

THE HONOURABLE JAMES TO KUN-SUN

THE HONOURABLE CHEUNG MAN-KWONG

THE HONOURABLE AMBROSE CHEUNG WING-SUM, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE HUI CHEUNG-CHING

THE HONOURABLE CHRISTINE LOH

THE HONOURABLE CHAN KWOK-KEUNG

THE HONOURABLE CHAN YUEN-HAN

THE HONOURABLE BERNARD CHAN

THE HONOURABLE CHAN WING-CHAN

THE HONOURABLE CHAN KAM-LAM

DR THE HONOURABLE LEONG CHE-HUNG, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE MRS SOPHIE LEUNG LAU YAU-FUN, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE LEUNG YIU-CHUNG

THE HONOURABLE GARY CHENG KAI-NAM

THE HONOURABLE SIN CHUNG-KAI

THE HONOURABLE ANDREW WONG WANG-FAT, J.P.

DR THE HONOURABLE PHILIP WONG YU-HONG

THE HONOURABLE WONG YUNG-KAN

THE HONOURABLE JASPER TSANG YOK-SING, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE HOWARD YOUNG, J.P.

DR THE HONOURABLE YEUNG SUM

THE HONOURABLE YEUNG YIU-CHUNG

THE HONOURABLE LAU CHIN-SHEK, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE LAU KONG-WAH

THE HONOURABLE LAU WONG-FAT, G.B.S., J.P.

THE HONOURABLE MRS MIRIAM LAU KIN-YEE, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE AMBROSE LAU HON-CHUEN, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE EMILY LAU WAI-HING, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE CHOY SO-YUK

THE HONOURABLE ANDREW CHENG KAR-FOO

THE HONOURABLE SZETO WAH

THE HONOURABLE TIMOTHY FOK TSUN-TING, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE LAW CHI-KWONG, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE TAM YIU-CHUNG, J.P.

DR THE HONOURABLE TANG SIU-TONG, J.P.

MEMBERS ABSENT:

DR THE HONOURABLE LUI MING-WAH, J.P.

THE HONOURABLE FUNG CHI-KIN

PUBLIC OFFICERS ATTENDING:

THE HONOURABLE MRS ANSON CHAN, J.P.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION

THE HONOURABLE DONALD TSANG YAM-KUEN, J.P.
THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY

THE HONOURABLE ELSIE LEUNG OI-SIE, J.P.
THE SECRETARY FOR JUSTICE

MR MICHAEL SUEN MING-YEUNG, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

MRS KATHERINE FOK LO SHIU-CHING, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE

MR RAFAEL HUI SI-YAN, G.B.S., J.P.
SECRETARY FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES

MR LAM WOON-KWONG, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE

MR STEPHEN IP SHU-KWAN, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES

MR DAVID LAN HONG-TSUNG, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR HOME AFFAIRS

MRS REGINA IP LAU SUK-YEE, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR SECURITY

MR LEUNG CHIN-MAN, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR HOUSING

MR PATRICK LAU LAI-CHIU, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR PLANNING, ENVIRONMENT AND LANDS

CLERKS IN ATTENDANCE:

MR RICKY FUNG CHOI-CHEUNG, J.P., SECRETARY GENERAL

MR LAW KAM-SANG, J.P., DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL

MR RAY CHAN YUM-MOU, ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL

PAPERS

The following papers were laid on the table pursuant to Rule 21(2) of the Rules of Procedure:

Subsidiary Legislation L.N. No.

Country Parks (Designation) (Consolidation)
(Amendment) Order 1998

382/98

Lung Fu Shan Country Park (Designation) Order 1998

383/98

Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation (Exclusion) Order

384/98

Designation of Libraries (Urban Council Area) (No. 5)
Order 1998

385/98

Designation of Museums (Amendment) Order 1998

386/98

Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance

(Public Markets) (Designation and Amendment of Tenth
Schedule) (No. 2) Order 1998

387/98

Declaration of Markets in the Urban Council Area
(Amendment) (No. 2) Declaration 1998

388/98

Solicitors' Practice (Amendment) (No. 4) Rules 1998

389/98

Estate Agents Ordinance (Cap. 511) (Commencement)
(No. 2) Notice 1998

390/98

Ozone Layer Protection (Controlled Refrigerants)
Regulation (Cap. 403 Sub. Leg.) (Commencement)
Notice 1998

391/98

Tax Reserve Certificates (Rate of Interest) (No. 5)
Notice 1998

392/98

Travel Industry Compensation Fund (Amount of Ex Gratia
Payments and Financial Penalty) (Amendment) Rules 1998

394/98

Employees Retraining Ordinance (Amendment of
Schedule 2) (No. 2) Notice 1998

395/98

Industrial Training (Clothing Industry) (Amendment)
Ordinance 1998 (40 of 1998) (Commencement)
Notice 1998

396/98

Import and Export (Registration) (Amendment) (No. 2)
Regulation 1998 (L.N. 334 of 1998) (Commencement)
Notice 1998

397/98

Introduction of the Euro Ordinance (41 of 1998)
(Commencement) Notice 1998

398/98

Sessional Papers

No. 81

Report by the Controller, Government Flying Service
on the Administration of the Government Flying Service Welfare Fund for the year ended 31 March 1998

No. 82

Report by the Commissioner of Police on Police Welfare Fund for the period 1 April 1997 - 31 March 1998

Report

Report of the Bills Committee on Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998

ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Questions. I would like to remind Members that question time normally does not exceed one and a half hours, with each question being allocated about 15 minutes on average. When asking supplementaries, Members should be as concise as possible. They should not ask more than one question, and should not make statements. To do so would contravene the Rules of Procedure.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Members were advised by the Clerk two days ago that an electronic queuing system has been installed in this Chamber for Members to indicate their requests to ask supplementary questions. Today we will try it out. After I have called upon a Member to ask a main question, other Members who wish to ask supplementary questions to this question need, in addition to raising their hands, indicate the wish by pressing the "Request-to-speak" buttons in front of their seats. When the light of the buttons is on, it means that the Members have registered their requests and have been put in the queue.

During the trial period of the electronic queuing system, if Members only raise their hands but do not press the buttons in order to request to ask supplementary questions, they will have to wait till the Clerk sees their hands and presses the buttons on their behalf. In other words, Members who choose to raise their hands will have their intention displayed in the system later than that of those who choose to press their buttons.

I shall refer to this queuing other as well as other factors, for instance, the accumulated total of the supplementary questions asked by individual Members to date, and the number of Members requesting to ask supplementaries, in deciding whether there would be enough time to allow all Members in the queue to ask their supplementaries. The order for the Members to ask supplementaries may not follow the queuing order but this system can help the Clerk and me treat queuing in a more systematic way. Members need not worry about technical problems during the trial period, as they may still indicate their intention to ask supplementary questions by raising their hands.

On the other hand, if a Member wishes to follow up and seek elucidation on an answer, or raise a point of order, please stand up to so indicate and wait for me to call on him to speak. I will take a mere raise of the hand by a Member as indication to wait for his turn to ask a question.

Do Members have any questions? Have all Members understood?

MR CHAN KAM-LAM (in Cantonese): Madam President, do we need to test the system right now? What should we do if the system does not respond to pressed buttons when the meeting is in formal progress later?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Yes, Members may try it now.

(Members tried to use the electronic queuing system)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I can see the order very clearly as shown by the system. Although Members cannot see it, it is not important because what matters is we know the order. The system is working.

MR EDWARD HO (in Cantonese): Why is my red light off while those of others are on?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Is that so? Mr HO, the system shows you did press the button. You were the fourth one to have done so. You were quite quick at that. (Laughter)

MR EDWARD HO (in Cantonese): Is there a mulfunction?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): No, I do not think there is a problem, Mr HO.

MR EDWARD HO (in Cantonese): I saw others press the button and their red lights lit up, but mine did not.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): As the meeting is in progress, I do not think we should spend too much time on trying the system. Members may if they want to do so at any other meeting or a meeting of the House Committee. While the system is on trial, we will also verify the normal functioning of the buttons in front of Members.

First question.

Employment Situation of Social Work Graduates

1. MR AMBROSE LAU (in Cantonese): Madam President, according to reports, the Government anticipates that from the current financial year onwards, the number of graduates completing degree courses and diploma courses in social work will exceed the number of vacancies available in the social work profession in each of the next five years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the kinds of alternative professions such graduates have joined after failing to obtain employment in the social work field over the past two years; and among the fresh graduates in social work, the respective numbers of those who have joined the social work profession, those who have taken up employment in other professions, as well as those who are still looking for employment;

(b) whether it will consider recruiting more social workers to meet the increasing demand of the community for welfare services at the present economic downturn; if so, of the details; if not, why not; and whether it has assessed if the overall number of social work posts will be increased by contracting out certain services originally provided by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) to non-government organizations (NGOs) through tendering exercises; and

(c) of the specific measures in place to encourage social work graduates who fail to secure jobs in the social work profession immediately after graduation to enrol in postgraduate courses or participate in voluntary social work?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese):Madam President,

(a) Apart from joining the social work profession, these graduates, with their generalist training in the liberal sciences, have found employment in many other professions including teaching, media, insurance, government service and so on.

Since 1997, the Government has, with the help of the tertiary institutions, conducted regular surveys on the employment situation of the current year's social work graduates. Surveys have been conducted in December 1997 and April 1998 on the 1997 and in October 1998 on the 1998 graduates.

Details of the survey results are at Annex for Members' reference. On the basis of information available from these surveys, which are not complete due to the non-response rate, it appears that 84% of respondents in 1997 have secured employment. This compares favourably with information obtained by the University Grants Committee (UGC) on the overall employment situation of 1997 graduates which indicates that 83% of full-time degree graduates have secured employment.

(b) In the current financial year, 134 new Social Work Officer (SWO) grade posts and 171 new Social Work Assistant (SWA) grade posts will be created. We plan to create an additional 115 SWO grade posts and 111 SWA grade posts in 1999-2000. We are still examining the feasibility of adopting the contracting out mode for the delivery of certain welfare services. As such, it is not possible at this stage to assess the likely impact on the employment situation of social work graduates, if this option is eventually pursued.

(c) The Government has taken a number of measures to promote further education as a means of enhancing the competitiveness of graduates and to offer opportunities to those who wish to improve their skills and knowledge through continuing and professional education. The UGC-funded institutions have been invited to over-enrol their taught postgraduate courses in the 1998-99 academic year, and 1 000 places have been made available under this scheme. According to a Graduate Employment Survey conducted by the UGC, 16 of the 1997 social work graduates have taken advantage of this scheme and continued their studies.

In addition, the Non-Means Tested Loan Scheme has been extended to cover full-time students of the Hong Kong Shue Yan College, which also offers social work degree and diploma programmes. All part-time students attending publicly-funded programmes offered by the UGC-funded institutions will be covered under this scheme.

The Volunteer Movement was launched in 1998 to promote greater participation in voluntary work within the community. Young people seeking employment, including social work graduates, are one of the target groups in this exercise. Social work students, as part of their training, come into regular contact with a number of welfare agencies and numerous opportunities therefore exist for them to participate in voluntary work.

Annex

Findings in Employment survey on Social Work Graduates

(A) December 1997 Survey on 1997 Social Work Graduates

Full-time Degree graduates

(i) Total number of graduates: 367; Number of respondents: 255

(ii) Of 255 respondents,

(a) Employed: 208

Occupation

Full-time

Part-time/temporary

Social work/welfare field

93

17

Other Professionals1

63

35

(b) Seeking employment: 43

(c) Others2 : 4

Full-time Diploma graduates

(i) Total number of graduates: 534; Number of respondents: 335

(ii) Of 335 respondents,

(a) Employed: 267

Occupation

Full-time

Part-time/temporary

Social work/welfare field

187

20

Other Professionals1

33

27

(b) Seeking employment: 66

(c) Others2 : 2

(B) April 1998 Survey on 1997 Social Work Graduates

Full-time Degree graduates

(i) Total number of graduates: 367; Number of respondents: 190

(ii) Of 190 respondents,

(a) Employed: 180

Occupation

Full-time

Part-time

Social work/welfare field

109

5

Other professionals1

57

9

(b) Seeking employment: 9

(c) Others2 : 1

Full-time Diploma graduates

(i) Total number of graduates: 534; Number of respondents: 277

(ii) Of 277 respondents,

(a) Employed: 241

Occupation

Full-time

Part-time

Social work/welfare field

194

6

Other Professionals1

37

4

(b) Seeking employment: 32

(c) Others2 : 4

(C) October 1998 Survey on 1998 Social Work Graduates

Full-time Degree graduates

(i) Total number of graduates: 355; Number of respondents: 282

(ii) Of 282 respondents,

(a) Employed: 177

Occupation

Full-time

Part-time

Social work/welfare field

78

17

Other Professionals1

56

26

(b) Seeking employment: 101

(c) Others2 : 4

Full-time Diploma graduates

(i) Total number of graduates: 492; Number of respondents: 427

(ii) Of 427 respondents,

(a) Employed: 237

Occupation

Full-time

Part-time

Social work/welfare field

146

22

Other Professionals1

46

23

(b) Seeking employment: 176

(c) Others2 : 14

MR AMBROSE LAU (in Cantonese): Madam President, it was mentioned in paragraph (b) of the main reply that the Government was still examining the feasibility of adopting the contracting out mode for the delivery of certain welfare services. When will a conclusion be drawn?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, at present most of the direct services among social services are undertaken by NGOs and subvented by the Government. Any contracting out of the SWD services has to be considered against the feasibility and needs of the services. In this connection, we do not have any concrete timetable yet.

MR LAW CHI-KWONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, in paragraph (b) of the Honourable Ambrose LAU's question, it was asked whether the Government will consider recruiting more social workers at the present economic downturn. In her main reply the Secretary has indicated that 134 new SWO grade posts and 171 new SWA grade posts will be created this year but the additional posts will only be 115 and 111 respectively next year. Does this mean that the number of new posts will be reduced? However, the main question asks whether consideration has been made. Perhaps let me cite two examples to see if the Secretary can answer: for instance, has the Administration considered recruiting additional school social workers or medical social workers?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, I stated in paragraph (b) of the main reply those posts which were allocated resources. Other additions depend on the annual provisions. As far as school social workers are concerned, we have agreed to provide one school social workers for every 2 000 students. Other schools may increase the number of school social workers in the light of our resource allocation. As far as medical social workers are concerned, addition is linked to the needs of hospitals. In fact, we have two types of medical social workers. Some of them are sent to hospitals by the SWD whereas some others are medical social workers recruited by the Hospital Authority. The number of medical social workers may increase in the light of the needs of the hospitals.

MR LAW CHI-KWONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, would the Secretary answer clearly whether there is going to be an increase in the number of school social workers and medical social workers? The Secretary did not seem to have responded to this point.

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, the figures in paragraph (b) of the main reply already show that the posts increased in 1998 and 1999 include both school social workers and medical social workers.

DR TANG SIU-TONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, I would like to follow up the issue of "one school, one social worker". Could the Secretary inform this Council of the number of school social workers in the past three years, and of the number of additional school scoial workers for the next three years?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, may I answer this supplementary in writing? (Annex I)

MR LEUNG YIU-CHUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, in paragraph (c) of the main reply, the Sevcretary said 1 000 postgraduate places would be made available. This appears to be an ad hoc measure. Would the Secretary inform this Council what prospects these students will have in the long term after graduation? Has the Government formulated any long-term employment plans for these graduates?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Secretary, the subject of this question is about graduates of social work courses and you mentioned in the main reply that 1 000 places have been made available. Would you please elucidate: Are some of the 1 000 places related to social work? If so, please answer in respect of that part of the places, since you may not have in hand information regarding places that are not related to social work.

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, those 1 000 additional places include places for social work.

MR LEUNG YIU-CHUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, my supplementary question is: Though courses in social work are also included, still they are temporary courses for research only. When the students finish the courses, what prospects do they have? Has the Government thought about the career needs of these students in the long term?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, all graduates, be they graduates of their faculties or the graduate school, must find jobs on their own. We have not arranged any placement service for them.

MR HUI CHEUNG-CHING (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Government is promoting a 5% productivity gain through the Enhanced Productivity Programme but social service organizations have to trim; the number of social workers will diminish. Will this pose additional difficulties for social workers. Can the Government inform this Council how it will solve the problem?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Enhanced Productivity Programme is an overall programme of the Government. It covers all government departments, subvented organizations and social service organizations. The Programme gives all voluntary organizations freedom to employ measures they deem fit, so the methods vary. The aim of productivity enhancement may be achieved not necessarily through reducing the number of social work posts.

MR HOWARD YOUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary said in paragraph (a) of the main reply that the employment situation of social work graduates "compares favourably" with that of other graduates, but I note from the Annex the employment rate of full-time graduates in their own field, that is, the employment rate in the social work field is around 53% against 54% last year. Would the Secretary inform this Council whether by "compares favourably" she meant overall employment or those employed in their own fields? I would also like to ask about a comparison between full-time degree courses and diploma courses. I note from the Annex that over 70% of the diploma graduates work in their own field but only over 50% of the graduates of degree courses do so. On the basis of these figures, could the Government inform this Council whether as a matter of policy it should adjust the supply of degree holders and diploma holders in order to raise employment rate?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, when I said the employment situation "compares favourably", I was referring to the overall employment situation, and this came from a survey by the UGC. The survey showed that the employment rate was 83% and the employment rate of graduates of social work was 84%. The survey included all professions, not just the social work field. Clearly as mentioned by the Honourable Howard YOUNG, there is a difference between the employment situation of social work degree graduates and graduates with diplomas. Graduates of full-time diploma courses have a higher employment rate than their degree holder counterparts due perhaps to the fact that there are more vacancies for diploma graduates.

MR FRED LI (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary said in the first paragraph of part (a) of the main reply that social work graduates have "generalist training in the liberal sciences" rather than professional training. When the Government provides training in social work in the tertiary institutions, does it expect them to work in the social work field or other fields including jouralism and insurance; or does the Government have some sort of views?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): We have recently discussed this issue at a consultative committee and regarded the training of social workers as rather broad and should not be confined to social work. We hope social work graduates can join the social work profession but we do not exclude the possibility of their joining other professions. In the past few years, we have a lot of figures showing that a certain percentage of social work graduates found jobs in other fields. It is purely their choice. There are also some others who work in other fields for a year or two before rejoinging the social work field. So, it can be seen that the social work course is rather flexible. Graduates may join the ranks of social workers or workers of other trades. The consultative committee comprises representatives from the social work faculties of the seven universities. They all agree the training in social work should be broadened to allow students more opportunities to learn other subjects.

MISS CHAN YUEN-HAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary said in paragraph (b) of the main reply that despite the economic downturn there would be an increase of 500-odd social work-related posts. Could the Secretary inform this Council of the distribution of these posts in services for the elderly, the child and the schools; and could the Government provide concrete data for the distribution?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): We have a set distribution for the posts. I will provide an answer to the Honourable Member in writing, stating the number of posts in child services, elderly services and youth work. (Annex II)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Last supplementary.

MR ERIC LI (in Cantonese): Madam President, I would like to follow up paragraph (b) of the main reply. The Government is a major employer. I trust the figures in paragraph (b) included posts in government and NGOs. In 1998 there were 355 degree graduates against 134 new posts; and 492 diploma graduates against 171 new posts. The number of new posts next year will further diminish. My rough estimate is that slightly over 30% of the graduates will be able to find jobs in government and NGOs. As a major employer, the employment opportunities provided by the Government are very limited indeed. I think part of the Honourable Ambrose LAU's question meant to ask: Given the ample human resources and the large demand for services, has the Government done its utmost in providing these services so that graduates may apply what they have learned? I would like the Government to answer the question on whether the employment opportunities provided by it are on the small side.

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, in addition to the figures for new posts in paragraph (b), there are a certain number of vacant posts due to wastage arising from retirement or resignation. Some of the graduates may then fill these posts. However, since our resources are limited, we cannot provide an unlimited number of posts. We can provide new services only in accordance with the annual resource allocation and provision. New services are available only if resources are allocated to us.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Second question.

Relation Between Hong Kong and Taiwan

2. MISS CHRISTINE LOH: Madam President, regarding the relation between Hong Kong and Taiwan, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of its policy on visits to Taiwan paid by officials of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), and of the factors regarded as meriting support for Taiwanese officials' applications to visit Hong Kong;

(b) of the channels through which the SAR Government and the Taiwan authorities discuss issues of mutual concern, such as the issuance of travel visas and, in case of emergency, the assistance to be rendered to those Hong Kong residents who are of Chinese nationality whilst they are in Taiwan; and

(c) of the extent of contacts between the SAR Government and the Taiwan authorities for discussing issues of mutual concern?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, in his speech at the opening of the fifth plenary meeting of the Preliminary Working Committee of the Preparatory Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in June 1995, Vice Premier QIAN Qichen set out seven fundamental principles and policies affirmed by the Central People's Government for handling Hong Kong matters involving Taiwan after "1997". This forms the basis on which the SAR Government handles Taiwan related issues.

(a) The general policy is that there is no restriction on SAR government officials in their personal capacity travelling as tourists to Taiwan or visiting relatives there but they have to apply for approval before going to Taiwan for operational contacts at the working level. Applications from Taiwan officials to visit Hong Kong will be considered on the merits of each case.

(b) The Chief Executive has since July 1997 assigned his special adviser, Mr Paul YIP, to hold informal discussions, as necessary, with the Taiwan authorities on matters of mutual concern.

(c) Contacts between the SAR Government and the Taiwan authorities are limited to operational matters at the working level. These include matters relating to civil aviation, law enforcement by the police and postal services. Such contacts were in place before the reunification and remain in place after the reunification.

MISS CHRISTINE LOH (in Cantonese): Madam President, my supplementary question relates to paragraph (b) of the main reply. Mr Paul YIP is not a civil servant and is not under our supervision. Therefore, I would like to ask: What work has he done in the past year and how transparent is his work? In addition, if a permanent resident of Hong Kong lost his or her travel documents in Taiwan, how would Mr YIP proceed to help?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, I indicated in the main reply that Mr Paul YIP would hold informal discussions, as necessary, with the Taiwan authorities on matters of mutual concern. Actually, issues discussed using informal channels are not many. One example is the arrangements made for Mr KOO Chen-fu at the airport when he went to China via Hong Kong. That was one of the matters dealt with by Mr YIP. But what Mr YIP can deal with is limited. The Honourable Member mentioned situations in which something happened to Hong Kong residents in Taiwan and they needed assistance. The families and friends and relatives of those concerned could fly to Taiwan to provide assistance since Taiwan is near to Hong Kong and air traffic between the two places is convenient, with a number of flights flying every day. If necessary, the Hong Kong Government will also make special arrangements for the parties concerned to fly to Taiwan quickly.

MR CHAN KAM-LAM (in Cantonese): Madam President, in paragraph (a) of the main reply, the Secretary said applications from Taiwan officials to visit Hong Kong would be considered on the merits of each case. Will the Government inform this Council whether each application would require prior consultation with the Central Government? Will the Central Government grant some right to the SAR to decide for itself? For example, if Mr MA Ying-jeou wanted to come to Hong Kong, how would the SAR deal with the matter?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, I indicated in the main reply that Vice Premier QIAN Qi chen set out seven fundamental principles and policies for handling Hong Kong matters involving Taiwan after "1997". One of them is: approval or specific authorization from the Central People's Government or approval from the Chief Executive is required if the SAR and Taiwan under whatever auspices carry out official contacts, exchange, consultations, signing of agreements, or set up organizations with each other. This is a clearly stated condition among the seven principles and policies. However, the case mentioned in the question just now is not included. As I said in the main reply, we will continue with what we have been doing and so we do not need any approval of any kind. As regards the question by the Honourable Member about applications to enter Hong Kong, we can entirely handle them on our own. We will however not reveal what we will do in respect of the case of Mr MA Ying-jeou because we will not comment on individual applications.

MR LAU CHIN-SHEK (in Cantonese): Madam President, I would like to follow up the Honourable Miss Christine LOH's supplementary about paragraph (b) in the main reply. In fact, between January and November last year, about 260 000 Hong Kong people visited Taiwan. In additiion to the loss of their identity cards, traffic accidents, arrests or serious illnesses may happen to them. It appears the Government has not provided an answer as to what they can do in case such things occur. The Secretary said those concerned may obtain assistance from friends and relatives who may fly to Taiwan. What if the person involved has no friends or relatives? Even if the Government has not thought about it before, will it care to conduct a study as to which department should be providing assistance? Or should it set up an office in Taiwan to specifically help these people solve their problems? The Hong Kong Government is duty-bound to provide assistance because these people are permanent residents of Hong Kong.

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, although the Honourable LAU Chin-shek said many people go to Taiwan each year and it is probable someone may have an accident, the fact remains that no cases, except one, arose in which someone needed assistance from the SAR. As far as I can remember, the case was asked about by the Honourable Miss Emily LAU some months ago and we provided an answer to that already.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr LAU, which part of your supplementary has not been answered?

MR LAU CHIN-SHEK (in Cantonese): My supplementary was about the failure of the Government to set up an office in Taiwan, not the number of cases dealt with. If Hong Kong visitors in Taiwan have an accident, who can they turn to for assistance? The question is they do not know who to turn to. My question is ......

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr LAU, please state which part of your supplementary has not been answered.

MR LAU CHIN-SHEK (in Cantonese): Will the Secretary inform this Council whether the Government will set up an office in Taiwan or some other channels to tell people to whom or which department they can turn in case they have trouble in Taiwan?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, as I said, there have not been any complaints, despite the large number of people who go to Taiwan and who may have accidents. Of course, the Honourable Member may say that no complaint was received because we have not set up a formal channel. But I think if there is a need or a problem, we should receive a request, but we have not. I indicated we were aware of only one case. On the question of whether we will set up an office in Taiwan, I can inform this Council right here that we have not thought about it yet.

MR ANDREW WONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, I have a more direct question. Since the Taiwan authority has set up the Chung Hwa Travel Service in Hong Kong to process applications for entry visas to Taiwan made by Hong Kong people, why can we not set up a Hong Kong Travel Service in Taiwan to process applications for entry visas to Hong Kong by Taiwanese people? This is because there has been close and numerous exchanges between Hong Kong and Taiwan in economic, trade, cultural and social matters.

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, can I defer to the Secretary for Security? We might have some informal channels.

SECRETARY FOR SECURITY (in Cantonese): Madam President, Hong Kong people need to apply for some relevant documents before they can enter Taiwan, and they know about the requirements clearly. They do this through the Chung Hwa Travel Service. No Hong Kong citizens have indicated the present channel is not sufficient. From the point of view of security, and that of facilitating those Hong Kong people who wish to visit Taiwan, we do not see a need to set up an office in Taiwan for the purpose.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr WONG, which part of your supplementary has not been answered? Please point out just that part.

MR ANDREW WONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary has not answered my supplementary question at all. I was asking how the Government would facilitate Taiwanese people in their applications for entry into Hong Kong, not Hong Kong people in their applications for entry into Taiwan, as the channel for the latter case is clearly sufficient. So, the supplementary question should not be answered by the Secretary for Security. Another Secretary should answer instead, but I do not know who it is.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, do you have something to add?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, as far as I know, there are franchised offices in Taiwan which process visas on behalf of 21 airlines for Taiwanese people to visit Hong Kong. As I understand it, the service has been able to provide the documents required by all travellers in reasonable time and we have not received many complaints against inadequate service.

MR ANDREW WONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, which party is the franchising party? Is it the Hong Kong Government or the Taiwanese authorities?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr WONG, if you continue asking supplementary questions, other Members will not have the opportunity to ask questions. Please wait for your turn?

MR YEUNG YIU-CHUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, will the Secretary inform this Council how many Taiwanese officials have made applications to visit Hong Kong after the reunification in 1997? How many of them have been refused entry into Hong Kong? What were the reasons?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, it would not be appropriate for me to release the number here. But I can tell Honourable Members that there are not many of them. We gave approval to some applications and rejected some others. We will usually give approval to their applications if the Taiwanese officials come to Hong Kong in personal capacities for visiting relatives, sight-seeing, shopping or some similar purposes and if they do not undertake activities relating to their official capacities.

MR ALBERT HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, I believe if the Hong Kong Government sets up an office in Taiwan, in an official manner or otherwise, as far as it represents the Government, then it would be conducive to improving the co-operation between the two places in commerce and travel. It can also help non-government exchanges and Hong Kong people in need. My supplementary question is: If the Government has no intention to set up such an office now, will it do so in future? If approval from the Central Government is required for this, we would ask the Secretary to make a formal application to obtain that approval. Will the Secretary agree to this and consider my request?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, in answering the last supplementary question I indicated we had not so far considered the arrangement. But since the Honourable Member has made his request, the Government will take his request into consideration.

MR LEE WING-TAT (in Cantonese): Madam President, will the Secretary explain to this Council why he could not disclose the number of rejections for Taiwanese officials who applied to come to Hong Kong in 1998. Is any sensitive information involved, making it impossible for him to make a disclosure in this Council?

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, first, I do not have the relevant information on hand; second, I would like to know what information the Honourable Member was asking us to disclose. Would the Honourable Member please state again clearly his request for disclosure?

MR LEE WING-TAT (in Cantonese): Madam President, I want several kinds of information. First, how many Taiwanese officials applied to come to Hong Kong in 1998? Second, how many of them were rejected? Third, what were the reasons for rejection? That is all I wanted.

SECRETARY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, with your permission, I shall reply in writing. (Annex III)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Honourable Members, we have spent more than 15 minutes on this question. Although there are still a number of Members who would like to ask questions, I believe they can follow up the matter through other channels.

Third question.

Mental Health Service

3. DR TANG SIU-TONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, regarding the psychiatric services and counselling services on emotional problems provided to the public in this year and the last two years, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the Hospital Authority's (HA) annual expenditure on various psychiatric services, the target service levels set for such services, and the establishment of the relevant medical staff; whether it has assessed the adequacy of resources allocated to the HA in meeting the demand of mental patients in Hong Kong;

(b) of the respective numbers of self-inflicted injury, attempted suicide and suicide cases committed by mental patients while awaiting the next consultation; and

(c) of the resources allocated to government and non-government organizations for providing counselling services on emotional problems?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President,

(a) The HA provides a full range of mental health services, including in-patient, out-patient, ambulatory, community care and outreach services. The HA's annual expenditures on the above services were $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion for 1996-97 and 1997-98 respectively, and this year's expenditure is estimated at $1.9 billion.

The HA has established a performance target for psychiatric specialist out-patient services, which is aimed at achieving an average waiting time for first appointment of less than three months. The current average waiting time for first appointment is slightly more than two months. A triage system has been implemented in specialist out-patient clinics to ensure that urgent cases are accorded priority for treatment. Except for the waiting time, it is very difficult to draw up a set of service standards for mental health services that can be both objective and generally recognized by the medical sector. The HA is committed to improving the quality of its mental health services and facilities, such as for in-patient services, the number of psychiatric beds will increase from 4 966 in 1997-98 to 5 068 this year, and will further increase to 5 272 next year.

The establishment of medical staff providing mental health services in the HA for the current year and the past two years is shown at Annex.

It is the HA's objective to provide quality health care services in order to meet the needs of the community. In recent years, we notice that the attendances for first appointment at specialist out-patient clinics register a relatively higher growth, while the demand for other services, as shown in the number of patient days and the number of follow-up attendances at specialist out-patient clinics, also indicates a slight increase. The HA will adopt various cost-effective measures to fully utilize the limited resources to meet the increasing demand. According to the existing funding arrangements, the Government's recurrent subvention to the HA takes the form of a one-line vote. The HA is given the flexibility to deploy its resources to different specialty services, and the Government will not specify the amount of resources the HA should allocate to mental health services. The HA will continue to monitor the public demand for such services and to review the need for additional funding.

(b) The HA currently has no readily available information on the respective numbers of self-inflicted injury, attempted suicide and suicide cases committed by mental patients while awaiting the next consultation.

(c) Under the existing system, various types of professionals working in the concerned government departments and non-governmental organizations, including social workers, clinical psychologists, doctors and nurses and so on, provide a full range of services to those in need. For instance, clinical psychologists provide psychological assessment and treatment. The Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organizations may also provide counselling services on emotional problems to families in hardship while rendering them material assistance. Moreover, in addition to providing counselling services, psychiatrists and psychiatric medical social workers working in hospitals have to draw up discharge programmes for mental patients and to refer them to apply for rehabilitation services. As such, it is very difficult for the Government to determine the exact amount of resources allocated to this single service of providing counselling on emotional problems.

Annex

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

Doctors

169

178

188

Nurses

2 037

2 106

2 160

Allied Health Professionals (for example, Clinical
Psychologist, Medical Social Worker and so on)

132

141

143

Supporting Staff (for example, Health Care Assistant,
Clerk and so on)

2 157

2 191

2 269

Total

4 495

4 616

4 760

DR TANG SIU-TONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, as stated in the Government's main reply, a triage system has been implemented in psychiatric services. However, mental illness is different from ordinary illness. I would like to ask the Government who is in charge of this triage system and how effective it is. Part (b) of the main reply stated that the HA had no readily available information on the respective numbers of self-inflicted injury, attempted suicide and suicide cases committed by mental patients while awaiting the next consultation. Without such information, how can it assess whether or not the triage system works?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, it is up to doctors to decide which patients should receive special treatment or priority treatment. With regard to the effectiveness of the triage system, the HA will consider from time to time how it should assess its effectiveness. We will pay particular attention to this and ask the HA to further assess the effectiveness of the triage system.

DR LEONG CHE-HUNG: Madam President, in the Secretary's main reply, she indicated that from 1996 to 1998, there is an estimated increase in budget of $0.1 billion to $0.2 billion out of about $1.8 billion. Could she inform this Council of the corresponding increase in workload as regard to the Hospital Authority's psychiatric services, including the number of patients attending the specialist clinics, the number of patients being admitted into mental institutions, and the number of patients requiring psychiatric out-reaching services so vital to their rehabilitation, and the introduction of new services. Could she comment whether the budget increase is comparable to the increase in workload?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Dr LEONG, the last part of your supplementary question was about budget and workload. How does it relate to the other parts of your supplementary question?

DR LEONG CHE-HUNG (in Cantonese): What I meant to ask was how the increase in workload compares with the small increase in resources.

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, I can provide some information for Members' reference. In the years 1996-97 and 1997-98, many figures registered increases. The number of discharges from hospitals and day hospitals was 9 494 in 1996-97 and 11 109 in 1997-98, showing an increase of 17%. The number of patient days, including the number of patient days in day hospitals, increased by about 4 % from 1 596 206 to 1 656 084. The number of attendances at day centres increased from 109 406 to 114 965. The number of attendances for first appointment at specialist out-patient clinics increase by 17% from 12 843 to 15 060, while the number of follow-up attendances at specialist out-patient clinics increased from 327 842 to 356 589. The total number of attendances at specialist out-patient clinics rose from 340 685 to 371 649. These figures show a marked increase of attendances for first appointment at specialist out-patient clinics.

As to the question of whether or not the relevant resources are adequate to meet our growth needs, this is a question that the HA examines all the time. If the HA considers that the resources are inadequate, it has several alternatives. One of them is to redeploy the resources internally and another is to ask the Government to increase the overall resources. We will pay special attention to this issue.

MR MICHAEL HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, I would like to follow up part (b) of the main question. Actually, after the first appointment, any patient will await the next consultation. If anything happens to the patients during that period, the relevant figures should have been reflected in part (b) of the main reply. If no such information is available, I do not know how the Government assesses whether our service levels are reasonable. Will the Government inform this Council what our target service levels are in terms of follow-up services for ex-mental patients, whether we have achieved the prescribed targets according to the present information of the Government and whether there are adequate services such as visits by social workers or community nurses?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, whether we can achieve the targets of service levels depends on the targets set for each service beforehand. If we can achieve them, we can achieve them. If we cannot, we cannot. We also have different targets for different areas. In this connection, we have asked the HA and the social service organizations to set the various levels and targets of services. If there are objective standards, we will be able to assess the level of their services. However, at this stage, we are still not able to do this. Therefore, we have to make further efforts.

MR MICHAEL HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, I was asking whether the Government had such information. Will the Government inform this Council what information it has now?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): With regard to part (b) of the main question, I do not have the relevant information at present. However, if there is a need, we will consider making the effort to collect such information.

MR EDWARD HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, the annex to the main reply sets out the establishment of medical staff providing psychiatric services in the HA. How many clinical psychologists are there among the allied health professionals ─ since there is only one figure for that category ─ and is their number sufficient?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, I do not have the separate figures for clinical psychologists at hand. However, I can provide a written answer. (Annex IV) As to whether their number is sufficient, there is an inadequate number of clinical psychologists both for this and other services. We have to continue increasing the number of clinical psychologists.

MR LEE CHEUK-YAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, from the Secretary's reply, I gathered that the attendances for first appointment at specialist out-patient clinics have registered a relatively higher growth. From the figures that the Secretary rapidly rolled out, it seems that they have increased by 17%. I hope that the Secretary will confirm this. My supplementary question is: Has the Government tried to find out why there is such a great increase? In my view, this is an indicator of nervousness in the community. Has the Government conducted studies to find out why there is a great increase in the attendances at psychiatric clinics? If not, will it conduct a relevant study?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, it is true that the number of mental patients seeking treatment from the HA has increased by 17%. This figure has increased over the past few years. However, we have seen a more obvious increase over the past year. The reasons might be manifold. We have not done a very systematic study on this. One of the reasons might be that people are paying more attention to mental health. However, we have not done a systematic study on why the number has increased. Actually, in many countries, some patients refuse to admit that they have this illness. Therefore, there is no way that we can estimate how many people suffer from mental illness but do not seek treatment from the hospitals.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr LEE, which part of your supplementary question has not been answered?

MR LEE CHEUK-YAN (in Cantonese): The Secretary did not say whether a systematic study would be conducted and if not, why not?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, so far, we have not done a relevant study. However, we will discuss with the HA whether we can conduct some systematic studies through other means.

MR HO SAI-CHU (in Cantonese): Madam President, part of my supplementary question has already been asked by some Members just now. However, I would like to ask it in a more specific way. The attendances at out-patient clinics have registered a higher growth at 17%. However, the annual budget has only increased by about 5% and the number of beds has only increased by 3% to 4%. I believe the economic situation over the past two years has caused people to suffer from more mental stress. No wonder that the number of mental patients has increased. Under these circumstances, has the Government considered increasing resources and the number of beds to cope with the problem?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, over the past two years, we have considered increasing resources in this area. However, the rate of increase may not be proportionate to the increased demand. The causes of mental illness are complex and manifold. It does not necessarily have a direct link with the present economic situation.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Members, we have spent more than 15 minutes on this question. We will proceed to the next question.

Transportation of Marked Oil by Mainland Vessels

4. MR WONG YUNG-KAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, it is reported that recently quite a number of fishing vessels and river trade vessels from the Mainland have been entering the waters of Hong Kong to purchase large quantities of industrial diesel oil ( commonly known as "marketed oil") at marine fuelling stations in Hong Kong for onward sale in the Mainland. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the existing stipulations governing the entry of mainland vessels into the waters of Hong Kong;

(b) whether it knows if safety appliances for the proper transportation of large quantities of marked oil have been installed on these mainland vessels, and of the actions that will be taken by the Administration against those vessels transporting large quantities of marked oil without these safety appliances; and

(c) whether assessment has been conducted to see if the above-mentioned purchasing activities have led to a shortage of supply of marked oil at marine fuelling stations for use by fishing vessels of Hong Kong; if there is such a shortage, whether the Administration is aware of the remedial measures taken by the suppliers concerned?

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam President,

(a) According to the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance, the owner or master of vessels from the Mainland should, within 24 hours of entering Hong Kong waters, notify the Marine Department of their arrival and submit to the department relevant documents including port clearance at the last port of call, manifest of cargo and list of crew members and so on. Normally, fishing vessels from the Mainland plying their trade in Hong Kong waters are exempt from such requirement. However, if mainland fishing vessels engage in activities other than fishing, like buying marked oil, selling their catches or engaging in other transactions, they are similarly required by the above law to inform the authorities concerned or risk prosecution. In addition, all vessels entering Hong Kong waters are required to undergo immigration clearance from the Immigration Department.

(b) Only oil tankers which meet prescribed specifications are allowed to transport large quantities of marked oil as cargoes. The safety and operation standards of these oil tankers are governed by the Merchant Shipping (Safety) Ordinance and Merchant Shipping (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Ordinance. It is illegal for non-oil tankers to carry large quantities of marked oil as cargoes. If the ship was a local licensed vessel, it could be prosecuted and, if convicted, would be subject to a maximum penalty of a fine of $10,000 and six months' imprisonment. If the ship was a mainland licensed vessel, the Marine Department may detain the vessel and require the captain of the vessel to unload the excess amount of marked oil in the vessel until it meets the safety requirement. The Marine Department will also submit the particulars of the vessel to the authority of the port of registry. The vessel may also be refused access to the Hong Kong waters in future.

(c) We have not received any reports about a shortage of marked oil in Hong Kong. We have also checked with the oil companies and they have also confirmed that there is no shortage of marked oil for supply to fishing vessels.

MR WONG YUNG-KAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary has not answered part (a) of my question. Mainland fishing vessels plying their trade in Hong Kong waters need not report. However, if the vessels buy marked oil for onward sale, do they need to make a declaration? Does the Government have the relevant figures? Also, part (b) of the question ......

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr WONG, please ask part (b) of your supplementary question later.

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam President, I have indeed answered Mr WONG's question in my main reply. If mainland fishing vessels engage in other transactions rather than fishing in Hong Kong waters, such as buying marked oil, they are required by the relevant port control legislation to declare their cargoes.

DR RAYMOND HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, part (b) of the main reply stated that it is illegal for local licensed vessels which are non-oil tankers to carry large quantities of marked oil as cargoes. Will the Secretary inform this Council of the number of such cases over the past 12 months and the maximum and minimum penalties imposed?

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam President, no local vessel has been prosecuted. As we all know, the oil carried by local vessels is used locally. Dr Raymond HO asked about the prosecution figures. The answer is that we have not prosecuted any local vessel.

MR LAU KONG-WAH (in Cantonese): Madam President, Mr WONG Yung-kan asked the question based on his knowledge as a member of the industry. He said there were "quite a number of " vessels which engaged in illegal purchase of oil. The Secretary said just now that no local vessels had been prosecuted. However, with regard to parts (a) and (b) of the main reply, have foreign vessels been prosecuted and is the present situation serious?

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): I am sorry. I do not quite understand the last part of Mr LAU's supplementary question.

MR LAU KONG-WAH (in Cantonese): Parts (a) and (b) stated circumstances under which foreign vessels may breach the law in Hong Kong waters. In answering Dr Raymond HO's question just now, the Secretary said that no local vessels had been prosecuted. However, he did not say whether foreign vessels had been prosecuted. If so, what are the figures?

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): I believe both questions by Mr LAU Kong-wah and Mr WONG are directed at mainland vessels. If there is a problem with mainland vessels, we will use safety as our guiding principle and ask them to adopt measures to meet the safety requirements of our port. Under the existing law, we are not authorized to prosecute them, since it is conventional practice for the authority of the port of registry to take actions against the vessels. Therefore, we will ask them to adopt appropriate measures for safety reasons first. For instance, during the past two months, spot checks were carried out by the Marine Department. If mainland vessels are found carrying an excess amount of marked oil, they will immediately be required to unload it completely. Their particulars will then be recorded and submitted to the authority of the port of registry. The relevant vessel will also be refused access to the Hong Kong waters in future. This is our current practice. Therefore, we do not have any prosecution figures.

MR CHAN KAM-LAM (in Cantonese): Madam President, in part (b) of the main reply, the Secretary said that if vessels were found carrying an excessive amount of marked oil, they would be required to unload it. Non-oil tankers usually carry marked oil in drums, claiming that they are for private use. How does the Government deal with these cases and how many such cases were found in the past?

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): Actually, only oil tankers can carry large quantities of marked oil as cargoes. Otherwise, the only explanation is that the marked oil that fills up the oil tanks is for private use. If a vessel carries 10 to 20 drums of marked oil, it is obviously carrying marked oil as cargoes. Since they are cargoes, customs declaration should be made before leaving the port. For safety reasons, the Marine Department will certainly take action. As I mentioned just now, with their professional expertise, staff of the Marine Department would certainly know that it is dangerous for a wooden vessel to carry over 10 drums of marked oil. Therefore, they will certainly take action and ask the vessel to unload all the marked oil as well as take down its particulars before allowing it to leave.

MR CHAN KAM-LAM (in Cantonese): The Secretary did not answer whether such cases had been found in the past.

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): These cases only happened recently. This might be the result of a change in oil prices. Actually, over the past two months, spot checks were carried out by the Marine Department. Apart from daily patrols on the sea, spot checks were carried out at marine fuelling stations. Not many such cases have been found in these spot checks. Only one vessel was carrying an excess amount of marked oil. I have mentioned the actions that we will take, that is, we will ask them to unload the marked oil immediately, take down their particulars and submit them to the relevant authority of the port of registry.

MR WONG YUNG-KAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, if local vessels breach the law, they will be prosecuted and be subject to a fine and six months' imprisonment. Why are foreign vessels not prosecuted? Will this not encourage them to enter the waters of Hong Kong constantly to engage in illegal purchase of marked oil?

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): This is a relatively new problem for generally speaking, oil is transported from the Mainland to Hong Kong. This is a new trend. The situation does not seem to be too serious at present. We have checked with the oil companies and they have confirmed that the problem is not as serious as reported, so serious that our vessels fail to buy oil. This is not true. Actually, there is a sufficient fuel supply. The oil companies have at least 30 days' stock and they have even more now. In the past, if such cases happened, the authority of the port of registry would take action. Therefore, we would submit the particulars to the port of registry of the vessel. Since this is a new situation, we have made spot checks over the past two months. We will monitor the situation closely to see if there is a need to amend the legislation.

MR LAU KONG-WAH (in Cantonese): Madam President, it is not a question of whether it is an old or a new problem. The question is, there are statutory provisions. The Secretary said that the law would be enforced where local vessels were concerned but defeated vessels. Has this defeated the spirit of the law?

SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC SERVICES (in Cantonese): I think Mr LAU has misunderstood me. Actually, we are acting according to the law. It is not the case that we do not enforce the law. The law only empowers us to prosecute local vessels but not mainland vessels. Therefore, it is not the case that we fail to enforce the law. Rather, the law stipulates that cases involving mainland vessels must be handed over to the relevant authorities which will then handle them. However, we can also take action and ask them to adopt measures to meet our safety requirements. The relevant vessels may also be refused access to the Hong Kong waters in future. These are measures that we can adopt. Due to the change in circumstances now, we consider that there is a need to tighten the law. As I said just now, we will monitor the development of the current situation closely and consider whether there is a need to amend the law.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Fifth question.

Sub-standard work of HOS Flats in Tin Shui Wai

5. MR TAM YIU-CHUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, it is reported that the number and distribution of steel bars in the pre-cast concrete components used for building some of the external walls of Tin Shing Court, a Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) estate under construction, are below standard, and this may cause cracks or leakages on the walls of the affected flats. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Housing Department has investigated the case; if so, of the outcome; if not, why not;

(b) of the circumstances under which the Government will take punitive measures against and claim compensation from building contractors of HOS projects and developers of housing estates under the Private Sector Participation Scheme (PSPS); and

(c) whether, in the event that HOS projects are not completed on schedule, compensation will be made to the affected prospective owners, and priority given to those who have decided to rescind the sale and purchase agreements in favour of purchasing flats at the next HOS flats sale?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, on the demand of the Housing Authority (HA), the two consultant architects, who are the Contract Managers of the two concerned phases of the Tin Shing Court project, have investigated the case. The investigation has concluded that the precast concrete facade (PCF) units installed in the concerned blocks comply with the design standard in terms of safety and durability. The Housing Department has studied the investigation findings closely and agreed that the allegation about the PCF units is unfounded. No special remedial measures will therefore be required.

The HA requires the building contractors for its HOS projects to work in strict compliance with the contract. The contractors are required to rectify any non-compliance of works at their own expense. If a contractor fails to complete the rectification works within the specified period, the HA may recover the damages from him by deducting part of the payments. If the problem is serious, the HA may terminate the contract and take legal actions to recover further damages from the contractor.

The HA has also in place a contractors' performance review system. Disciplinary actions, including suspension from invitation to tender and removal from the list of approved contractors, may be taken against contractors who have performed poorly.

In the case of projects under the PSPS, the general practice for private housing developments is followed. A developer is required to appoint his own Authorized Person (AP) and Main Contractor. The AP is fully responsible for project design and the quality of construction works carried out by the Main Contractor. The design and construction works are subject to the control as prescribed under the Buildings Ordinance. In addition, a Monitoring Surveyor appointed by the Housing Department will assess the performance of the Main Contractor and the Housing Department itself will monitor the Main Contractor in the same manner as the contractors' performance review system under HOS.

In the event that the flat delivery date of an HOS project cannot meet the one stated in the "agreement for sale and purchase" (ASP) (which may be extended under certain special circumstances as provided under the ASP), the purchaser may either rescind the ASP, or seek compensation which would be the interest for the period of delay on all payments made. If the former is chosen, the deposit together with the interest will be refunded and the purchaser may re-apply for an HOS flat in the usual manner in future. Currently, the Tin Shing Court project is on schedule and delay is not expected

MR TAM YIU-CHUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, may I ask the Secretary how many prospective owners of Tin Shing Court have made inquiries with the Housing Department about the quality and structural safety of this HOS estate? Also, will the Housing Department write to all prospective owners of Tin Shing Court to explain the whole incident and guarantee the structural safety of the buildings of the estate?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, I do not have information on the number of enquiries made by the relevant owners on hand. However, after the in-depth investigation which I mentioned just now, the Housing Department wrote to all 960 prospective owners who had purchased a flat in Tin Shing Court on 31 December to explain to them the investigation findings in detail and point out to them that the buildings are durable and structurally safe, so as to put the relevant owners at ease.

MISS EMILY LAU (in Cantonese): Madam President, in the third paragraph of the main reply, the Secretary mentioned that the HA had in place a contractors' performance review system. May I ask when this system was established? How poor is a poor performance? How many contractors have been subject to disciplinary action, including suspension from invitation to tender, and how many contractors have been removed from the list of approved contractors?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, the review system has been in place for a long time. However, I do not have information on when it was established right now. Not many contractors have been removed from the list. Usually it was because of considerable delay or serious financial problems, or inability to complete the project before the flat delivery date. I do not have the detailed figures and information. However, I can submit them to Members after the meeting. (Annex V)

MR CHAN WING-CHAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary mentioned PCF units. Are these PCF units all made in Hong Kong? Or are some of them made overseas? If it is the latter case, can the orders be given to local manufacturers so as to increase the job opportunities of workers?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr CHAN, I consider the question about employment has nothing to do with the original question on structural safety. Therefore, I rule that you cannot ask this supplementary question.

MR CHAN WING-CHAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, may I rephrase my supplementary question?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I will keep you in line for your turn. You will have a chance to ask your question.

MR CHAN WING-CHAN (in Cantonese): Fine.

MISS CYD HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, in some PSPS projects, it is stipulated that contractors have to be responsible for the structural problems, if any, of the HOS estates within a period of 10 years. We have a ready here. The 10-year period for On Ning Garden in Tseung Kwon O will expire next year. However, many structural problems of that particular HOS estate have not been satisfactorily resolved. What role does the HA play in this matter? Before it can recover damages from the contractors, will the HA be responsible for maintenance? After the lapse of the 10-year period, how should this matter be resolved?

Madam President, this example may be too specific. However, this case has happened and it has to do with structural problems.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I understand your point. But please tell me to which part of the Secretary's answer is your supplementary question related?

MISS CYD HO (in Cantonese): It is related to both the second and fourth paragraphs. The second paragraph referred to the responsibility for undertaking rectification works for HOS projects and the fourth paragraph was about projects under the PSPS.

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, with regard to the foundation subsidence in On Ning Garden, the matter has been discussed in detail in the Panel on Housing. I have briefed the Panel on the matter and said that the Government would pay the maintenance costs first and recover them from the relevant contractor later. About the 10-year period, it is a condition stipulated in the PSPS. The HA considers 10 years a reasonable term. Since the relevant HOS estate has been sold to owners, the owners will naturally be responsible for maintenance after this term. However, with regard to the problem of subsidence, the HA has followed up the matter closely and has undertaken the relevant works. It has also kept the relevant owners well informed over a long period of time. We are convinced that the problems of On Ning Garden can be resolved and that there will not be any structural problems.

MISS CYD HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary did not answer what role the HA would play after the lapse of the 10-year period. Will it wash its hands of the matter?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, according to the present modus operandi of the PSPS, the HA is not one of the signatories to the contract. The relevant contract is an agreement between the contractor and the owners, while the HA plays a supporting role through the Housing Department. Even after the lapse of the 10-year period, the Housing Department will try to offer various kinds of assistance so that the owners and the contractor can continue to discuss structural problems and other maintenance problems. However, on the whole, the HA has no legal responsibility.

DR RAYMOND HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, in the first paragraph of the main reply, the Secretary said that the investigation carried out by the consultant architects showed that the design of the PCF units of Tin Shing Court was in order. This means that the report mentioned by the Honourable TAM Yiu-chung is inaccurate and there is no crack or leakage on the walls of the affected flats. May I ask whether other HOS estates using PCF units of the same design show signs of cracks or leakages?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, the PCF units used in Tin Shing Court are based on the Housing Department's design of 1996. As I explained in my main reply, the investigation findings of the consultants have confirmed that there is nothing wrong with these units, they fully comply with the specifications and the joints between walls also conform to the standard. Similarly, no problems have arisen in other HOS estates using these precast units.

DR RAYMOND HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, is the Secretary saying that there is no evidence to show that there are cracks? But he failed to indicate clearly whether there are no leakages. May I ask whether there are no leakages at all?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, the answer is an emphatic "no"; there are no such problems. The precast units are used mainly to ensure that the joints between walls comply with the standards. Of course, as with the joints of other walls, small cracks are unavoidable. However, they conform to the standards and will not cause leakages or other problems.

MR HO SAI-CHU (in Cantonese): Madam President, the first sentence of the main reply stated that two consultant architects had investigated the case on the demand of the HA. May I ask on what basis those consultants were asked to conduct the investigation? Those consultants responsible for the investigation are also the Contract Managers of the concerned Tin Shing Court project. During their investigation, would they consider that their management was the best?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, I would like to explain a little bit here. These precast units are made by manufacturers in their factories in Hong Kong or the Mainland and then delivered to the contractors. In other words, the contractors do not manufacture the units themselves. Moreover, the architects, engineers and engineering firm that I mentioned are employed by the Housing Department to monitor the execution of the contract. This means that the relevant architects, engineers and engineering firm do not have anything to do with the factories and manufacturers manufacturing the precast units. The engineering firm plays a similar role to the Authorized Person in the construction of private buildings, that is, it is responsible to the Housing Department for the quality of the project and structural safety and so on. Therefore, that investigation was an independent investigation. The investigation report was examined carefully by the relevant professionals of the Housing Department. Indeed, I have read the investigation report myself. The investigation findings have shown that there will not be any problem of structural safety, leakages or cracks.

DR RAYMOND HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, in the fourth paragraph of the main reply, the Secretary mentioned that a Monitoring Surveyor appointed by the Housing Department would assess the performance of the Main Contractor. At present, the HOS blocks are very tall and the foundation therefore very complicated. Very often, precast units are used. Even if their design is correct, problems will arise in the construction phase. Why does the Housing Department appoint a surveyor instead of a structural engineer to monitor the performance of contractors?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, in the case of PSPS projects, the relevant contractor is required by the Buildings Ordinance to appoint an AP and an approved engineer to monitor the project. In other words, the relevant AP and the contractor are responsible for monitoring and supervising the quality of the project. As I said just now, neither the HA nor the Housing Department is one of the signatories to the contract. However, the HA is responsible for arranging the sale of the relevant flats. In order to ensure that the project meets the prescribed standards, the Housing Department will appoint another independent Monitoring Surveyor to regularly monitor the engineering quality and ensure that it is in compliance with the standard. This is additional supervision and a further guarantee apart from the supervision undertaken by the AP appointed by the contractor.

DR RAYMOND HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary has not answered my question. There are three kinds of APs: architect, engineer and surveyor. The structure of these buildings are very important. If a surveyor is appointed, he may not be an expert on many matters related to the project. That is why I asked why an appropriate professional is not appointed to monitor the performance of the contractor.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Secretary, do you have anything to add?

SECRETARY FOR HOUSING (in Cantonese): Madam President, in several projects under the PSPS, a surveyor was appointed to supervise the project. Dr HO asked whether an engineer should be appointed instead. I cannot make a professional comment now. As far as I know, the surveyor responsible for supervision is entirely capable of doing his job, that is, monitoring the progress of the project and whether it meets the requirements.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Last oral question.

Crisis-management Experience of Government Officials

6. MR BERNAND CHAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, it is reported that Mr LEE Kuan-yew, Senior Minister of Singapore, has said that the leading cadres of the Hong Kong Government lack experience in "crisis-management", resulting in their inability to stay calm in face of crisis. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether assessments have been made on the performance of various bureaux and departments in the past two years in handling various important issues, such as the avian flu and the Asian financial turmoil; if so, whether the assessment results indicate that senior officials lack crisis-management experience; and

(b) of the specific plans in place to strengthen the alertness, crisis-handling capabilities and management skills of officials when faced with crisis?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Cantonese): Madam President,

(a) The Administration constantly reviews and reflects on actions taken on issues of major public concern. In the 18 months since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Hong Kong has experienced major incidents including the avian flu and the Asian financial turmoil, which had put the Administration to test in its ability in crisis management. In both instances, the nature, scale and severity of the crises were unprecedented. Despite that, the bureaux and departments concerned have tried their best to tackle the crises with dedication and professionalism. There are certainly things that we could have done better, and we are determined to learn from these experiences. But it would be an over-simplification to blame the mistakes we made on the lack of experience of senior officials in crisis management. Given the highly complex and unpredictable nature of both these incidents, the fact that we have managed to achieve our policy aims effectively (that is, to bring the outbreak of the avian flu to an end, and to stabilize the financial and property markets) says a lot about our abilities to climb the learning curve quickly and to get on top of the problems in time.

(b) We believe that the best way to deal with crisis is to develop the ability to recognize, at an early stage, developments which could give rise to crisis. Seminars on contingency planning, crisis management and effective communication are held from time to time for management staff at all levels. The Administration has also developed early warning systems in strategic areas such as public health and financial services by closely monitoring information available locally and internationally. The fact that the Administration has been able to deal with, for example, the avian flu at an incipient stage and was able to defend the currency, was due to the fact that the relevant bureaux and departments managed to take timely and decisive action, having had the right information to hand.

MR BERNAND CHAN (in Cantonese): Madam President, in paragraph (b) of his main reply, the Secretary said that seminars on contingency planning were held from time to time. Were guidelines given to government officials of different ranks in these seminars so that they know what skills to use when explanation is given to the public when contingencies arise, lest remarks like "it is nothing serious if only one village house collapses in 30 years" as recently made by a government official should happen again?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Cantonese): Madam President, in the few months between April and December 1998 alone, we have already held six seminars on crisis management and related topics, including a large-scale seminar entitled "Contingency Planning — A Must for All" conducted by the Central Policy Unit. Participants of the seminar encompassed almost all the high-ranking officials and lessons were drawn from the experience of foreign or private corporations in dealing with crisis. Of course, we have to stress that, at the end of the day, the know-how of crisis management cannot be completely mastered through training alone. Crisis is defined as something that does not happen all the time. In many cases, only unpredictable incidents will give rise to crisis. When dealing with these crises, much is relied on government officials, the Hong Kong people and all related parties. Only by pulling together their wisdom and efforts can problems be addressed properly.

MR NG LEUNG-SING (in Cantonese): Madam President, in the last part of paragraph (b) of the main reply, it is said that the fact that the Administration has been able to deal with the avian flu at an incipient stage and was able to defend the currency was due to the fact that the relevant bureaux and departments had managed to take timely and decisive action, having the right information to hand. However, as far as we know, in the financial turmoil, the academia and people in the trade had offered their advice to the Government at an even earlier stage, whereas the measures the Government took later were in fact similar. Does it contradict the last statement which says that the Government "managed to take timely and decisive action"?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Cantonese): Madam President, it was a very lengthy process for the financial turmoil to spread from Asia to the whole world. In its course of development, there were a lot of sudden changes and situations which even top economists failed to see beforehand. In early 1998, I had the honour of discussing with a world class American economist about this issue. At that time he simply attributed the Asian financial turmoil to corruption in the governments of the region, saying that these governments, generally speaking, were never very good at managing financial systems and their markets were relatively closed. However, at a later stage, I saw with my own eyes that this same economist's view was totally changed when he published an article in an international journal. He said that the seriousness of the Asian financial turmoil was closely related to the lack of monitoring and regulation of the movement of hot money around the world. Madam President, I have cited this example only to prove that nobody is omniscient. Most government officials, economists or people claiming to have the most piercing vision in the world can only see through things after they have already happened. Therefore, when Hong Kong was attacked by speculators in August and September and caught in a critical situation, we decisively took steps to intervene in the market and saved the financial system. The action itself has already shown that we have done a lot of work in this aspect.

MISS CYD HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, I would like to ask a supplementary question about something which is not mentioned in the main reply but is the crux of the issue in my view. It takes the co-ordination of many government departments and organizations to deal with the avian flu and the financial turmoil, but the main reply only talks about the department heads' ability to recognize related developments which could give rise to crisis. Is there a specific person in the Civil Service who is charged with the duty of raising timely alarm and co-ordinating interdepartmental projects? In fact, the supplementary question I want to ask is whether anybody has been derelict of duty by failing to co-ordinate in time in the face of the natural disaster and the calamities brought about by external factors this time?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Miss HO, please be more concise when you ask supplementary questions next time.

MISS CYD HO (in Cantonese): Fine.

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Cantonese): Madam President, crisis management encompasses a lot of procedures. First of all, of course, the crisis has to be identified. Then responses and co-ordination have to be planned, especially if the crisis involves several government departments and the whole community. Afterwards, close attention has to be paid and strategies adjusted in response to every stage of development. If it is something that can be solved by a simple method, then it is not even a crisis. I believe Honourable Members can all discern from the major incidents happened lately that the Hong Kong Government has maintained a close and pertinent response to every situation. In many cases, we can respond only in the light of the actual condition. However, with regard to co-ordination, we also admit that in certain individual actions such as the slaughter of chickens, we could have done better. We actually held review meetings afterwards in the hope that similar incidents would not occur again; and even if the same thing happens again, we are convinced that we have already learnt a lesson from this action. Madam President, I must stress that the definition of crisis is that it is something which has never been dealt with before. I therefore hope that people, including citizens and Legislative Council Members, can give the government officials charged with the duties the opportunity and the room to learn while working, so that things can be better handled in the future.

MISS CYD HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, we have indeed learnt a lesson after these two incidents. I actually hope the Secretary can tell us whether there is at present a specific government official, such as the Chief Secretary for Administration or the Chief Executive, who is charged with the duty of recognizing the presence of a crisis. Is there such a mechanism or person at the moment?

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Miss HO, this is not a follow-up to the supplementary question you have raised just now; this is another supplementary question. Therefore, you have to wait for your turn again.

MR LEE KAI-MING (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary says in the main reply that there are things which they could have done better and they are determined to learn from these experiences. May I know what lessons they have learnt? Have any government officials been punished because of dereliction of duty in these incidents?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Cantonese): Madam President, since the several major crises we encountered involved very complicated processes and numerous stages, I am afraid I cannot give an exhaustive list of all the lessons we have learnt. I just want to say that I believe it is very important for all people, in particular the government officials responsible for different policy areas, to be always on the alert for crisis in their daily work. As to who should bear the overall responsibility, a point raised by an Honourable Member just now is very correct, that is, we do not want to rely on one or two persons in the whole Civil Service to be on the lookout for crises. If it is so, there is bound to be oversight. We hope that all the colleagues responsible for this aspect of work in the Civil Service can give full play to their functions and detect the emergence of crisis through early warning systems. This is of course not only the responsibility of the Government, we also welcome views from people from all walks of life, including Legislative Council Members, businessmen, academics and members of the public. If they find that our policy is moving onto a path they consider dangerous, they should let us know as soon as possible. In fact, under our open political system, I believe this mechanism is already in place.

MR JAMES TIEN: Madam President, the Secretary's reply in part (b) states that the best way to deal with crisis is to develop the ability to recognize, at an early stage, developments which could give rise to crisis. Could the Secretary please inform this Council that for a lot of Policy Secretaries, they might not realize that it is a crisis until it gets too late? Would you have in mind that the newly created Information Co-ordinator at D8 will be able to help to identify the crisis for these Policy Secretaries?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Cantonese): Madam President, I have said a moment ago that we do not want the whole Government to rely solely on one or two persons to tell us that a crisis is coming, neither do we think this practice is healthy. What we hope is that the early warning systems can give play to their functions effectively. To be more precise, take public health as an example, the Department of Health has a comprehensive public disease monitoring system at present. Under this system, all the clinics in Hong Kong and all the hospitals under the Hospital Authority would monitor diseases, especially the outbreak of new diseases, on a regular basis. Besides, the Department of Health also keeps close contact with health organizations around the world so that it can become aware of new diseases and trace their development to see if they will impact on Hong Kong. This is a very practical example illustrating that the early identification of crisis does not rely on one or two persons, the whole system has to be brought into full play.

MISS EMILY LAU (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Secretary said just now if a crisis is coming, he hopes the public can inform him of that. Does he mean that, in the cases of the avian flu and the financial turmoil, the then Provisional Legislative Council and other mechanisms failed entirely to tell the Administration that these crises might happen and so the Government did not realize they were crises until it was too late?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Cantonese): Madam President, if we want to look back now and find out who was the first one to sound the warning of an impending crisis, it will be rather time-consuming because we must scrutinize what actually happened at that time. However, take the avian flu as an example, the first people who firmly believed it was a brand new disease which might constitute a crisis were the colleagues from the Department of Health. The first people alarming the whole world about the crisis were also the colleagues from the Department of Health, and the people who took the initiative to contact leading health organizations in the world in search of solutions were again those colleagues from the Department of Health. This just explains why today our colleagues from the Department of Health receive so many commendations from international health experts. Of course, their success is also attributable to the support from the public and Honourable Members.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Honourable Members, we have already spent over 15 minutes on this question and the time for oral questions is now up. If Members still want to raise supplementary questions, I hope they can follow up through other channels.

WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

Supply of Private Residential Units

7. DR HUI MING-WAH (in Chinese): Regarding the supply of private residential units, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it knows the respective areas of building land presently held by various major property developers;

(b) it knows the total area of residential units which major property developers plan to put up for sale in each of the next five years; and

(c) property developers are required to complete building and sell the residential units within a certain period of time after the acquisition of building land from the Government; if so, the number of projects that did not meet this requirement in the past five years and its percentage of the total number of projects?

SECRETARY FOR PLANNING, ENVIRONMENT AND LANDS (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) The Government does not compile statistics on the total area of building land presently held by individual property developers. It should be noted that developers may hold land under different subsidiary and related companies;

(b) The Government does not compile statistics on the total floor area of residential units which individual property developers plan to put up for sale in each of the next five years. The timing of the sale of individual residential developments is a commercial decision based on their marketing strategies. The Government's role is to make available sufficient land and infrastructure to facilitate the private sector in meeting the long-term demand of the community for private housing; and

(c) Where land is acquired from the Government through auction, tender or private treaty grant, the lease conditions will always impose a building covenant period within which the development must be completed in accordance with the conditions. Depending on the size and complexity of the development, this period can vary from a minimum of three years up to six years or more. Our statistics on compliance with the building covenant period, which have been compiled since 1997, show that 61 out of a total of 81 cases (that is, 75%) with the building covenant period expiring between 1 January 1997 and 30 June 1998 were completed on time.

Political Asylum

8. MR JAMES TO (in Chinese): Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Special Administration (SAR) Region Government will grant political asylum upon requests; if so, whether people from mainland China and Taiwan are included;

(b) whether the policy in (a) above differs from that of the former British Hong Kong Government;

(c) of the total number of applications for political asylum received by the Administration since 1 July 1997; and among them, the respective numbers of cases approved or rejected;

(d) of the procedure adopted by the Administration in processing such applications; how it compares with the procedure adopted by the former British Hong Kong Government;

(e) whether the Administration has to consult the Central People's Government with regard to the granting of political asylum to applicants; and

(f) whether the Administration will hand over the personal information of asylum seekers to the Central People's Government?

SECRETARY FOR SECURITY (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) and (b)

Apart from being a port of first asylum for Vietnamese boat people, the Government has never had any policy of granting political asylum to any person, before or after the reunification. As from 9 January 1998, the port of first asylum policy for Vietnamese boat people has been abolished.

With regard to requests for permission to remain in Hong Kong on exceptional humanitarian or compassionate grounds, as in the past, the Director of Immigration may, in accordance with the Immigration Ordinance, exercise discretion to authorize a person to remain in Hong Kong.

(c) The SAR Government does not have any policy of granting political asylum to any person, nor any relevant statistics.

(d) Since we do not have a policy of granting political asylum, no particular procedure has been formulated for the processing of such applications. As for our role as a port of first asylum for Vietnamese boat people, we followed, up to 8 January 1998, a set of specific procedures in processing all Vietnamese boat people who arrived in Hong Kong, including the screening for refugee status. Those screened in were eligible for resettlement in a third country while those screened out as non-refugees had to be repatriated to Vietnam. After the abolition of the port of first asylum policy on 9 January 1998, all illegal immigrants from Vietnam are detained pending repatriation to their place of origin in the same way as illegal immigrants from any other countries.

(e) and (f)

As provided for in the Basic Law, the SAR Government may apply immigration controls on entry into, stay in and departure from the Region by persons from foreign states and regions without seeking approval from the Central People's Government or handing over to it any relevant personal information.

Toll Collection Arrangement for Lantau Link

9. MRS MIRIAM LAU (in Chinese): At present, drivers using the Lantau Link are only required to pay the two-way tolls for the Link when leaving Lantau. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it has any plan to demolish the toll booths on the section of the Lantau Link heading towards Lantau, so as to avoid misunderstanding, which may give rise to traffic accidents, by drivers who are not familiar with such a toll collection arrangement, if not, of the reasons for that?

SECRETARY FOR TRANSPORT (in Chinese): Madam President, for the convenience of motorists and to streamline traffic flow, we have adopted a one-way toll collection arrangement at Lantau Link requiring motorists to pay tolls only on their Kwai Tsing bound trips.

Although the Lantau-bound toll booths are not used at present, we have no plans to demolish them as we will need to use them in the future. During temporary closure of the Kwai Tsing bound toll lanes for road maintenance or during emergencies, we will need to use these Lantau-bound toll booths. Furthermore, we are now undertaking the preliminary design of a new highway known as Route 10 to link up north Lantau with Hong Kong West and Yuen Long to be completed in about 2007. When this second road link to north Lantau is built providing an alternative route to north Lantau, we will need to use the two-way collection arrangement on the existing Lantau Link.

To prevent misunderstanding about the use of the Lantau-bound toll booths, the following measures have been put in place:

(a) traffic signs have been erected 300 m before the Lantau-bound toll booths to advise motorists of the reduction of the speed limit from 80 kph to 50 kph;

(b) yellow transverse bar markings have been painted on the carriageway within the toll plaza area to advise motorists of the need to reduce speed;

(c) traffic cones have been placed to channelize vehicles on the approaches to the 3.3 m wide toll lanes; and

(d) "pay on return trip" signs have been posted at the unused toll booths to indicate the one-way toll arrangement.

The following additional measures will be implemented to further publicize the one-way toll collection arrangement :

(a) broadcasting the message of "pay on return trip" in Cheung Tsing Tunnel;

(b) displaying "pay on return trip" message at the relevant variable message gantry signs; and

(c) erecting large signs above the Lantau-bound toll canopy to display the "pay on return trip" message.

At this stage, we do not believe there is a need to dismantle part or all of the Lantau-bound toll booths. We will, nevertheless, monitor the situation closely and keep the issue under review.

Commendation System of the Civil Service

10. MR NG LEUNG-SING (in Chinese): Will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the present system for granting awards and commendations to civil servants who have achieved outstanding performance in their work or made contributions to public service;

(b) how this system compares with that in force before Hong Kong's reunification with China; and

(c) whether it has announced the reasons or good deeds for which a civil servant was awarded or commended; if so, whether it has assessed the effects of such announcements; if not, why not?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) At present, there are a number of systems to grant awards and commendations to civil servants who have achieved outstanding performance in their work or made contributions to public service. The main one is that the Chief Executive presents honours and awards to civil servants in recognition of their distinguished and dedicated public service or for acts of bravery in the course of duty. Honours and awards can be classified into general honours, bravery awards, disciplined services and ICAC awards, and the Chief Executive Commendation. Besides, Department Heads may issue commendation letters to officers who have made a substantial contribution towards enhancing the efficiency or the image of their departments or who performed an exceptionally meritorious act warranting special recognition. Apart from the above, most of the departments also organize the "Staff Suggestion Scheme" and the "Staff Motivation Scheme" to encourage staff to improve efficiency and service quality by giving out awards. Besides, Trading Fund Departments also organize incentive schemes to recognize those civil servants who have outstanding performance and contributed to attain pre-determined performance indicators. In the coming financial year, the Civil Service Bureau will introduce a "Customer Service Award" Scheme to encourage front-line civil servants to provide better services to the public.

(b) A new honours and awards system has been introduced after the reunification to make the system more in line with local needs and circumstances. This system is broadly similar to the one before the reunification in terms of the types and grades of awards in order to recognize the different areas and levels of contribution by different persons. As regards the Staff Suggestion Scheme, the Commendation Letters and the Staff Motivation Scheme, the current systems are basically the same as those before the reunification. The Government is also considering the introduction of more schemes to encourage civil servants to further improve their performance.

(c) For honours and awards, citations for individual recipients are usually issued together with the press release on the Honours List. This arrangement has been well received by both the recipients and the media. For the other three schemes, government departments announce the name and the good deeds of a civil servant who was awarded or commended through various channels, for example, presentation ceremony, departmental newsletter, circulars and press release. Such arrangement is considered effective in giving honour to the awardees and also in encouraging other civil servants to make their contributions and to make suggestions.

Amending Section 45(2)(c) of the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations

11. MRS MIRIAM LAU (in Chinese): Section 45(2)(c) of the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374 sub. leg. D) provides that when in charge of a taxi, a driver shall, while the taxi is available for hire, not loiter or stop elsewhere than at a taxi stand except through accident or unavoidable cause. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it constitutes a breach of the above provision if a taxi driver drives around to look for passengers or stops the taxi at a place other than a taxi stand to wait for passengers;

(b) of the number of taxi drivers convicted of breaching the provision in each of the past three years, and the average penalties imposed on the convicted drivers by the Court; and

(c) whether the Government has examined if there is a need to amend the provision in the light of the fact that taxi drivers nowadays need to drive around to look for passengers or stop the taxis elsewhere than at a taxi stand to wait for passengers; if no amendment is considered necessary, the reasons for that?

SECRETARY FOR TRANSPORT (in Chinese): Madam President, the intention of regulation 45(2)(c) of the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations is to prevent the following taxi malpractices:

(a) formation of unauthorized taxi stands at unsuitable locations causing obstruction to traffic;

(b) disorderly behaviour on the part of taxi drivers such as picking up passengers near taxi stands without queuing at the stands; and

(c) taxi drivers stopping near a taxi stand with the taxi meter covered up, intending to select passengers.

According to the Department of Justice, a taxi driver who drives around looking for passengers, or who stops elsewhere than at a taxi stand waiting for passengers, would not necessarily, on that basis alone, breach regulation 45(2)(c). Much would depend on the objective circumstances of each case and whether the taxi driver has a "reasonable excuse" when faced with the charge of the offence under the regulation. Ultimately, the decision on whether a reasonable excuse has been raised and whether there is a breach of the regulation rests with the Court.

The number of summonses issued by the police for the past three years on breaches of the regulation are 178 310 and 360 respectively. The average fines is $400 to $600.

The Administration will review, in consultation with the taxi trade, the need for legislative amendments to make the intention of the regulation clearer to all parties concerned.

Design of Traffic Sign Posts

12. MR LAU WONG-FAT (in Chinese): It was reported that on 4 December last year, a private car got out of control in Kowloon Tong and knocked over a traffic sign post, which fell and killed a child on the pavement. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of traffic accidents which involved the knocking over of traffic sign posts in the past five years; together with the number of pedestrians who were injured and killed in the accidents; and

(b) whether it will consider improving the design of traffic signs posts so as to reduce the number of casualties in such accidents?

SECRETARY FOR TRANSPORT (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) There were a total of 111 injury accidents recorded in the past five years 11 months from 1993 to November 1998 which involved vehicles hitting sign posts. Of them, four involved injury to seven pedestrians (one fatal, two serious and four slight). A comparison of accidents involving vehicles hitting sign posts as opposed to the overall injury traffic accident figures is given below:

Year


Injury accident

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

January-
November



Total


Accident involving vehicles hitting sign posts

24

22

19

12

16

18

111


All injury accidents

15 469

15 440

14 812

14 397

14 776

12 803

87 697

(b) The Highways Department has checked that the traffic sign post involved in the accident on 4 December 1998 complies with the established safety standard. The Department has also reviewed the current design for the sign post and considers that there is no problem with the design. The Department will keep on reviewing the design standards of traffic signs and all other street furnitures constantly and in the light of experience gained.

Privacy and Integrity of Information Transmitted over the Internet

13. MR SIN CHUNG-KAI: Regarding the protection of privacy and integrity of information transmitted over the Internet, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the measures it has taken to ensure that providers of Internet services and Fixed Telecommunication Network Services (FTNS) adopt reliable security measures; and

(b) whether it will consider requiring each applicant of Public Non-exclusive Telecommunications Service (PNETS) licence to submit a detailed plan on data security measures before such application will be approved?

SECRETARY FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND BROADCASTING: Madam President,

(a) Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating Internet services under a PNETS licence and FTNS licensees are required under their respective licences to comply with the regulations and recommendations of the International Telecommunication Union applicable to Hong Kong, including those relating to the secrecy and the safeguarding against disruption of information transmitted. Licensed ISPs and FTNS licensees are also required under their respective licences to safeguard the confidentiality of information concerning a customer and shall not disclose such information except with the consent of the customer, or for the prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or as may be authorized by or under the law. For ISPs and FTNS licensees who fail to comply with their licence conditions, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (TA) may cancel, withdraw or suspend their licences, or issue directions to the licensee concerned requiring it to take necessary rectification action. A financial penalty may be imposed for non-compliance with the TA's directions.

In addition, the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (the Ordinance), which stipulates the data protection principles for the collection, storage and use of personal data on individuals by data users, applies to all data users, including ISPs and FTNS licensees. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has published a booklet entitled "Personal Data Privacy and the Internet ─ A Guide for Data Users", which provides guidelines to ISPs on compliance with the key requirements of the Ordinance when they collect, display or transmit personal data over the Internet. Contravention of the provisions of the Ordinance is an offence subject to the penalties provided in that Ordinance.

(b) As set out in (a) above, PNETS licensees operating ISP services are subject to licence obligations to ensure the security and the safeguarding of information transmitted over the Internet and to protect personal data on individuals collected, stored and used by them. Licensees are responsible for making their own arrangements to meet these obligations. This has worked well as evidenced by the absence of complaints to the TA relating to the breaches of these obligations by the licensees. We, therefore, do not intend to introduce new requirements for applicants for PNETS licences to operate Internet services to submit detailed plans on data security measures before their applications are approved.

Speculation Activities in Textile Quotas

14. MR LEE KAI-MING (in Chinese): It is reported that speculations on textile quotas have become active recently, and some small and medium manufacturers have to purchase textile quotas at high prices from manufacturers holding such quotas. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it has assessed the extent of speculation activities in textile quotas; and

(b) it has plans to alter the quota allocation system, including reallocating the quotas; if so, of the details; if not, why not?

SECRETARY FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) Textile exports to restrained markets such as the United States and the European Union are subject to quota restraint. The existing textile quota allocation system aims at providing a stable but flexible system for the textiles and clothing industry in order to facilitate the most effective use of the limited quotas. To this end, quotas are basically allocated according to traders' past performance. This allocation principle not only ensures the actual utilization of quotas but is also conducive to the normal and stable operation of the business of textile traders.

In addition, the quota allocation system permits transfer of quotas so as to enable the movement of quotas from those who cannot use them to those who need them, thereby optimizing the utilization of quotas. However, quota transfer is also subject to certain restrictions. For example, traders are not allowed to transfer out the quotas within two years after they have been permanently transferred in. This is to prevent the quota transfer system from being abused.

Notwithstanding the above restrictions, quota transfer is mainly regulated through the market mechanism. Quota prices are entirely determined by the supply and demand of quotas, which are in turn affected by a combination of market factors such as fashion trends and product prices set by suppliers in other countries. In sum, it is natural that the prices of quotas fluctuate with the changes in supply and demand.

(b) To cater for the needs of the industry, the Trade Department has kept the quota allocation system under constant review. For example, it has recently made some adjustments to the quota allocation principle. One of the changes made is that a quota holder will be allocated the full amount of quotas in the following year only if he has utilized at least 98% of his quotas in the preceding year (previous requirement was 95%). Moreover, all additional quotas derived from the annual growth factor will be made available to the trade in the form of free quotas.

The above changes seek to allow more quotas to be allocated to those who are in need, as well as whilst ensuring the maximum utilization of quotas, certainty in textile exports, and maintaining the principle of quota allocation based on past performance. Furthermore, quota restrictions imposed on Hong Kong by importing countries are being progressively relaxed. Under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, quota restrictions will be completely removed by 2005. We will continue to keep a close watch on the operation of our quota allocation system. However, the above factors must be taken into full account if any fundamental changes were to be made to the system.

Water-cooled Air-conditioning Systems

15. MR LEUNG YIU-CHUNG (in Chinese): The Administration has pledged to study the feasibility and economic benefits of promoting water-cooled air conditioning systems in 1998. In this connection, will the Government inform the Council:

(a) of the current progress of the study;

(b) of the current legislation or code of practice regulating the use of such air-conditioning systems in commercial premises;

(c) whether it has gathered statistics on the percentage of commercial premises using such air-conditioning systems, against the total number of such premises; and

(d) whether it has adopted measures to promote such air-conditioning systems in commercial premises; if not, why not?

SECRETARY FOR PLANNING, ENVIRONMENT AND LANDS (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department's consultants started their preliminary study on 15 October 1998. The aim is to identify the problems and constraints involved in promoting water-cooled air conditioning systems for non-domestic developments at district and territorial levels. The consultants have been asked to determine the scope of a further detailed study to examine how best to overcome the identified problems and constraints to allow the adoption of water-cooled air conditioning systems as the Southeast Kowloon Developments at well as at two other selected districts. The study is progressing satisfactorily and the final report is expected by May 1999.

(b) There is no legislation or code of practice regulating the use of water-cooled air conditioning systems in individual commercial premises. However, section 13(a) of the Waterworks Regulation empowers the Director of Water Supplies to control the use of water from water mains for air conditioning plants. For water conservation reasons, the Water Supplies Department's policy on using mains water in air-conditioning systems is that they should be of closed circuit cooling type where the operational losses are negligible. Approval is rarely given for evaporative types of water-cooled systems and only if they are absolutely necessary.

(c) We do not have readily available statistics on the number of commercial premises currently using water-cooled air conditioning systems. However, the number is likely to be small.

(d) We have not yet adopted measures to promote water-cooled air conditioning systems in commercial premises. The purpose of the study commissioned by the Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services is to provide us with the necessary information that will allow us to adopt a realistic and practical approach in promoting such systems.

Maintaining Hong Kong's Competitiveness

16. DR DAVID LI: An international magazine has predicted that Hong Kong will drop from being the best to the 12th best place in the world to conduct business best between 1999 and 2003. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council the measures it will take to maintain Hong Kong's competitive edge among other business centres in the region, such as Singapore, Taiwan and Shanghai?

FINANCIAL SECRETARY: Madam President, in its Global Outlook Reports, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has, since the second quarter of 1997, been forecasting a significant deterioration in Hong Kong's business environment in the coming five years. The future ranking of Hong Kong as forecast by the EIU has fluctuated between ninth (second quarter 1998 forecast) and 17th (first quarter 1998 forecast), whereas Hong Kong's ranking looking back over the previous five years has consistently been the top. The overall business environment of an economy is constituted from a host of structural and institutional factors which, in general, tend to change only gradually. It is, therefore, not easy to understand the sudden drop in ranking between the past and the coming five years, nor the wide fluctuations in future ranking between different rounds.

EIU's business ranking for Hong Kong

Past five years

Coming five years


1997

Q2

1

14

Q3

1

13

Q4

1

14


1998

Q1

1

17

Q2

1

9

Q3

1

13

Q4

1

12

According to the EIU, the sharp slide in Hong Kong's ranking in the coming five years reflects both an expected deterioration in the operating environment associated with the handover to China, and the fallout from the regional economic crisis. The plain fact is that, nearly two years after the handover, Hong Kong's business environment is not affected at all by this political event. The "one country, two systems" principle has been firmly maintained, and has by now gained very strong credibility through actual practice. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is committed to openness and transparency and to maintaining a level playing field for all those who do business here, irrespective of their nationality or affiliation. While Hong Kong has not been immune from the severe impact of the regional financial turmoil, with our sound economic fundamentals and robust financial and fiscal systems, we should be able to recover speedily when the global and regional situation improves.

In the light of developments in other business centres in the region like Singapore, Taipei and Shanghai, competition with Hong Kong must exist. We are, of course, alert to these competitive pressures, and to the need to keep up with Hong Kong's competitiveness at all times. Members are aware that in the 1998-99 Budget I announced last February and in the Chief Executive's policy address last October, a wide range of measures to enhance Hong Kong's productive capacity and competitive edge were set out. They underline our resolve to seek greater achievements in science and technology, industrial innovation, infrastructure, development of human resources and efficiency and cost effectiveness of the Government. Together, they will help lay the foundation for economic recovery and maintain our position as a leading business centre of the world. For Members' ease of reference, these measures are now recapitulated at the Annex to this reply.

The Government has also introduced two specific programmes to ensure that we remain alert to and on top of competitive challenges.

The first is the Services Promotion Programme which looks systematically and comprehensively at the services sector of the economy and identifies the action the community needs to take to ensure that Hong Kong remains the premier services centre in Asia. I chair the Services Promotion Strategy Group, which comprises leading businessmen, top academics and senior officials, to steer the programme.

The second is the Helping Business Programme which reviews ways that the Government can help the business sector by cutting red tape, reducing cost of compliance, identifying activities for transfer to the private sector, and introducing new and improved services in support of the business community. Our overall objective is to ensure that Hong Kong remains the best place in the world for business. I chair the Business Advisory Group which comprises leading businessmen and senior officials to steer that programme.

In 1997, I established a dedicated organization in my own office, the Business and Services Promotion Unit, to help co-ordinate both programmes. Working with the bureaux and departments concerned, the Unit has identified a number of improvement measures and is monitoring their implementation. Some of the specific items outlined in the Annex to this reply originated from one or other of the two programmes.

Our efforts in this regard never cease. The global financial crisis in 1998 has given us new impetus to undertake greater structural reforms and make new initiatives. The Administration is conscious of the opportunities which this crisis has offered and will make good use of them.

Annex

Measures to Enhance Hong Kong's Economic Strengths

(I) On promoting the use of science and technology

  • Strengthening Government support for innovation and technological development by setting up an Applied Science and Technology Research Institute;

  • Setting up a $5 billion Innovation and Technology Fund to provide finance for projects that will contribute to the improved use of innovation and technology in Hong Kong's industrial and commercial sectors;

  • Opening up the information technology and telecommunications market and encouraging the new development of the respective services, and developing a new framework for realizing the potential of information and communications technology to add value;

  • Positioning Hong Kong as an Internet hub for the Asia Pacific region to help Hong Kong, Mainland and overseas businesses to produce, distribute and market their goods more effectively both within the region and beyond;

  • Establishing an on-line Government Electronic Services Delivery Scheme to allow 24-hour access to government services and information;

  • Developing a world class teleport at Chung Hom Kok to provide the best possible global satellite communications links; and

  • Setting up a $100 million Film Development Fund to promote creativity and the use of technology in local film production.

(II) On supporting industrial and commercial development

  • Enhancing Hong Kong's role as an international financial services centre by strengthening regulatory systems and developing new products, such as a Venture Board for the trading of shares in smaller and emerging companies;

  • Drawing up plans for a new performance venue in Kowloon to boost Hong Kong's status as Asia's entertainment and events capital;

  • Establishing a Heritage Tourism Task Force to promote Hong Kong's heritage sites and develop opportunities for joint tourism promotions with the Mainland;

  • Appointing a Commissioner for Tourism whose role will be to help stimulate further growth in the tourism industry;

  • Opening a Small and Medium Enterprises Office in the Industry Department to co-ordinate services and assistance for smaller businesses; and

  • Taking forward proposals aimed at establishing Hong Kong as the international centre for Chinese medicine, including the setting up of an Institute for Chinese Medicine.

(III) On improving infrastructure

  • Building three major railways: the West Rail Phase 1, the Mass Transit Railway Tseung Kwan O extension and the Ma On Shan Railway, at a total cost of $110 billion;

  • Improving cross-boundary traffic by building a Kowloon-Canton Railway spur line from Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau;

  • Expanding Hong Kong's network of highways by building Route 16 connecting Sha Tin and West Kowloon and Route 10 between North Lantau and Yuen Long, and by planning for the Central Kowloon Route and Route 7 between Kennedy Town and Aberdeen; and

  • Providing facilities that modern business needs by building industrial estates and a science park, and by redeveloping old industrial structures and offices into flexible "smart buildings".

(IV) On investing in human capital

  • Ensuring that the people of Hong Kong have the skills and outlook needed to create and to find employment in this complex, change-filled modern world;

  • Providing over $500 million in grants to public sector schools from 1999 to 2003 to help improve their management and the quality of education;

  • Working towards the target of providing virtually all primary school students with whole-day schooling as from 2007-08;

  • Investing $630 million to promote the further use of information technology in education;

  • Unifying the various vocational training institutions to form a new Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education by 2002; and

  • Granting $500 million to the Employees Retraining Board to enable it to provide more and better courses for the unemployed.

(V) On achieving a more efficient and cost-effective government

  • Undertaking an Enhanced Productivity Programme to improve the cost-effectiveness of the Civil Service, through targetting a 5% productivity gain; reshaping the Government through privatization, contracting out and corporatization;

  • Reviewing entry-level pay for civil servants to ensure broad parity with private sector practice; and

  • Reviewing the civil service appointment policy on pensionable, agreement and temporary terms, by making it better suited to the needs of departments.

Food Suppliers for Schools

17. MR YEUNG YIU-CHUNG (in Chinese): As many students studying in whole-day primary and secondary schools order lunchboxes from food suppliers through their schools collectively, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of such suppliers at present;

(b) whether such suppliers are graded according to the hygiene conditions of their food factories; if so, of the details;

(c) of the number of cases in which students fell sick allegedly as a result of consuming contaminated food provided by such food suppliers in each of the past five years; together with the number of suppliers involved in these cases; and

(d) of the measures in place to strengthen the regulatory control over the hygiene conditions in such food factories, in order to prevent incidents whereby students fall sick as a result of consuming contaminated food?

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) According to the records of the Urban Services Department and Regional Services Department, there are 22 and 11 licensed food factories supplying lunchboxes in the Provisional Urban Council area and Provisional Regional Council area respectively, of which 13 and eight provide lunchboxes to schools.

(b) These food factories have been categorized into Grade A, B or C on the basis of their hygiene conditions. Currently, the grading system is intended for internal reference to facilitate the Municipal Services Departments to determine the frequency of inspection to these premises. Amongst the 13 food factories in the Provisional Urban Council area providing lunchboxes to schools, three are graded A, seven are graded B and three are graded C. Grade A premises are inspected by Health Inspectors once every eight weeks, Grade B once every four weeks and Grade C once every two weeks. Amongst the eight food factories in the Provisional Regional Council area providing lunchboxes to schools, one is graded A, four are graded B and three are graded C. Grade A premises are inspected once every eight weeks, Grade B once every three weeks and Grade C once every week.

(c) According to the records of the Department of Health, the number of cases in which students felt sick allegedly as a result of consuming contaminated food provided by such food suppliers and the number of suppliers involved in these cases in the past five years are as follows:

Year

No. of cases

No. of food
suppliers involved

1994

0

0

1995

0

0

1996

1

1

1997

1

1

1998

1

1

Total

3

3

(d) Health Inspectors of the Municipal Services Departments have all along been conducting unannounced inspections to food factories, including food factories supplying lunchboxes to schools. Inspections will be stepped up for those food factories previously involved in food poisoning cases or with unsatisfactory hygiene conditions to ensure that they are operated in compliance with legislative and licensing requirements. The Department of Health and the two Municipal Services Departments frequently provide health education, including knowledge on and the importance of personal and environmental hygiene, to food dealers.

Recently, the Steering Committee on Healthy Living has endorsed in principle a new measure of introducing an open grading system for licensed food premises (including food factories supplying lunchboxes to schools). When the system is implemented, the public will be able to know the assessed hygiene standard of food premises which they intend to patronize. This would provide an incentive for owners of food factories to maintain a high standard of environmental hygiene within their premises.

Impact of the Construction of West Rail on the Fares of East Rail

18. MR LAU KONG-WAH (in Chinese): In connection with the impact of the construction of West Rail on the level of fares of East Rail, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the details of the two West Rail contracts recently awarded by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) and of the comparative values of the two contracts and their original estimated expenditures; and

(b) whether it knows if KCRC will increase the fares of East Rail to facilitate the financing of the West Rail?

SECRETARY FOR TRANSPORT (in Chinese): Madam President, the construction of West Rail has no direct impact on the fare levels of East Rail because the two are separate projects. The answers to the two parts of the detailed questions are:

(a) In September and October 1998, the KCRC awarded the Design and Build contracts for the Tai Lam Tunnel and the Kwai Tsing Tunnels at contract prices of $1.79 billion and $1.9 billion respectively. The Tai Lam Tunnel contract is cheaper than the original estimate by about 30% while the contract for the Kwai Tsing Tunnels by about 39%. This is due to a combination of factors including in particular, the special nature of design-and-build contracts, which gives the contractors greater flexibility in the use of the most cost-effective construction method, and the availability of the contractor's plant and equipment for such work at this particular point in time. Only part of the lower contract price is attributed to the recent economic downturn when tender prices are more competitive. These are the only two civil construction contracts in the West Rail (Phase I) project that could have a design and built element and they only account for a small proportion of a total of some 35 other civil and E&M contracts to be awarded under the project in the coming years. It is hence much too early to speculate on what the total project costs, and thus savings, might be.

(b) Railway fares are set having regard to essential factors such as operating costs, long-term financial needs, public acceptability and competition from other transport modes. There is thus no question of the Corporation increasing the fares of East Rail simply to facilitate the financing of the West Rail (Phase I) project. In financing the West Rail (Phase I) project, the KCRC will rely on its own financial resources, government equity injection as well as commercial loans. When the KCRC borrows, it will have to borrow against its total debt-servicing ability. Accordingly, both the credit rating agencies and lenders will take into account the past financial record of the Corporation as well as its ability to remain financially sound in future. This includes whether the Corporation can demonstrate that it can project and maintain a stable income which is derived from all its business operations, not solely from the East Rail.

Granting of Acting Allowance to Civil Servants

19. MISS EMILY LAU (in Chinese): Regarding the granting of acting allowance to civil servants who take up temporary acting appointments in government departments, will the executive authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the rationale for granting acting allowance to civil servants in government departments, given the most private companies do not grant such allowance to their staff;

(b) of the total amount of such allowance granted in the last financial year; and

(c) whether consideration will be given to abolishing such allowance?

SECRETARY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE (in Chinese): Madam President, acting appointments are made in the civil service mainly in the following circumstances:

(1) Before promoting an officer, departments or grades may require the officer to act in the promotion rank for a specified period to test his/her suitability. The officer will be substantively promoted only if his performance during the acting period is up to the standard required.

(2) For short-term operational needs, departments or grades may also arrange for individual officers to act in or cover the duties of other posts which are temporarily vacant (for example, when an officer takes vacation leave or sick leave).

During the period of acting, an officer will only be granted an acting allowance in accordance with the Civil Service Regulations. The fringe benefits at his original rank will remain unchanged.

The answers to the specific questions are as follows:

(a) The payment of acting allowance to officers taking up acting appointments is to give recognition to the additional duties and responsibilities shouldered by the officers as mentioned in the circumstances above.

(b) In the financial year 1997-98, the Government has paid about $0.69 billion as acting allowance for the various acting arrangements above. This amounts to about 1.3% of the civil service payroll for the same period and covers acting allowance paid to all civil servants in government departments, trading funds as well as those working in subvented organizations.

(c) The Civil Service Bureau review from time to time the various provisions in the Civil Service Regulations. We would review when necessary the arrangements for making acting appointments and the payment of acting allowance.

Development of the Film Industry

20. MR TIMOTHY FOK (in Chinese): Regarding the promotion of the development of the film industry, will the Government inform this Council of the specific measures to:

(a) encourage film workers to produce more films of high quality and high artistic value; and

(b) raise the audience's ability to appreciate films?

SECRETARY FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND BROADCASTING (in Chinese): Madam President,

(a) Through the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC), the Government provides funding support for activities which are conducive to the development of the local film industry. The Council's Creative Grant encourages innovative and high quality creative works (including films creative works) in Hong Kong and the maximum grant per project is $0.5 million. The ADC also funds projects beneficial to the development and production of media arts. Each year, the Provisional Urban Council spends considerable sums of public money to support film-related activities. To encourage local production of creative non-commercial independent short films and videos, effective from 1995 the Provisional Urban Council co-organizes with the Hong Kong Arts Centre the Hong Kong Independent Short Film and Video Awards. In recent years, the Provisional Urban Council selects local productions as the opening or closing films for the Hong Kong International Film Festival so as to encourage and support local film makers as well as recongize their achievements. The Government will soon set up a Film Development Fund to finance projects which would facilitate the healthy and long-term development of the local film industry, including those which could encourage the production of more creative and diversified films.

(b) The Provisional Urban Council annually organizes the Hong Kong International Film Festival which screens high quality international films for the local audience. The Council also regularly sponsors various cultural organizations in organizing film appreciation activities such as the British Film Week. That apart, the four community arts centres organize film-related activities as well as extension activities at schools to arouse the youth's interest in film arts. The ADC offers grants for education and promotion projects on film arts with a view to increasing awareness and appreciation of film arts works by the youth. Funding support will also be provided to projects which can broaden access to media arts for the community. As regards education, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts offers courses on film appreciation for its students. Film-related subjects have also been included in the course programme of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Hong Kong and the General Education Programme of the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a view to broadening the horizons of students in film arts.

BILLS

First Reading of Bills

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Bills: First Reading.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 13) BILL 1998

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 15) BILL 1998

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 12) BILL 1998

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 14) BILL 1998

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 16) BILL 1998

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 17) BILL 1998

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 11) BILL 1998

CLERK (in Cantonese): Adaptation of Laws (No.13) Bill 1998

Adaptation of Laws (No.15) Bill 1998

Adaptation of Laws (No.12) Bill 1998

Adaptation of Laws (No.14) Bill 1998

Adaptation of Laws (No.16) Bill 1998

Adaptation of Laws (No.17) Bill 1998

Adaptation of Laws (No.11) Bill 1998

Bills read the First time and ordered to be set down for Second Reading pursuant to Rule 53(3) of the Rules of Procedure.

Second Reading of Bills

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Bills: Second Reading.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 13) BILL 1998

CHIEF SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move that the Adaptation of Laws (No. 13) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

The Bill seeks to make terminological amendments to six Ordinances and their subsidiary legislation to bring them into conformity with the Basic Law and with Hong Kong's status as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. These Ordinances include the Jury Ordinance, the Official Languages Ordinance, the Legal Aid Ordinance, the Pension Benefits (Judicial Officers) Ordinance, the Judicial Officers (Tenure of Office) Ordinance and the Legal Aid Services Council Ordinance.

The Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance has already provided for the principles to interpret terminologies which are inconsistent with the Basic Law or Hong Kong's status as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. However, we consider it unacceptable to retain terminologies which are inconsistent with the Basic Law in our statute books after the reunification. This Bill provides for the necessary terminological amendments to the above six Ordinances.

In addition, the Bill also amends the definitions of "public service" and "service" in the Pension Benefits (Judicial Officers) Ordinance. The Ordinance currently recognizes services other than service in the Government of Hong Kong, such as service in other Commonwealth governments, for the purpose of computing pension for judicial officers. This is inconsistent with the status of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Preferential treatment should no longer be given to services under the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth governments and organziations for judicial officers appointed on or after 1 July 1997.

The adaptations, when passed into law, shall take effect retrospectively as from the date of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Madam President, this Bill is important not only to bring the above six Ordinances into line with the Basic Law and with Hong Kong's status as a Special Administrative Region but also to obviate the need to make cross references to the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance and the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance. I therefore commend it to this Council for early passage into law.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Adaptation of Laws (No.13) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the debate is now adjourned and the Bill referred to the House Committee.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 15) BILL 1998

CHIEF SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move that the Adaptation of Laws (No. 15) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

The Bill seeks to make terminological amendments to the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, the Fatal Accidents Ordinance, the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance and the Justices of the Peace Ordinance.

Although the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance provided, inter alia, for the inclusion of Schedule 8 in the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance which sets out the principles for interpreting laws which continue to remain as the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and brings the laws of the SAR into conformity with the Basic Law and with Hong Kong's status as a SAR of the People's Republic of China, we consider it unacceptable to retain terminologies which are inconsistent with the Basic Law in our statute books after the reunification. We therefore need to enact the Bill to bring about the necessary terminological amendments.

The Bill, when passed into law, shall take effect retrospectively, as from the date of the establishment of the SAR. This does not contravene Article 12 of the Bill of Rights Ordinance.

Madam President, in addition to bringing the above four Ordinances into conformity with the Basic Law and with Hong Kong's status as a SAR, this Bill will also obviate the need for making cross references to the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance and the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance. I therefore commend it to this Council for early passage into law.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Adaptation of Laws (No. 15) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the debate the is now adjourned and the Bill referred to the House Committee.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 12) BILL 1998

SECRETARY FOR JUSTICE (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move that the Adaptation of Laws (No. 12) Bill 1998 be read a Second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to adapt the provisions of seven Ordinances to bring them into conformity with the Basic Law and with the status of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China.

The Judicial Proceedings (Adjournment During Gale Warnings) Ordinance, the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, the Criminal Jurisdiction Ordinance, the Costs in Criminal Cases Ordinance, the Enduring Powers of Attorney Ordinance, the Revised Edition of the Laws Ordinance and the Laws (Loose-leaf Publication) Ordinance are some of the laws previously in force in Hong Kong which have been adopted as laws of the SAR. They contain a number of provisions which require adaptation. Although the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance specifies how terminologies inconsistent with the Basic Law or with the status of Hong Kong as a SAR of the People's Republic of China is to be construed, it is considered unacceptable to retain such terminologies in our laws. Accordingly, we now need to introduce further legislation to effect the necessary textual amendments.

I will now describe the main provisions of the Bill and the reasons for them. The Bill provides that the proposed adaptations should have retrospective effect to cover the interim period between 1 July 1997 and the enactment of the Bill. This retrospectivity will ensure that there is consistency of interpretation of all laws on and after 1 July 1997. However, this retrospectivity will not apply to criminality. This restriction is in line with the requirements in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as applied to Hong Kong.

The Bill repeals provisions which are either obsolete or contain colonial connotations and replaces them, where necessary, with new terms. The old references to "Governor" and "Governor in Council" are replaced by "Chief Executive" and "Chief Executive in Council" respectively. References to "the Colony" are replaced by "Hong Kong".

The Bill repeals section 3 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance because it is no longer appropriate and is redundant.

The Bill amends sections 9M(1), 56(2), 59, 83S and 102(4), of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, Rule 64 of the Criminal Appeal Rules, and Rule 2 of the Criminal Procedure (Representation) Rules by repealing the references to "Crown" and replacing them with "Government". These provisions concern criminal procedure, forfeiture of bail money and disposal of unclaimed property connected with offences. Since it is the Government, not the State, that is involved, therefore the references to "Crown" are adapted to "Government". The references to "Queen" in Forms II, III, XVI and XVII in the Schedule to the Criminal Appeal Rules are also repealed and replaced by "Government".

The Bill also amends the Criminal Procedure Ordinance by repealing the expression "in the peace of the Queen" in section 19 and replacing it with "within the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong courts", and by repealing the reference to "any note of the Bank of England or of any other bank" in section 20 and replacing it with "any bank note".

The Bill also repeals the references to pardons by the Governor on behalf of Her Majesty in section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, and the references to "Her Majesty's prerogative of mercy and any prerogative of mercy vested in the Governor" in section 118 of the Ordinance, and replaces them with references to the Chief Executive's power to pardon offences and commute penalties.

The Bill adapts the references to "imperial enactment" in Rules 4 and 5 of the Indictment Rules to "national law applying in Hong Kong".

Madam President, the majority of the amendments that the Bill seeks to make are terminological changes. They aim to remove any uncertainties in interpreting our laws, and are therefore essential for the smooth operation of the SAR. I commend this Bill to Members for early passage into law. Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Adaptation of Laws (No. 12) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the debate is now adjourned and the Bill referred to the House Committee.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 14) BILL 1998

SECRETARY FOR HOME AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move the Second Reading of the Adaptation of Laws (No. 14) Bill 1998. The purpose of this Bill is to adapt 24 Ordinances, in relation to the incorporation of religious organizations, to bring them into conformity with the Basic Law and with Hong Kong's status as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China.

Although there are provisions in the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance and the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance for the interpretation of terminologies which are in contravention of the Basic Law or inconsistent with Hong Kong's status as a SAR of the People's Republic of China, it is still unacceptable to keep such terminologies in the laws of Hong Kong. Therefore, we must enact this Bill to have the words and expressions amended. Most of the proposed amendments are terminological changes. All references saving "the rights of Her Majesty, Her Heirs or Successors" shall be amended to references saving "the rights of the Central People's Government or the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the Basic Law or other laws" pursuant to item 10 of Annex 3 to the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Treatment of the Laws Previously in Force in Hong Kong in accordance with Article 160 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

Subject to Article 12 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, the proposed adaptations when passed into law shall take effect retrospectively, as from the date of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This Bill will save the trouble of making reference to the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance and the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance. I beg Members' support for this Bill. Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Adaptation of Laws (No. 14) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the debate is now adjourned and the Bill referred to the House Committee.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 16) BILL 1998

SECRETARY FOR HOME AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move that the Adaptation of Laws (No. 16) Bill be read the Second time. The purpose of this Bill is to adapt 14 Ordinances in relation to culture, recreation and sport as well as municipal services and health to bring them into conformity with the Basic Law and with Hong Kong's status as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

As I have already explained the background of the adaptation of laws in moving the Second Reading of the Adaptation of Laws (No. 14) Bill 1998, I am not going to repeat it here. The proposed adaptations of this Bill are mainly terminological ones. Subject to Article 12 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, the proposed adaptations when passed into law shall take effect retrospectively, as from the date of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

I beg Members' support of this Bill. Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Adaptation of Laws (No. 16) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

In accordance with Rules of Procedure, the debate is now adjourned and the Bill referred to the House Committee.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 17) BILL 1998

SECRETARY FOR HOME AFFAIRS (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move that the Adaptation of Laws (No. 17) Bill be read the Second time. The purpose of this Bill is to adapt nine Ordinances in relation to trust and trust funds to bring them into conformity with the Basic Law and with Hong Kong's status as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

As I have already explained the background of the adaptation of laws in moving the Second Reading of the Adaptation of Laws (No. 14) Bill 1998, I am not going to repeat it here. Like the above two Bills, the proposed adaptations are mainly terminological ones. Subject to Article 12 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, the proposed adaptations when passed into law shall take effect retrospectively, as from the date of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

I beg Members' support of this Bill. Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Adaptation of Laws (No. 17) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the debate is now adjourned and the Bill referred to the House Committee.

ADAPTATION OF LAWS (NO. 11) BILL 1998

SECRETARY FOR PLANNING, ENVIRONMENT AND LANDS (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move that the Adaptation of Laws (No. 11) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

The Bill seeks to effect necessary adaptations to nine Ordinances relating to land matters and their subsidiary legislation to bring them into conformity with the Basic Law and with the status of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China.

Some of the references contained in these nine Ordinances, such as "the Governor", "the Governor in Council" and "the Crown" are inconsistent with the Basic Law or with the status of Hong Kong as a SAR of the People's Republic of China, and need to be amended as appropriate. Although the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance and the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance already laid down how terminology inconsistent with the Basic Law or with the status of Hong Kong as a SAR of the People's Republic of China is to be interpreted, it is considered unacceptable to retain such terminology in our laws. Accordingly, we now need to introduce the Bill to effect the necessary textual amendments.

The proposed amendments are mainly terminological changes. These adaptations when passed into law shall take effect retrospectively, as from the date of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The Bill obviates the need to make cross references to the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance and the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance. I hope Members can support the Bill.

Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Adaptation of Laws (No. 11) Bill 1998 be read the Second time.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the debate is now adjourned and the Bill referred to the House Committee.

Resumption of Second Reading Debate on Bill

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): This Council now resumes the Second Reading debate on the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, I have given consent to Mr Andrew WONG, the chairman of the Bills Committee on the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998, to address to this Council on the report of the Committee.

SECURITIES (INSIDER DEALING) (AMENDMENT) BILL 1998

Resumption of debate on Second Reading which was moved on 23 September 1998

MR ANDREW WONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, in my capacity as chairman of the Bills Committee on the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998, I now report in summary the deliberations of the Committee. The report forms my speech as I totally agree with the conclusions drawn.

The Bill seeks to include, in the definition of "judge" deputy judges of the Court of First Instance so that the pool of candidates eligible for appointment as chairman of the Insider Dealing Tribunal is enlarged in order to cope with the increasing workload of the Tribunal.

The Bills Committee had certain views on whether former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance are eligible for appointment as chairman of the Tribunal. The original intent of the Bill seeks to provide that in addition to judges and former judges of the Court of First Instance, deputy judges, excluding former deputy judges, of the Court of First Instance, may also be appointed as Tribunal chairman. That is to say incumbent, not former, deputy judges are eligible for appointment.

The Government has reservations about enlarging the pool of eligible candidates for appointment as chairman of the Tribunal because deputy judges of the Court of First Instance are appointed as the needs of the Court of First Instance arise and/or to test the suitability of the candidates to be appointed as judges. Therefore, some of the former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance may not be considered suitable candidates. The authorities believe where necessary the Chief Justice may still re-appoint suitable former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance so that they qualify to act as chairman of the Tribunal, that is, former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance may first be appointed deputy judges of the Court of First Instance and hence qualify for appointment as chairman of the Tribunal.

Members of the Bills Committee generally held the view that former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance should be included in the list of appointable persons to the Tribunal for the following reasons:

(1) In the appointment of deputy judges of the Court of First Instance, the Chief Justice has to consider carefully and fully the suitability of the candidates in accordance with the existing guidelines of the judiciary.

(2) In the appointment of chairman of the Tribunal, the Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region will consult the Chief Justice.

As the practice of requiring the Chief Executive to consult the Chief Justice in his appointment of a Tribunal chairman is not expressly stipulated in the principal Ordinance, Members have suggested an amendment be made to clause 15(2) to spell out clearly that the Chief Executive shall make his appointment on the recommendation of the Chief Justice in order to remove any doubts in this regard.

The Administration agrees with this view of the Members and will move an amendment at the Committee stage so that former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance may qualify for appointment as chairman of the Tribunal. The Ordinance will set out clearly that the Chief Executive will appoint a Tribunal chairman on the recommendation of the Chief Justice. Moreover, the Administration will move another amendment to expressly provide that a former judge or a former deputy judge of the High Court of Justice which was in operation before 1 July 1997 is qulaified for appointment as chairman of the Tribunal. The Committee unanimously supported the Committee stage amendments to be moved by the Administration.

On behalf of the Bills Committee, Madam President, I support the Bill and the Committee stage amendments proposed by the Administration. Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Does any other Member wish to speak?

(No Member indicated a wish to speak)

SECRETARY FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam President, the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998 was introduced for the First Reading on 23 September last year. As I pointed out at that time, the purpose of the Bill is to expand the scope of candidates eligible to be appointed as chairman of the Insider Dealing Tribunal (the Tribunal) established under the Ordinance to include deputy judges of the Court of First Instance. Subsequent to that, Members set up a Bills Committee on this Bill and studied and discussed it in detail. I would like to thank the chairman and other Members of the Bills Committee.

During the Bills Committee meetings, Members made some suggestions concerning the eligibility for appointment and the appointment methods, including expanding the scope of candidates eligible to be appointed as chairman of the Tribunal to include former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance and stipulating that the chairman shall be appointed by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal. After careful consideration, the Government has decided to accept Members' suggestions. I will later move the relevant amendments to the Bill at the Committee stage.

The Insider Dealing Tribunal conducted its first inquiry in 1994 and has dealt with eight cases so far. In seven of these cases, insider dealing has been established and the persons involved in insider dealing have been given proper punishment. With the continued development of the local securities market and the increasing number of products, we expect that the number of cases of insider dealing will also increase and their nature will become more and more complicated. In order for the Tribunal to cope with the increasing workload and to ensure that its operation will not be affected, there is an urgent need to expand the scope of candidates eligible to be appointed as chairman of the Tribunal.

With these remarks, Madam President, I urge Members to pass this Bill. Thank you.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you and that is: That the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998 be read the Second time. Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(No hands raised)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I think the question is agreed by a majority of the Members present. I declare the motion passed.

CLERK (in Cantonese): The Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998.

Council went into Committee.

Committee Stage

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Bill: Committee stage. Council is now in Committee.

SECURITIES (INSIDER DEALING) (AMENDMENT) BILL 1998

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the following clauses stand part of the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998.

CLERK (in Cantonese): Clause 1.

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Those agianst please raise their hands.

(No hands raised)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I think the question is agreed by a majority of the Members present. I declare the motion passed.

CLERK (in Cantonese): Clause 2.

SECRETARY FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam Chairman, I move that clause 2 of the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998 be amended as set out in the paper circularized to Members.

When the Bills Committee scrutinized the Bill, Members suggested that the scope of candidates eligible for appointment as chariman of the Insider Dealing Tribunal should be expanded to include former deputy judges of the Court of First Instance. On the basis of the merits of the proposal and taking into account the nature of the appointment itself in the context of the Insider Dealing Tribunal, the Administration, after thorough consideration, has agreed to widen the scope of eligibility for appointment, so as to make former deputy judges also eligible. In addition, the Legal Adviser of the Legislative Council has also advised that under the definition of "judge" in the existing Securities (Insider Dealing) Ordinance, the eligibility of former judges of the High Court of Justice who left office before the reunification may be affected as a result of the Hong Kong Reunification Ordinance. Having sought legal advice from the Government, I agree that clarification should be made in the Ordinance so as to avoid any possible doubts. Therefore, I have proposed the current amendment to make it clear that former judges and former deputy judges of the High Court of Justice which was in operation before the reunification are also eligible for appointment as Tribunal chairman. This amendment will not make any material difference in terms of the scope of elgibility for appointment.

With these remarks, Madam Chairman, I urge Members to support the amendment.

Proposed amendment

Clause 2 (see Annex VI)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Does any Member wish to speak?

(No Member indicated a wish to speak)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you and that is: That the amendment moved by the Secretary for Financial Services be approved. Will those in favour of the amendment please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(No hands raised)

CHARIMAN (in Cantonese): I think the question is agreed by a majority of the Members present. I declare the amendment passed.

CLERK (in Cantonese): Clause 2 as amended.

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(No hands raised)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I think the question is agreed by a majority of the Members present. I declare the motion passed.

CLERK (in Cantonese): New clause 3 Constitution of the Tribunal.

SECRETARY FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam Chairman, I move that new clause 3 as set out in the paper circularized to Members be read the Second time. This is a new clause, proposed by Members in the Bills Committee. According to section 15(2) of the Securities (Insider Dealing) Ordinance, the chairman of the Tribunal shall be appointed by the Chief Executive. Although there is no express stipulation in the Ordinance, the actual practice has been that candidates for the chairmanship of the Tribunal are referred to the Chief Executive for consideration and appointment on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal. The proposed new clause aims to spell out this existing practice in the Ordinance. Madam Chairman, I trust the motion will be supported by Honourable Members. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That new clause 3 be read the Second time.

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Does any Member wish to speak?

(No Member indicated a wish to speak)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you as stated. Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(No hands raised)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I think the question is agreed by a majority of the Members present. I declare the motion passed.

CLERK (in Cantonese): New clause 3.

SECRETARY FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam Chairman, I move that new clause 3 be added to the Bill.

Proposed addition

New clause 3 (see Annex VI)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That new clause 3 be added to the Bill.

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you as stated. Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(No hands raised)

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): I think the question is agreed by a majority of the Members present. I declare the motion passed.

CHAIRMAN (in Cantonese): Council shall now resume.

Council then resumed.

Third Reading of Bill

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Bill: Third Reading.

SECURITIES (INSIDER DEALING) (AMENDMENT) BILL 1998

SECRETARY FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES (in Cantonese): Madam President, the

Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998

has passed through Committee with amendments. I move that the Bill be read the Third time and do pass.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998 be read the Third time and do pass.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you as stated. Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(No hands raised)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I think the question is agreed by a majority of the Members present. I declare the motion passed.

CLERK (in Cantonese): Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill 1998.

MEMBERS' MOTIONS

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Members' motions. Two motions with no legal effect. I have accepted the recommendations of the House Committee as to the time limits on speeches for the motion debates. The movers of the motions will each have up to 15 minutes for their speeches including their replies, and another five minutes to speak on the amendment. The mover of an amendment will have up to 10 minutes to speak. Other Members will each have up to seven minutes for their speeches.

First motion: Organ donation.

ORGAN DONATION

MR LAU CHIN-SHEK (in Cantonese): Madam President, I move the motion as printed on the Agenda.

First of all, Madam President, let me wish Honourable colleagues a "Happy New Year". Members may say "touch wood" when they hear me talking about "death and illness" at the beginning of a new year; but the fact is, things will not always run as smoothly as we want them to. We have "new year babies", but at the same time, we also have many patients who have to wait in silent suffering for organ transplant, month after month and year and year.

In Hong Kong, over 2 000 patients are now waiting for the donation of various kinds of organs. Of them, more than 1 000 people need kidney for transplant. And for the same purpose 100 people need livers; 100 people need hearts or valves; 300 people need corneas; and 100 people need bones. It is true that in the past few years, there were about 300 cases of organ transplant every year, but more than 200 of these cases were cornea transplant; so this means that if we disregard the number of cornea transplant, we will see that the number of organs donated every year can meet only 10% of the demand; the situation is really not too encouraging. As far as these cases are concerned, kidney transplant has the longest waiting list and waiting time, and since only a few dozen kidneys are donated every year, to those who are waiting for kidney transplant, the number of donation is only "a drop in the bucket"; more than a thousand or two thousand patients who are suffering from kidney problems have to rely on renal dialysis to sustain their lives. Their chronic suffering defies imagination of everyone in this Chamber.

Madam President, I am sure that you have first hand experience of the physical pain and psychological pressure suffered by patients waiting for organ transplant. Recently, the issue of organ transplant has become the focus of public attention, only that this has been due to some very sad incidents. However, I have moved this motion debate today not with the intention of "settling old scores". Rather, I hope to make the public realize further the grief and sufferings of patients and their families, and thus the importance of organ donation.

Recently, I have heard about several successful and really encouraging cases of organ transplant, and the case of Ah Ching is one of them:

Ah Ching started to suffer from nephropathy when she was 25, and she had to rely on renal dialysis for years. Ah Ching's husband, Mr CHAU, who has been taking care of her said "Every time, I have to jab a needle into the veins of my wife's forearm myself. This really exerts a lot of pressure on me because I fear the sight of blood very much. But if I do not see any blood, it means that I have not positioned the needle correctly; and renal dialysis exerts even more pressure on me because I always fear that she may have a shock and die, leaving me alone!" Ah Ching has been relying on renal dialysis for 10 to 20 years, and she is in a constant state of half-starvation, and she cannot have more than 500 cc of soup at any one time; but then her physical pain is really nothing compared to her mental pressure because she does not know when the chilling hand of Death will lay on her. Ah Ching once said: "Whenever I go to bed, I always fear that I may never wake up again. So I always ask my husband to wake me up in the middle of the night. I very much want to live, but all is beyond my control, and I feel so helpless." Year after year, Ah Ching struggled on, with only one hope in mind: a new kidney transplant and thus a new life; however she still failed to realize her hope even when she approached 45. She therefore felt as if she had been sentenced to death, for according to the regulations, anyone over 45 years old are not allowed to have a transplant operation even if someone is willing to donate a kidney. Fortunately, just before Ah Ching's 45th birthday, the hospital informed her that at last she could have a kidney for transplant. Ah Ching, now given a new lease of life, said almost in tears: "I am extremely grateful to the kidney donor, and I hope that members of the public will be willing to donate their organs after death; otherwise, one more person will have to die."

In fact, if a person donates his organs after death, the number of people he can save may be more than one; if a person donates all his organs after death, very often he will save seven to eight people. This is truly an act of "spreading love among the living"! Unfortunately, every year, only a very small number of people in Hong Kong are willing to donate their organs after death, and there is still a long list of patients waiting desperately for organ transplant.

I am sure that colleagues now in this Chamber who have served this Council long enough may recall that I once moved a similar motion in late 1993. But perhaps the wording of the motion was rather neutral, so although the motion was carried without any objection, the Administration has been reacting rather "indifferently", neither taken any concrete actions to review the existing policies nor formulated any suitable policies on organ donation. Five years have elapsed, but we have not seen any marked increase in the number of donation for most organs. Today, I am moving this motion again with more specific requests; I now resubmit my "unrealized proposals", in the hope that the Government would legislate for the implementation of the "opt-out scheme for organ donation", so that more patients can have organ transplant at an earlier date.

I think the name "opt-out scheme for organ donation" may not be very precise, and it may better be called the "scheme for automatic donation of organs after death".

The "organ donation scheme" now being practised in Hong Kong requires donors to indicate explicitly their consent of donating their organs after death. The focus of the Government publicity efforts is to call on the public to indicate their wishes by signing "organ donation cards"; however, the experience over the past years proves that the "organ donation card" system has not been very satisfactory. On the one hand, those who have signed "organ donation cards" are not required to register with the relevant bodies; therefore, it will not be possible to know how many people have actually signed "donation cards". Moreover, even if a person has signed an "organ donation card", he may not necessarily carry the card with him all the time. As a result, the wish of the donor may not be realized at all. Futhermore, Chinese people usually consider the "integrity of dead bodies" more important than anything else. This may well be a problem with the "organ donation card" system. And, since Chinese people are usually rather passive, it is only natural that they will not take the initiative in signing donation cards.

However, the fact that only a small number of people have signed "organ donation cards" does not mean that members of the public generally oppose the idea of organ donation. The two surveys conducted by the Census and Statistics Department respectively in 1992 and 1994 and a recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Kidney Foundation Association all show that 70% of the respondents are willing to donate their organs after death, and the majority of the respondents will not raise any objections if their family members wish to donate their organs after death. This thus shows that the public is actually not against the idea of organ donation; however, it is rather surprising to find that though the surveys have shown that 90% of the respondents know about the "organ donation card" scheme, only 20% to 30% have actually signed "donation cards". This clearly shows that the "organ donation card" scheme fails to give a full picture of the percentage of people who are willing to donate their organs after death.

Therefore, I think that it is all the more necessary to legislate on the implementation of an "automatic donation of organs" scheme, so as to replace the existing arrangements. In fact, the "opt-out scheme" or "automatic donation", has been successfully implemented in many countries like Singapore and France for many years, and there is no reason why it cannot be implemented in Hong Kong.

I understand that many people have objected to the "automatic donation" scheme on the grounds of "human rights" and the "freedom of choice"; but I have to reiterate that as long as members of the public are individually allowed to raise objections to the donation of their organs after death, they will still have the freedom of choice and this is still in line with the spirit of "human rights". President JEFFERSON, the forefather of human rights champions pointed out that "everyone has the right to strive for happiness — the healthy, the ill, the injured and the vulnerable all have the right to happiness"; I believe that the "humanitarian" principle of "benefitting others" is part and parcel of the concept of human rights.

Some people question, "If someone has not said that he is willing to donate his organs after death, how can we assume that he is willing to do so?" I have to point out that Hong Kong is an entity, and everyone in the community as well as their families and friends may one day need organ donation; so it will be a great tragedy for the community if there are only people who need organs but no donors. From the human rights point of view, everyone of course has the right to make his own decisions as long as he does not affect anyone else; however, in reality, only those who are alive can have the right to "make their own decisions", and dead bodies cannot "make their own decisions". Therefore, if everyone is given the opportunity to raise objections while he is alive, then there is nothing wrong with "automatic donation of organs after death ".

I have often heard people using religion as an excuse of objecting to organ donation. I have to reiterate that both Protestants and Catholics have always supported the idea of organ donation for it is a way of helping each other, and the believers of these faiths are of the opinion that when someone dies, the soul will leave the body, so it is not important that the dead body should be kept intact. As regards the Buddhist concepts of reincarnation and integrity of dead bodies, I would like to quote Buddhist master Rev Xing Yun, who told stories about how the Buddha "cut his own flesh to feed an eagle" and "sacrifice his own life to sustain a tiger". This shows that Buddhism is based on benevolence, and the religion does not uphold any insistence on "integrity of dead bodies".

As regards the run-up to the enactment of any legislation on "automatic donation of organs", the existing arrangements can be slightly improved if the wishes prospective donors after death can be listed on some personal documents apart from the donation cards; as to whether such information should be printed on driving licences or other dcuments, I think it is a matter of details that can be sorted out through further discussions.

Finally, I would like to talk about the objection from the surviving family members of the deceased. Under whatever systems, be it the current system of voluntary donation or my proposed automatic donation system, there is always the possibility that the family members of those who died in accidents may still raise objections to extraction of organs from the deceased. I believe that legislation and education should go hand in hand, and the Government should step up publicity in this regard. In fact, if a person's death is an irrevocable fact and if his organs could give others a new lease of life, then it will be very great and meaningful!

With these remarks, Madam President, I beg to move. Thank you.

Mr LAU Chin-shek moved the following motion:

"That this council urges the Government to legislate for the implementation of the "opt-out scheme for organ donation" to ensure that needy patients can undergo organ transplants surgery early and, prior to the implementation of the opt-out scheme, the Government should adopt administrative measures to indicate the wish of donors on their personal documents such as identity cards, or driving licences, so that their wish to donate their organs after death is stated more clearly."

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you: That the motion moved by Mr LAU Chin-shek be passed as set out on the Agenda.

Does any Member wish to speak?

MR LEUNG YIU-CHUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, I looked up some information before today's debate, wishing to find out about the stance of the Government. As the Honourable LAU Chin-shek said, when the former Legislative Council debated about the topic in 1993 the Government indicated it would not agree with the "opt-out scheme for organ donation". As Honourable colleagues know, even if this Council reached a consensus on any motion, the Government will not change its decision against it irrespective of our voting result. I know the Government may not agree with Mr LAU's views today but I want to talk about the position of the Government in the past couple of years. Has its stance changed? If not, what has it done during the period?

Indeed, we know many countries practise the "opt-out scheme for organ donation". These countries are different from Hong Kong in that they do not have an undersupply of organs. Or indeed few countries face such a serious shortage of donation organs as in Hong Kong. Why does Hong Kong face an acute shortage of organs? According to a survey jointly conducted by the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Medical Faculty of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 53% of the interviewees agreed to donate their organs after death. But only 20% of them have filled in "organ donation cards". If there are 4 million people in Hong Kong with organs suitable for transplant, this means there are 1.3 million who have not indicated their desire to donate.

Why are there so many people who have not completed "organ donation cards"? I spoke to an assistant of mine about this and he told me he very much liked to donate his organs, but like those people mentioned above, he had not completed an "organ donation card". Why? I asked him. He said it was because no one or organization ever asked him to and he had not taken the initiative to find out how to obtain such cards.

Of course, one should take the initiative to do what one wants to do. It is, however, only natural that one does not actively seek to do something that benefits only third parties. So, often there is a need for outside assistance or encouragement. Therefore, any form of donation drive relies on the extensive and active publicity by some organizations. Campaigns take effect because from time to time we can see people sell flags or ballots for charity in the streets using other means to promote activities. Even blood donation has to be promoted through massive promotional activities. Regrettably, I must ask whether anyone saw any calls for organ donation on the streets in the past few years. Is there any such activity to encourage or educate the people to donate organs? Indeed, I have not seen any.

If we do want to launch large-scale campaigns for "organ donation cards", I think one organization has the manpower and resources to do it and it is duty-bound to do it. This organization is of course the Government. Everyone may still recall that between November 1997 and January 1998 the Government carried out a massive promotional campaign for the Legislative Council election. Many people asked me in the streets whether I was registered as a voter. We often saw many "ambassadors for voter registration" and carnivals or stalls helping people register as voters. In addition, the Government also mobilized an enormous number of workers to go up to buildings and knock on every door to register for whoever had not registered. At that time, $56 million was spent and 347 000 applications were received. We must ask: If the Government could do the same for organ donation, would we have comparable results? But unfortunately the Government had not done so.

Democratic elections are of course important. But so are lives and campaigns that save lives. Why has the Government not taken any action? Why has the Government not carried out any campaigns similar to those for elections to effect promotion, publicity and education on registration for organ donation? If the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority could set aside some resources to help some small groups or non-government groups to carry out some activities, I believe there should not be any difficulty. Even if more resources or money is needed I believe Members of this Council will not oppose to it. Regrettably, the Government is not showing the slightest intention to do so and this is disappointing.

Another thing which the Government should do is to set up of an "organ donation register" for centralized co-ordination. Many people like me may have registered but probably have not the cards with them. If an unfortunate accident happens and I die, no one will know that I have signed an "organ donation card" when I am sent to the hospital and my organs will be wasted. With a central registry, the position will be better. A survey shows that at present only 1% of the interviewees are registered on the "organ donation register" and among this group only 29% carry the cards with them. So, if the Government does not impose centralized control, the card would be useless. Unfortunately, the Government has made no improvement in this respect. And the motion proposed by Mr LAU Chin-shek is a ......

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr LEUNG, your time is up.

MR LEUNG YIU-CHUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, I so submit.

MRS SOPHIE LEUNG: Thank you, Madam President, for allowing me to speak at this point in time. The use of organs of persons who have just passed away for transplantation has been a very significant medical achievement. It is also a meaningful step forward as it will help save the lives of other patients.

However, until now, the general public does not respond actively towards the idea of donating organs for transplantation after death. The number of organ donors has been on a relatively low level. In 1995, the number of organ donors as recorded in all hospitals in Hong Kong is 287. The number is 362 in 1996; 325 in 1997; and 238 for January to September 1998. There is still a big gap between the number of organs donated and the actual need. For example, there are currently about 1 000 patients awaiting kidney transplants but there are only about 20 kidneys donated a year on an average.

At present, there are two ways for the public to express their wish of donating organs in Hong Kong. First, there is the organ donation card. A person who agrees to donate his organs after death can obtain an organ donation card from various channels, and after completion, he has to carry the card with him. Nevertheless, both the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health do not have a central registry on these donors. Second, there is the organ donation register. A person can choose to register his wish to donate his organs after death on the organ donation register kept by the Hong Kong Medical Association. Hospitals can check directly with the register whether a deceased person has chosen to donate his organs or not. Up to now, about only 32 000 persons have registered on it.

According to a survey conducted by the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the middle of last year ─ some Members have already cited that survey ─ among the 1 018 respondents, 89% knew about the organ donation card, but only 20% had signed the card; only 13% had heard about the organ donation register, and just 1% had registered.

The big difficulty in obtaining sufficient donated organs for transplantation is the objection from the surviving family members of the deceased as well. Since there is no clear definition of lawful possession of the body of a deceased person under the present legislation, it is often the family members of the deceased who have the greatest influence in making the decision. Even if the deceased had already signed an organ donation card or made his name on the register, the hospitals often have to respect the wish of the surviving family members if they raise strong objections. Front-line medical staff can only do all their best to liaise with the family members and try to persuade them.

According to the result of the survey mentioned above, 25% of the respondents did not want to have the organs of their deceased relatives to be donated, and 34% expressed that they were unable to decide. The Liberal Party fully recognizes the need of an organ donation scheme and finds that the present situation is definitely unsatisfactory. However, we have reservations about the Honourable LAU Chin-shek's proposal of the opt-out organ donation system as a means of trying to quicken the waiting time of patients to receive organ transplants because of the following reasons:

1. The ownership of the body of a citizen should not rest with the Government, even if we try to legislate it. If a citizen, before he dies, has not indicated how his body may be handled, it does not mean that the Government has the right to do whatever it wants to the body of the deceased.

2. The proposed arrangement does not provide for an opportunity for all people to make a choice. There may be people who do not want to donate and have not heard of this arrangement, perhaps because of inadequate publicity by the Government, and therefore have not acted to exercise their choice of opting out or not to do so.

3. According to the public survey that I have just mentioned, 66% of the respondents objected to the opt-out organ donation system, and only 28% supported it. Of the respondents objecting to the system, 78% expressed that the reason for objection was "infringement of human rights".

At this point, I would also like to point out that the opt-out option has been an annual item tabled for debate by the Central Renal Committee in Hong Kong, and has been voted down generally every time by the medical profession. Please note that this Committee consists of mainly a group of physicians handling renal or kidney transplants. Recently, however, I was told that this group has adopted a more open-minded approach. However, they do not want to make their own decision. They would like to leave it to society to decide.

4. Adoption of similar opt-out organ donation systems to enable organ transplants to be conducted for treating patients is uncommon in other countries. In Asia, this system is only adopted in Singapore.

The Liberal Party also has reservations about the second part of Mr LAU Chin-shek's motion which suggests to imprint in the identity card or driving licence the person's consent for donating his organs after death. Such an arrangement would entail a big administrative cost and also create a lot of inconvenience to the public. Whenever the person changes his mind or makes up his mind one way or the other, something needs to be changed.

Personally, I am most supportive of the idea of cadaveric organ donation as a means to give or to save lives, as many of you do. Even with the advancement in medical technology nowadays which allows a living person to donate his organs to someone very, very close to him, the operation definitely puts the donor at risk as well. As demonstrated by the controversial Human Organ Transplant Ordinance, which has just been recently enacted, organ donation from living persons should not be a major source for treating patients. Instead, cadaveric organ donation should be promoted.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mrs LEUNG, it is time.

MRS SOPHIE LEUNG: Speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, I object to Mr LAU Chin-shek's motion.

MR LAW CHI-KWONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, Mr LAU Chin-shek put forward a motion on organ donation on 17 November 1993. The Democratic Party had not yet been formally established then. At the time, the United Democrats of Hong Kong considered the issue involved moral and ethical principles and religious beliefs, and that it should respect the personal views of individual members; hence, its members spoke freely and voted freely on the issue in the then Legislative Council. On that day, Dr the Honourable LEONG Che-hung on behalf of the Meeting Point urged the Government to adopt an opt-out scheme for organ donation at an early date. Today, for the reason that the issue involves moral principles, religious beliefs and personal ethical values, the Democratic Party and its Members will likewise be speaking and voting freely on the issue.

To provide some reference for its members, the Democratic Party has conducted a telephone interview among 514 people. Nearly 60% (59%) of the interviewees were willing to donate their organs after death, but only 18% of them had filled up organ donation cards while 12% of them carried the cards with them. I believe the above percentages could be a slight over-estimate. However, putting it in simple terms, at least 60% of them were apparently willing to donate their organs. Nevertheless, we trust that if the Government adopted administrative measures to let all adults indicate their intention to donate and signify that intention on their identity cards or driving licences, the percentage of those who carry their organ donation cards would surely be higher than the present amount. It may not be as high as 60% but should be over 50%, as most adults have either identity cards or driving licences.

In addition, when asked the question: "Do you agree everyone should indicate on applying for an identity card whether one is willing to donate one's organs after death?" 44% of the interviewees agreed and 37% disagreed. Obviously, there were more people who agreed, that is, more people were in favour of the idea of indicating the donors' wish on applying for identity cards.

On basis of the above analysis, I fully agree with the second part of the motion moved by Mr LAU Chin-shek.

The other part of Mr LAU's motion may be a little complicated. He urges the Government to legislate for the implementation of the "opt-out scheme for organ donation". When asked the question "Do you agree if there is no objection registered against organ donation after death, doctors have the right to transplant organs for the deceased?" 32% of the interviewees agreed and 51% disagreed. So, there is a bigger disparity between the two groups, that is, more people are opposed to authorizing doctors with that right.

The above data show that people have reservations about the first part of Mr LAU's motion. However, an analysis of the second part of the motion shows we do not need an opt-out scheme at all because the wish of people are indicated clearly on their identification documents, such as identity cards or driving licences, or upon renewal of the same. The reason is that if there is a mechanism to record clearly on an identification document the wish of the person, there is then no further need to have another scheme in which people are assumed agreeing unless they indicate otherwise. Therefore, despite the public reservations about the first part of the motion, the analysis shows if the second part of motion is implemented systematically, Mr LAU's motion should merit our support.

One last issue, and a very important issue too. We asked interviewees: "If a relative indicates a wish to donate organs after death, would you as a relative of the donor agree?" 64% of them indicated they would, that is, they would not object to the donation. Only slightly over 10% of them indicated they would object. That means if there is evidence that a relative is willing to make a donation, most people would respect the wish of the deceased. I believe if we could make more educational efforts and give more publicity to the issue, many more people would be willing to sign organ donation cards and less would object to their relatives' wish to donate. Of course, we can also go one step further by introducing legislation to authorize medical personnel to conduct organ transplantation as long as there is an indication before death of the wish to donate, despite possible objections from relatives. I think we should respect the wish of the deceased before death rather than the relatives' position. These are my views on the issue.

I so submit. Thank you, Madam President.

MR JASPER TSANG (in Cantonese): Madam President, not many Members are in this Chamber now. So, this may well be a good chance for me to make a proposal. I wish to propose a street campaign, to be conducted jointly by the Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong. But this campaign will scare neither the Government nor the commercial sector. What I propose is that we should distribute leaflets in the streets and publicize the donation of human organs after death.

Madam President, the first time that I got to know anything about death was when I was a teenager. At that time, a cousin of mine who lived and grew up with me died of kidney failure, and before that, he had been tortured for many years by this disease. He was only a teenager, but he could not go to school, nor could he play with us outdoors because he had kidney problems. At that time, medical science was not very advanced, and kidney transplant was not yet a possible form of treatment. Therefore, I very much agree with Honourable Members that organ donation could save lives and make more people live much happier.

At present, there are still diverse views in the community regarding organ transplant among living people. This shows that as far as human organ transplant is concerned, we cannot indeed rely on living people for organ donation and must reply on cadaveric organs. Therefore, I fully agree that we must put in place some measures which can ensure that more cadaveric organs can be used in surgical operations to benefit the living. But should this give us any excuse to follow what is proposed in Mr LAU Chin-shek's motion and thus to legislate on the compulsory donation of one's organs after death? I fully agree that the existing situation in Hong Kong particular in this respect is very unsatisfactory, because neither the organ donation card system nor the central registration system of the Medical Council can produce any satisfactory practical results. But what is the reason for this? If the information given by Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, Mr LAU Chin-shek and Mr LAW Chi-kwong is correct, we can see that the number of people who are willing to donate their organs is indeed not at all small. So, the problem now is not so much that very few people in Hong Kong are willing to donate their organs. Rather, the main problem is that while many people are willing to donate their organs, very few of them are prepared to take the further step required; as a result, the number of people who actually register or who are willing to carry their signed donation cards with them is far smaller than the number of people who are basically willing to donate their organs. This is where the problem lies.

If the argument that many in Hong Kong are unwilling to donate their organs was at all valid, I would certainly question the wisdom of enacting any legislation on the compulsory donation of organs after death, because this may well lead to many problems. Many people are actually willing to donate their organs, but if even these people fail to do so, we must then ask, "How are we going to improve the existing system? And, should we still enact any legislation at all? " We also need to consider the wishes of the surviving families of the deceased. In this connection, I cannot accept the views of Mr LAW Chi-kwong. What I mean is that in the case of a person who has signed a registration card and who carries the card with him all the time, even if he really dies in an accident, his family members may still object strongly to the donation of his organs. In that case, it will be very difficult for medical personnel to invoke the law and extract his organs, because they will find it inhumane to do so: Since the family members of the deceased are in such a terrible state of grief and agony, how can they disregard their wishes? Similarly, even if we legislate on the compulsory donation of organs after death, we should not totally disregard this problem either. What is more, a piece of legislation on the compulsory donation of organs may even lead to more occurrence of this problem. The reason is that given such a piece of legislation, if a person did not indicate his refusal under the stated procedure, his organs will be automatically donated after his death. But then, if his family members still object to the donation of his organs, can medical personnel still act so inhumanely as to extract his organs? We of course agree that the extracted organs can indeed save the lives of others, but under such circumstances, we must consider the increased possibility of conflicts between the family members of the deceased and the medical personnel. So, the key lies actually in education and publicity, as rightly pointed out by Mr LAU a moment ago. I am worried that once we enact a piece of legislation on this, all parties involved, be they the Government or those organizations and individuals dedicated to the promotion of organ donation, will think that the problem is totally resolved and that there is no further need to carry out any publicity and education activities. Should this happen, the problem may well worsen instead.

In fact, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung has already made his point on education and publicity very clear. So many people intend to, or are willing to, donate their organs after death, but why do they not complete the formalities required? Lack of publicity is certainly one reason. Compared with its publicity efforts in other areas, the publicity conducted by the Government on organ donation is indeed very limited. But an additional reason is that the Government has done very little to facilitate organ donation. We can look at blood donation, for example, as a comparison. Every year, the Red Cross conducts at least one publicity campaign inside the Legislative Council Building to call upon Members to donate blood. In contrast, we can find nothing in this Building which can facilitate the donation of organs. Consequently, even if Members who have not signed any donation cards want to do so now, can they easily obtain these cards everywhere they go in this Building, along the corridors? No, this is simply impossible now. Why is it impossible for us to make it more convenient for members of the public to express their wish to donate their organs? At this stage, I think we should concentrate on finding out the inadequacies of the existing system. In fact, it is entirely a problem of inadequate publicity. Having printed the donation cards, the Government simply puts them in the district offices of the Home Affairs Department and hospitals. It never bothers who have taken these cards, nor has it sought to find out whether people will really carry these cards with them after signing them, instead of throwing them away immediately afterwards. The results are of course bound to be very poor. That being the case, how can the donation system achieve the desired results?

The latter part of the motion proposes to require people to indicate their wishes on their identity cards and driving licences. I think this may well create more administrative difficulties, and I am also worried that an additional obstacle may arise. Let me use an example to illustrate my point. Suppose I make up my mind only today to donate my organs after death, and suppose I can persuade my family members, what am I going to do with my identity card and driving licence, which are not yet due for renewal? Should people renew their personal documents every time they change their mind? So, I think the best way should be to get a donation card, sign it and carrying it with us all the time. Thank you, Madam President.

MR MICHAEL HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, in quite a similar debate on 17 November 1993, I already made it clear that I did not support the legislation of taking those people who had not raised objection to donating their own organs before their death as voluntary donors. And to this day my stance has not changed.

What I think we should do is to really improve our education so that more people will accept organ donation and sign the donor card. According to a survey conducted by the Democratic Party, almost 60% of Hong Kong people are willing to donate their organs. I think that we should devise some more convenient ways to help them express such a wish. Sometimes people are lazy, it is quite difficult to ask them to take the initiative to fill in donor cards. Of course, we can make a better design of the cards, have them distributed in more locations and enhance publicity, but these actions have actually been taken for many years and are not very effective. Can we do better still? Yes, we can do better. We can try to think of other ways to help and facilitate people to express their wish of donating organs. I believe this is exactly what we want to do. I do not know whether Mr LAU Chin-shek has moved this motion on the assumption that some people are so lazy that we have to put things in their hands. But we can see from a recent survey that there are still 20% of Hong Kong people unwilling to donate their organs. If the Government's message somehow does not get across to these people, their failure to raise objection will be taken as tacit consent and unknowingly and in a confused manner they may be regarded as agreeing to have their organs donated. I do not think that is a fair arrangement at all.

I would like to provide Members with some information which I have obtained from some front-line colleagues and organ donation co-ordinators in hospitals, whom I would also like to thank here. The main duty of organ donation co-ordinators is to solicit donation. When a patient is certified brainstem dead, the co-ordinator has to go see the surviving family members and explain to them what brainstem death is as well as why the organs of the deceased can be donated to others. Some co-ordinators have told me that, for the patients who have donor cards or have expressed their wish of organ donation by other means before their death, the success rate of solicitation is very high and there are basically no problems of obtaining the organs. This conforms with the findings of our telephone survey. But how about those people who do not carry donor cards or are opposed to organ donation? Legislation alone cannot solve all the problems. I have once said that, when a patient dies, hospital staff will have to take care of not only the deceased, but also the surviving family members' emotional and other needs, and medical social workers may even have to be called in to see them and help them handle other businesses. We can just imagine, under such circumstances, the pressure exerted on the family members is usually very great. Can we tell an old lady that this is the law of Hong Kong and take his dead son's kidney or liver away? Even if we have such a piece of legislation, do you think it will work? No, it will not. Have you seen in hospitals that the surviving relatives cry so much that they faint and the medical and nursing staff there have to treat them as well, such as carrying them to the Accident and Emergency Department? Do you think that, under such circumstances, legislation will solve all the problems? Will it work? No, it will not. If the deceased really holds a donor card or has expressed his wish by some other means, I believe the organ donation co-ordinator will not have much difficulties in soliciting donation, as is shown in the data mentioned and provided by front-line colleagues. Therefore, what we should do is to improve education in this regard.

Besides, we should find more ways to make organ donation convenient to lazy people. Madam President, I have a donor card myself, but I do not like to carry it with me all the time. I always take away my cards such as petroleum discount card or donor card so as to reduce the weight in my pocket. In the debate just now, Members argued whether the wish of people to become organ donors or otherwise should be indicated on their driving licences or identity cards. I have made reference to the findings of the telephone survey conducted by the Democratic Party and noticed that 43% of the interviewees agree to this proposal, whereas 36.6% object to it. It is not a big difference and I would say it is fifty-fifty. In view of the findings, it may not be the right time now to indicate one's wish to become donors or otherwise on driving licences or identity cards. But if we ask people and let them choose whether they are willing to register such an indication, I believe those who are willing to donate their organs will sign or choose to have their wish indicated on their driving licences or identity cards. As a second choice, I also wish to make this more flexible, if people are not required to make a decision right away, but that they can choose to have their wish indicated on their documents anytime they want in the future, I think it will even be better.

Madam President, I so submit.

MR HOWARD YOUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, when the Honourable Mrs Sophie LEUNG spoke just now, she went to great lengths explaining why the Liberal Party had certain reservations on parts of Mr LAU Chin-shek's motion. However, due to the time constraint, she was unable to clearly expound in which direction the Liberal Party thought this issue should take. I would like to supplement here.

According to the British Health Ministry, living organ transplantation has only been carried out in times of extreme emergency since the human organ transplant legislation was enforced nine years ago. One of the reasons is that they have enough cadaveric organs to meet the demand. Why am I citing this experience? It is because the United Kingdom itself has not implemented the "opt-out scheme". With the growing maturity of our society and the debates held in the former Legislative Council as well as the debate today, I believe there will be more and more discussions on this issue in the community, and there will be more and more people accepting that organ donation is a good deed that merits encouraging and promoting.

But in the meantime, we may also have debates on other aspects such as medical or moral issues related to organ donation. For example, in the United States where this so-called "opt-out scheme" is not adopted, there is at present a heated discussion on this issue. What points are there at issue? They are discussing who should take an organ when somebody donates it. Who is to decide the priority? If two patients need the same organ at the same time, should priority be given to a child who has a better success rate of transplantation and may live longer after the operation? Or should the priority be given to an adult who is the bread winner of his family? However, if that adult is not born with a deficiency and thus needs an organ transplantation, but is in such a need because of drug abuse, then how should the priority be accorded? In fact, in the face of these questions, the community still has to have a lot of debates or make certain choices concerning "donation" and "reception ".

The Liberal Party has come to the view that at least at the present stage emphasis should be put on encouraging more people to support organ donation, including the signing of donor cards. Besides, as the Honourable Michael HO said just now, we should also promote the idea and give support to the surviving family members so that they will continue to support the wish of the deceased. We urge the Government to enhance publicity and education in this aspect.

I remember during the debate on this topic in the former Legislative Council, many Members immediately took out their donor cards from their wallets. I myself had also signed one which was put in my wallet and I was able to produce it at that time. But if you ask me to find my donor card now, I really do not know its whereabouts because, like Mr Michael HO, I have a lot of cards such as various membership cards in my wallet, and when I change the wallet I may clear things in it and somehow I do not know where I have put that card now. Therefore, with regard to the system, the storage of data is yet to be improved. It is not practical if we solely rely on people carrying a card which they do not use frequently, that is, every day, every week or every month.

I hope that there can be a system which will also win the support of surviving family members. For example, as the number of people signing donor cards is not large, we can set up a central registry. According to information stored in the registry, the Government can send a certificate of merit or a souvenir to the person who has signed up for organ donation in recognition of his goodwill. While the donor himself, his family and his relatives can all see the certificate or souvenir, the donor will feel what he has done is a very lofty and honourable deed which will benefit future generations. I believe this system will serve the organ donation scheme well. The indication of the wish of donors on their driving licences or identity cards may not be feasible because I notice that the driving licence is renewed only once every 10 years, whereas the identity card takes an even longer time before renewal is due. There are other registrations which may have to be reconfirmed every few years, such as voter registration or registration found in various government forms. I remember when I filled out a certain government form, I saw a column asking the applicant whether he would like to join the Auxiliary Police Force or the Civil Aid Services. When filling in a registration for a change of residential address, it appears that there is also a column asking the applicant whether he has notified other government departments of the change of address. On such occasions, the Government might as well ask citizens if they are willing to donate their organs and set aside a column for them to fill in. The names of the donors can then be put in a central registry from which medical institutions can easily obtain information. The Liberal Party supports this idea as a step to be taken for the moment.

DR LEONG CHE-HUNG: Madam President, as someone who was involved in the first ever organ transplantation in Hong Kong and as someone who actually is the first one who pushed for organ donation, I think I share your same feelings about organ donation, perhaps from a different angle. I, therefore, fully support the Honourable LAU Chin-shek's motion which calls for an opt-out system and I commend his spirit in the whole thing.

Now, much has been said by Members of this Council about the pros and cons of the opt-out system, and I do not like to stress it any more except to bring out three points.

First, the whole issue of increasing interest in organ donation started off because recently a person was not allowed to receive a living organ donation. But we should not let this set an example for members of the public to feel that we are pushing for living organ donation because, as Members mentioned, living organ donation must be the last step towards the whole issue of organ transplantation. This is simply because of the fact that the donor, no matter how honourable he or she may be, is going to face a major operation which could cause complications, that the donor may be facing an enormous emotional situation, and that there are enough organs in Hong Kong from dead people which can benefit the rest of the society.

The second point I would like to bring out is that since 1969, 30 years ago, Hong Kong has already embarked on a programme of pushing for organ donation by somebody who has died. But up to now, we are not seeing a significant or a good increase in organ donation. In fact, the last few years have shown a decline in cadaveric organ donation.

Numerous methods have been done in the last 30 years to promote organ donation, including signing of donor cards. There is a very good lawyer who said that he is willing to make a will for people for free. And the Hong Kong Medical Association has, for the last three years, started a computerized central registry of organ donors. But again, we are not seeing any increase whatsoever. And this is not only our problem. This is also shared by people around the world. For example, Singapore has been pushing for cadaveric organ donation. It has done it for 25 years but has only managed to get 27 000 people on the donor list: 27 000 after 25 years.

The Honourable Howard YOUNG has just mentioned that Britain has been doing a great job. Yes, it is better than Hong Kong. There is no doubt. But only one week ago, on 28 December, the British Medical Association has issued a letter and a statement to the Health Minister asking for an opt-out system because they are not getting enough to save the public. It is a system that we know is better than Hong Kong but is still not working properly.

Why is this so? Well, we are saying that there is a need for education. But how much education do we need to bring this about if after 30 years, 30 years of pushing in Hong Kong, we are still not getting anywhere?

The third point I want to raise, Madam President, is that I would like the Government to clarify a certain point, and that is back in 1991 when there was a question asked about the Government's views on the opt-out system. The following was exactly what the Government said, and I would like to quote:

"...... the immediate task, having accepted the opt-out system as our long-term goal, for Hong Kong is to draw up an action plan identifying all the measures that will be necessary. These include legislation, allocation of resources, training of staff, administrative arrangements and, not least, a lengthy period of public education."

Hence, in 1991, the Government said that it was their long-term goal. But unfortunately, in the debate that Mr LAU Chin-shek moved in 1993, the Government said exactly the reverse. They said, "There is a potential for great abuse", threatening that "doctors might not wait until a person really dies." I strongly object to that. They even claimed that Hong Kong people would not want an opt-out system which "gives the Government absolute power, power to control a person's freedom and privacy when he is alive, power to control his body and organs when he is dead."

Now, I do hope that the Government will be able to explain on this 180 degree-change in a matter of two years. What is the political or other reasons?

Having said that, I want to respond to a few comments made by Members against the opt-out system. The Honourable Mrs Sophie LEUNG, representing the Liberal Party, said, "Look, you know, ownership should not rest with the Government." But how does it rest with the Government when you can always sign a note saying that "I do not want to give my organs"? Mrs LEUNG also said that there should be a choice. Yes, there is a choice. Sign a form saying you do not want to give your organs. That is your choice. Mrs LEUNG said that 66% of the respondents in a public survey are against the opt-out system. Of course, they do not know what the opt-out system is. They are not given proper education. Mrs LEUNG also said that doctors have their initial reservations. The reason is very simple. Doctors may think that if there is an opt-out system law, they are bound to take out the organs even in the face of obstructing, objecting relatives. This, obviously, is not our final wish.

There are Members of this Council who said, "Look, no opt-out system. Why don't we promote what we have now? Do better education." Yet, 30 years down the line, how many organs have we got so far from cadavers? Five years since the last debate moved by Mr LAU Chin-shek when we all have been asking for education, have we had any further success? I have mentioned that other countries have tried it. Fifteen countries have already adopted the opt-out system, and Britain is now, at last, calling for an opt-out system. Britain has failed in its previous system, and should we think otherwise?

Finally, Madam President, I have to say that, yes, education is never enough, but it is now more than five years as I have just mentioned. How much longer do we have to wait for education to work? How much more lives shall we allow to lose before we call for a change, for an opt-out system to save more people? Yes, doctors will never take out the patient's organs against his relatives' objections. Opt-out legislation is not a stand-alone issue. It must be associated with even wider education and publicity. I do hope that Members will take all these into consideration and support the motion.

Thank you.

DR RAYMOND HO (in Cantonese): Madam President, ever since we were small kids, we have been taught that "it is better to save a life than build a seven-storey pagoda". This has been imprinted in our minds. It is a good deed for a person to donate his organs after his death to someone in need, in order to save a precious life as his last contribution on earth. It is something that we should encourage. However, this old saying helps little to change the fate of patients waiting for an organ transplant in Hong Kong. So far, the situation seems to be far from being satisfactory.

At present, even if a person has signed an organ donation card during his living days, his wish may not be carried out after his death due to his family members' objection or inability to make a decision in their emotional state. Equally disappointing is the fact that the number of persons who voluntarily register for organ donation after death in recent years has been on the drop. In 1996, there were more than 8 000 such persons. In 1997, the number has decreased to over 2 500, and only over 900 people registered in the first three quarters of 1998. This trend of decline more or less reflects that the Government has not done enough to promote organ donation and the organ donation card.

Actually, while the number of persons who have registered for organ donation after death has decreased, it does not necessarily mean that fewer people are willing to donate their organs after death. It might be due to other reasons. For instance, although some people do not object to the idea of organ donation after death, they have not filled in an organ donation card. This might be because some people are more passive, or that the Government has not tried its best to promote the organ donation card, or both.

This is a very sensitive issue that involves our cultural background, habits and mentality. When I first read the motion, I supported it instinctively. However, after deeper thoughts, I realized that there are many problems involved.

It might be because we live at such a fast pace and we are so busy that we do not have time to fill in an organ donation card or tell people whether we wish to donate our organs after death. I may or may not wish to. Even if someone is willing to donate his organs, he might not be able to say so with his last breath, or his family members might object to it. In that case, can we not respect the wishes of his family members? Both cases are possible. The present situation is that although the Government has been promoting organ donation for 30 years, as Dr LEONG Che-hung said, it has not achieved the degree of success we have desired. However, it does not mean that we should not step up or enhance education and promotion, so that people will donate their organs voluntarily. If we say that a person has to donate his organs if he does not fill in a form, he is very passive in the matter. Very seldom would we adopt such a way of doing things.

After weighing the matter for several hours, I decided that I cannot support this motion for the time being. I hope that next time or in several years, people will find this more acceptable. If the Government does enough in terms of education and promotion, people will come to think that the overseas system is also acceptable in Hong Kong. I believe that this is a more correct way. However, if we try the overseas system because our promotion effort in the past has not been very successful, we might find that it is not so good after enacting the legislation. As a result, we might have to amend the legislation again. This might give people the impression that the Government does not try hard enough to promote one system before introducing another that is even more sensitive and that affronts our culture and affects our lives as well as our way of thinking. This seems a bit rash. With these remarks, Madam President, I cannot support this motion. Thank you.

MR MARTIN LEE (in Cantonese): Madam President, contrary to Dr the Honourable Raymond HO, at first I thought that this motion had gone a little too far, especially since in the contract law of common law, silence does not mean consent. However, on second thoughts and after listening to Dr LEONG Che-hung's speech, I have changed my mind, having learned that not many people are willing to donate their organs even though it has been promoted for years. When a person is in good health, it would not occur to him that he might need other people's organs. Nor would he consider whether he would be willing to donate his organs when he is about to die. Many people would not think of that. Those who did think of it might have already signed an organ donation card. Even so, they may forget to carry it with them.

I have never been close to death before. However, people say that when a person is about to die, he will become very charitable. Then he might feel sorry that he is not carrying the donation card, otherwise, he would like very much to donate his organs. I was thinking who I should donate my kidney to. When I asked Mr Michael HO, he said, "You are 60 years old. People might not want your kidney." However, the Honourable LEE Wing-tat said, "Not necessarily. If that person is 80 years old, he would want your kidney!" After thinking it over, I decided that if anything happened, I would donate my kidney to someone who did not vote for me last year and is against democracy. When my kidney is in this person's body, I would feel very pleased, since my kidney would no doubt turn his blood into democratic blood. When he votes next time, although he cannot vote for me anymore, because I would already be dead, he would certainty vote for Dr the Honourable YEUNG Sum. Therefore, after thinking it over, I decided to support this motion. (Laughter)

DR TANG SIU-TONG (in Cantonese): Madam President, the purpose of today's motion is no doubt to ensure that everyone will have to donate his organs after death, unless he indicates otherwise when he is still alive. Ostensibly, this would provide enough organs for transplant in Hong Kong. However, it involves three issues which warrant discussion:

(1) There is still controversy in the community over the issue of organ transplant. What we argue about is living organ donation, rather than cadaveric organs. The candaveric organs are of course useless and can be donated to other people. However, obviously, there is still no consensus in the community over this matter. Therefore, if people do not support it, it would be undemocratic to use the law to force them to accept it. The Honourable Martin LEE said that if he donated his kidney to a certain person, that person might follow his path. If this is the case, would it not be better to donate the head?

(2) The Legislative Council's subcommittee on the Human Organ Transplant Ordinance is discussing matters relating to organ donation by living persons. Although members of the subcommittee have diveregent views on about the authorization procedures, they agree that "the wishes of the individual" and "express wish" have overriding importance in the donation and reception of organs. This is also in keeping with the legislative spirit of respect for the wishes of the individual in common law. If we wilfully interpret "no express wish" and "no objection raised" as an indication of "consent", is this not an infringement of human rights? Members will have to think about this. As a barrister, Mr Martin LEE could surely provide a better opinion.

(3) Traditionally, the Chinese people place great importance on the "burial of the whole corpse". While we might not quite agree with this, it is undeniable that many people in the community still hold this view.

As for those who have indicated their wish to donate their organs while living, the Government should try to help them realize their wishes. For instance, a legally binding method of donation could be used by having a lawyer as witness or by signing an organ donation card. After all the legal procedures have been completed, even his family's objection may be to no avail. In terms of publicity, education and counselling, these ideas about the "whole corpse" are customs. It takes more than one or two years to change them. Just now Dr LEONG Che-hung said that since the programme did not work after many years in operation, there was a need for legislation. In my view, if it does not work after many years of operation, it might be because there is inadequate publicity, education and counselling. Even if it is not effective, we should not impose it by law. Therefore, we in the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance cannot support today's motion. Thank you.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Does any other Member wish to speak?

(No Member indicated a wish to speak)

SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Madam President, I am very grateful to all those Honourable Members who have spoken on this motion. I fully agree that we must do our utmost to encourage people to donate their organs after death, so as to help other people. This is also the long standing policy of the Government. If a person can donate his organs to needy patients after his death, he will be able to help other people extend their precious lives. I think organ donation is an act which all people will support and encourage. The only point of dispute seems to centre around what measures should be adopted to implement the organ donation scheme, so as to give more patients a new lease of life.

If we look at the laws of other countries on this subject, we will see that the "opting-out" model as advocated by Mr LAU Chin-shek is adopted in countries like Switzerland, France, Italy and Belgium in Europe and Singapore in Asia. In the North American countries of the United States and Canada, and in the United Kingdom, Australia and most Southe East Asian countries, the "opting-in" model is most popular. Such a distribution aptly reflects the varying attitudes and degrees of acceptance among different governments and their people with respect to organ donation.

It is worth noting that as revealed by research reports and statistical records of foreign countries, there is in fact no direct causal relationship between the adoption of the "opting-out" model and any increase in organ donation. This shows precisely that government measures are not the key factor determining the success or otherwise of any organ donation schemes. Rather, it all depends on whether or not people can establish a correct perception of organ donation, one which can make them realize the positive significance of helping others after one's death. The reason is that all organ donation schemes, be they "opting-in" or "opting-out" in nature, must ultimately count on the voluntary desire of donors before they can ever achieve the desired results. At a time when organ donation is not yet fully accepted under the prevailing sensibilities, customs and traditional beliefs of the entire society, the introduction of an "opting-out" ordinance will not only lead to huge outcries, but will also, I am afraid, achieve the opposite result of dealing a blow to people's enthusiasm and concern for organ donation.

In order to enhance people's awareness of organ donation, the Hospital Authority (HA) and the Central Health Education Unit under the Department of Health have been working closely together in recent years, and they have sought to promote a correct perception of organ donation among members of the public through various publicity and education activities. Over the past few years, the staff of the HA and the Department of Health have held many different talks and publicity activities in various tertiary institutions and commercial organizations. They have also focused on equipping medical personnel with the knowledge about organ donation, in the hope that more human organs suitable for transplant can be made available through their assistance. Every year, the HA and the Department of Health will co-organize some special functions with local television and radio broadcasters, so as to promote the meaning and significance of organ donation. And, exhibitions with on-site explanations are also held periodically in Mass Transit Railway and Kowloon-Canton Railway stations and major shopping centres in Hong Kong and Kowloon, where the flow of people is high. In addition, the Department of Health also seeks to promote a correct perception of organ donation in the electronic media. At present, the Department is focusing on encouraging people who have signed organ donation cards to discuss their decision with their families as soon as possible, so as to make them realize their wishes to donate their organs.

The HA now operates four human organ transplant centres, situated in the Queen Mary Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital. Nurses with special responsibility for co-ordinating matters relating to organ donation are stationed in each of these centres, so as to ensure that the whole process of organ transplant can be conducted more effectively and smoothly. The work of these nurses involves obtaining the consent of the family members of deceased patients on extracting organs for transplant. The eye bank of the Hong Kong Lion's Club also stations similar personnel in these organ donation centres for the purpose of identifying donors of corneas.

The statistics of the Department of Health reveal that as at the third quarter of 1998, some 6 000 people had already signed their organ donation cards during various open publicity functions. And, organ donation cards are also available in hospitals, clinics, district offices of the Home Affairs Department and the recreational venues run by the two Provisional Municipal Councils. As revealed by the organ donation figures supplied by the HA, the number of cornea donors actually increased from some 140 in 1994 to some 220 in 1998; for kidney donors, despite the slight drop in the first 11 months of 1998, their overall number over the past few years has managed to remain quite stable, with an average of 40 to 50 each year; and, for liver donors, their number has also increased from two to three each year at the beginning of the 1990s to an annual average of around 10 in recent years.

We do of course know that it will take a long time before publicity and education efforts can yield the desired results. This is especially true when they involve fundamental changes to deeply rooted traditional beliefs. In cases like this, the process of effecting gradual changes may indeed be very long. But I do believe that this is the only ultimate solution to the problem.

I understand that Mr LAU Chin-shek has moved this motion out of his concern about patients waiting for organ transplant. But we must add that if Members really wish to implement an "opting-out" scheme at this very stage, they must consider the following factors very seriously:

1. I am sure that Honourable Members will all agree that the term "donation" actually implies a voluntary act. So, any compulsory measures will probably run completely counter to the original intent of "donation". The proposed "opt-out" scheme actually involves a pre-assumption which is made before people can ever state their wishes: all people are basically willing to donate their organs after death. In addition, we must note that even with the most vigorous publicity and education efforts, some people may still fail to receive the message due to one reason or another. And, there are always bound to be some who cannot indicate their refusal in good time before they die. In cases like this, compulsory organ donation under an "opt-out" scheme may well run counter to the wishes of the deceased.

2. With respect to the actual implementation of an "opt-out" scheme, we can actually notice some objective problems. If the family members concerned object very vigorously to the extraction of the organs of their deceased relatives, the doctors involved will still find it very difficult to implement the scheme despite the existence of legal requirements. As a result, disputes may arise. In fact, as revealed by past records, even under the existing system of voluntary donation, similar disputes have not at all been uncommon either. What is more, we must bear in mind that because of medical reasons, not all the organs of dead people are suitable for transplant. That being the case, if some family members of patients waiting for organ transplant make any improper requests due to their lack of medical knowledge and proper understanding of the situation, misunderstanding and unnecessary disputes may arise between them and medical doctors.

3. The administrative support required after the enactment of such a piece of legislation is also a factor which cannot be ignored. In order to implement an "opt-out" scheme, the Government will have to build up a database to store the records of all those people who have opted out from the scheme. And, whenever people change their mind, their latest wishes must be promptly and accurately reflected in the database. We will have to put in huge resources if we are to set up and maintain such a highly efficient and error-free database.

I very much appreciate the very good intention behind Mr LAU Chin-shek's legislative proposal on introducing an "opt-out" scheme. But can the people of Hong Kong now accept the compulsory donation of their organs after death? If we take any hasty actions, we may well bring forth some negative effects. According to the information provided to us by the HA, a survey conducted in September 1997 reveals that about two thirds of the 2 000 or so respondents were against the implementation of an "opt-out" scheme in Hong Kong. Though the findings can only serve a reference purpose, to a certain extent, they do reflect the attitudes and wishes of our people in this particular respect.

Having considered the problems which will result from the proposed legislation, we must say that we do have some reservations about enacting any legislation at this very stage. But we will continue to spread the correct message and perception to all walks of life in the community through education and publicity. That way, people will gradually realize the meaning of organ donation and choose to donate their organs voluntarily.

The second part of Mr LAU Chin-shek's motion cencerns a request for the Government to take administrative measures to indicate the wish of donors on their personal documents such as identity cards or driving licences. We have sought advice from the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and other relevant government departments on this proposal. The preliminary opinion we have obtained is that such measures may well violate those provisions in the Privacy Ordinance on the protection of personal data. We are told that the information relating to one's wish on organ donation is not in any way related to the original purpose of identity cards and driving licences. But when people produce their identity cards or driving licences, they will unnecessarily but inevitably disclose other personal data at the same time. We are right now still discussing the proposal with the relevant government departments. Once there is any further progress, we will brief Members at the meetings of the Health Affairs Panel.

Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr LAU Chin-shek, you still have four minutes and 41 seconds. You may give your reply now.

MR LAU CHIN-SHEK (in Cantonese): Madam President, I wish to thank all those Honourable Members who have spoken on the motion, because whether or not they support the motion, they have already shown their concern about all those chronic patients who are waiting for organ transplant. I wish to give a reminder to Members, and I also wish to extend an invitation to them. I urge that if Members have not signed any organ donation cards, they should act now. I hope that the staff of the Legislative Council Secretariat can supply some donation cards to Members for their signatures next week. Let me also remind Members that we must always carry our donation cards with us. I may sometimes go out without any money (sometimes I do go out without any money), but I always carry my donation card with me. I also hope that Members can write the following note on their cards: "My family members are requested to respect my wish."

As rightly pointed out by Dr LEONG Che-hung, we have not yet done enough despite our efforts so far. Actually, over the past few years, Dr LEONG and I have been promoting human organ donation in our different capacities and on different occasions. And, I have actually made many different appeals for organ donation as a Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Fund and a long-time blood donor. But as evidenced by the figures available to Members, the situation is still far from being satisfactory. So, I hope Members can consider the matter from the standpoint of chronic patients. If they can make the suffering of patients waiting for organ transplant as their prime concern, I believe that they will certainly think differently about the whole issue.

Members do hold different opinions, but in the final analysis, all of them in fact very much want to see more education and publicity efforts, and they all attach very great importance to the availability of channels for members of the public to indicate their objection. These are technical problems which can certainly be solved. I do not think that there should be any insurmountable difficulties. So, unless Members really consider the integrity of dead bodies that important, they should not raise any objection. And, we can actually compare organ donation with the case of a person who dies intestate now. In a case like this, the manner in which the estate of the deceased should be divided is prescribed under the relevant laws, but it may not necessarily reflect the wishes of the deceased. In contrast, if we can enact an "opt-out" ordinance for organ donation, people will be able to inform the Government of their wishes at an earlier time. This means that if a person does not want to donate his organs after death, he will have a chance to indicate his wish clearly. That way, he can rest assured that his wish will always be genuinely reflected after his death.

Mr Michael HO referred to the difficulties faced by medical personnel under the proposed scheme. But I must say that the same difficulties can be found under the existing organ donation card system. What I mean is that even if a person has signed an organ donation card, disputes will still arise after his death when his family members raise their objection. So, even if the proposed ordinance is not enacted, the same problems will still arise, and medical personnel will still have to make a lot of efforts to resolve the disputes. I hope that medical personnel will make more efforts in this respect.

Some Members pointed out that only seven European countries are practising organ donation systems similar to the one proposed in the motion. But I have to clarify that the number is much larger than seven, because similar laws are in fact found in three quarters of the member states of the European Union. If the Secretary is right in saying that these laws will cause a lot of complicated problems, these countries should already be suffering as a result. But I wish to return to the crux of the problem. What patients need most badly is our care and concern. The Secretary, in particular, should take this point most seriously.

Lastly, let me respond to the proposal made by Mr Jasper TSANG, who invited the Democratic Party to join hands with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong in calling upon members of the public to sign organ donation cards. I do not know whether Mr Martin LEE will do so, but I am prepared to join hands with them, so as to ask people to sign organ donation cards. Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you and that is: That the motion moved by Mr LAU Chin-shek be passed.

Will those in favour of the motion please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(Members raised their hands)

Mr LAU Chin-shek rose to claim a division.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mr LAU Chin-shek has claimed a division. The division bell will ring for three minutes.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Before I declare that voting shall stop, do Members have any queries? Voting shall now stop, and the result will now be displayed.

Functional Constituencies:

Mr Eric LI, Mr LEE Kai-ming, Dr LEONG Che-hung and Mr LAW Chi-kwong voted for the motion.

Mr Kenneth TING, Mr James TIEN, Mr Edward HO, Mr Michael HO, Dr Raymond HO, Miss Margaret NG, Mrs Selina CHOW, Mr Ronald ARCULLI, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong, Mr Ambrose CHEUNG, Mr HUI Cheung-ching, Mr CHAN Kwok-keung, Mr CHAN Wing-chan, Mr SIN Chung-kai, Mr WONG Yung-kan, Mr Howard YOUNG, Mr LAU Wong-fat, Mrs Miriam LAU and Dr TANG Siu-tong voted against the motion.

Geographical Constituencies and Election Committee:

Miss Cyd HO, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, Mr Martin LEE, Miss Christine LOH, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, Mr Andrew WONG, Mr LAU Chin-shek, Miss Emily LAU, Mr Andrew CHENG and Mr SZETO Wah voted for the motion.

Mr Fred LI, Miss CHAN Yuen-han, Mr Gary CHENG, Mr Jasper TSANG, Mr LAU Kong-wah, Mr TAM Yiu-chung, Mr David CHU, Mr HO Sai-chu, Mr NG Leung-sing, Prof NG Ching-fai, Mr CHAN Kam-lam, Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung, Mr Ambrose LAU and Miss CHOY So-yuk voted against the motion.

Dr YEUNG Sum abstained.

THE PRESIDENT, Mrs Rita FAN, did not cast any vote.

THE PRESIDENT announced that among the Members returned by functional constituencies, 23 were present, four were in favour of the motion and 19 against it; while among the Members returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections and by the Election Committee, 26 were present, 10 were in favour of the motion, 14 against it and one abstained. Since the question was not agreed by a majority of each of the two groups of Members present, she therefore declared that the motion was negatived.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): The second motion: Reviewing the waste management policy.

REVIEWING THE WASTE MANAGEMENT POLICY

MISS CHOY SO-YUK (in Cantonese): Madam President, I stand to move the motion of today.

Apart from information technology, the most important industry of the next century will arguably be the environmental protection industries. The significance of the these industries lies not only in the enormous economic benefits they bring, but also in view of the rapidly depleting natural resources on Earth. Take trees for example. Forested areas in the whole world shrank by one quarter as compared with 300 years ago; by four fifths as compared with several thousand years ago. Therefore many countries are taking proactive actions to conserve natural resources by a package of compulsory policies or incentives.

The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States introduced the Prevention of Pollution Act as early as in October 1990 to require producers to prevent the production of pollution at source or to reduce the discharge of pollutants, and to recycle waste as far as possible. The European Union has also adopted stringent standards, such as ISO14000. Improving waste management and encouraging recycling have become the order of the day, and an urgent one at that.

On the other hand, the Hong Kong Government not only actively withholds any support for the waste recycling industry, being complacent with bureaucrats lacking any sense of crisis, but has also pushed the recycling industry into a vicious circle of fighting completely alone for their survival. The recent closing of Concordia Paper Company presages such a vicious circle.

Waste paper collected every day in Hong Kong amounts to around 2 000 tons, three quarters of which comes from recovery traders. It is common knowledge that such traders are operating under the most unfavourable conditions. Poor recovery business means huge public funds have to be spent on the disposal of waste, and greatly shortened the life span of landfills, wasting the most valuable land resources of Hong Kong. This also directly weakens the competitiveness of our waste paper export, and reduces the income of the 10 000-odd scavengers and garbage collectors. It further thwarts the waste recovery programmes the government departments concerned, environmental protection organizations and district bodies have been struggling to promote over the years, pulling down eventually the system under which the whole recovery and recycling industry operates.

Madam President, the Government must not, on the one hand, simply ask the people to reduce their refuse and to recycle waste, and on the other treat the recycling industry itself like dirt, while naively thinking that by adhering strictly to its dogma of positive non-interventionism, the recycling sector could "recycle" itself and build on its own strength according to market demand. But we must ask, does Hong Kong have a self-sufficient market for the recycling industry? How much of the overseas market share is left for the environmental protection industries of Hong Kong?

As a matter of fact, government leadership in supporting the recycling industry has been practised for years in countries with free market economy like the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and German, and even China. Those governments collecting a recovery deposit are obvious examples. I hope that the Hong Kong Government will study their ways.

The idea for the proposed recovery deposit is that if the manufacturers or their agents recover the usable waste they have produced instead of consigning the same to the landfills, the Government will refund the recovery deposit; otherwise the deposit will be paid into the recycling fund. The recovery deposit can serve as a positive incentive for the manufacturers to minimize the production of waste, from the design to the packaging of their products. Comparing with charging for waste disposal, which makes the transportation operators of the waste or users of the products pay, this deposit could clearly better define the identity and responsibility of the polluters, and encourage the manufacturers to develop products that are environmentally friendly. Further, so long as the manufacturers support environmental protection, there is no reason for them to run the risk of transferring the extra cost onto the consumers, an act that could weaken the competitiveness of their products. Then, will the recovery deposit itself imposes a burden? Experiences in other countries show that the rate of the deposit will not be higher than certain percentage points of the manufacturing cost of the products concerned. I figure that the deposit rate for Hong Kong could even be lower than those in other countries.

With the recovery deposit collected from the manufacturers, the Government can, with suitable public funding, establish a recycling fund. A management board comprising representatives of the various sectors concerned should also be set up to monitor the collection of the recovery deposit, to provide low-interest or interest-free loans to the recycling sector, and to encourage the recycling industry to develop environmental protection industries that could meet local requirements.

When the recycling fund is in place, the Government can copy the models of China, the Netherlands and Germany to set up renewable resources centres in various districts. The resources centres, apart from receiving usable waste from housing estates and schools, can design separate programmes geared to the characteristics of various districts, so as to encourage waste recovery. The renewable resources centres could also serve as intermediaries for waste trade with the Government or waste management experts buying usable waste from recovery traders at reasonable prices according to the principle of supply and demand in the market, and selling the same to exporters. With the resources centres as the transit points, the quality of the waste is guaranteed, the prices stabilized, and the operating cost of the whole recycling industry lowered.

In the long term, the Government must formulate a policy to give full support to the recycling industry (in respect of waste paper, metals, plastics, glass, and so on), including a policy of providing preferential treatment in terms of land rent, taxation, water and electricity and sewage treatment charges. The Government should also intensify environmental protection education for government officials and the citizens, and require all government departments to give priority to the use of recycled products wherever possible in an effort to lead the community in enlarging the market for the environmental protection industries.

Madam President, a number of environmental protection organizations, the recycling sector and labour bodies held a joint meeting this morning on the issue of the survival of the waste recycling industry at which they also discussed my present motion and proposals. They hoped that the Government would seriously consider this motion and implement what we are going to discuss today as soon as possible. Mr Ambrose LAU and Mr HUI Cheung-ching of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance will later speak and make suggestions respectively on the shortcomings of the Government's positive non-intervention policy, the questions of the waste disposal charging scheme and encouraging the underprivileged in the community to get involved in the recovery industry.

With these remarks, Madam President, I urge Honourable Members to support today's original motion. Thank you.

Miss CHOY So-yuk moved the following motion:

"That this Council urges the Government to immediately review the waste management policy and, under the principle of sustainable development, to consider setting up a Renewable Resources Centre, with a view to systematically taking measures to assist the development of waste paper and other recycling industries, including widely consulting the industries concerned, environmental protection and labour organizations as well as other relevant bodies, expeditiously reviewing the waste disposal charging scheme, actively considering the alternative of collecting a recovery deposit from waste producers for the purpose of establishing a recycling fund, and encouraging the recycling sector to develop environmental protection industries geared to local needs, thereby creating employment opportunities for the underprivileged in the community; at the same time, additional supporting facilities should be introduced expeditiously to facilitate the separation and recovery of waste by the public; the Government should also enhance environmental protection education among government officials and the public, and require all government departments to give priority to the use of recycled products wherever possible, in order to achieve ultimately the desirable results of enhancing the effectiveness of environmental protection, revitalizing the local market for environmental protection industries, improving the investment environment for the recycling industries and their competitiveness internationally, saving the Government's resources and creating employment opportunities."

THE PRESIDENT'S DEPUTY, DR LEONG CHE-HUNG, took the Chair.

DEPUTY PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the motion moved by Miss CHOY So-yuk, as set out on the Agenda, be approved.

Miss Christine LOH will move an amendment to the motion, as set out on the Agenda. In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, we will now debate the motion and the amendment together in a joint debate. I now invite Miss LOH to speak and move her amendment.

MISS CHRISTINE LOH: Mr Deputy, I support the Honourable Miss CHOY So-yuk's motion. I seek an amendment for two reasons. The first is to ensure that we do not rule out landfill charging. Let me deal with this one first and come to the second reason later.

The motion suggests that a deposit recovery scheme is an adequate alternative. I do not feel that it is a question of "either/or" since both are important. Landfill charging is an essential pillar of any waste reduction strategy. It will help to adjust the current market distortions which are promoting waste disposal and acting as a disincentive to waste reduction. Some people seem resistant to any kind of charging scheme. This is presumably why the Government has been unable to do much since it first broached the subject in 1994. Let me repeat why I want to make this amendment. Before Hong Kong has had adequate time to deal with the complex issue of waste management, I do not think we should rule anything out.

Let me give some home truths about the magnitude of Hong Kong's waste problems. Our three strategic landfills are modern and well-run facilities. They cost $6 billion to build and $360 million to operate annually. However, we are producing waste at such a terrific pace that the Government expects to run out of space by 2012. The real cost of waste collection, transfer and disposal was estimated to be $685 per ton back in 1996. The breakdowns are: $285 for collection and transport; $200 for transfer; $115 for landfill; and $85 for the opportunity cost of using the land for this purpose, based on the value of agricultural land.

Landfilling at $115 per ton is not cheap. What this means is that every time we landfill a ton of waste, the taxpayer has to pay that amount. There is no alternative to landfilling other than recycling. Over 55% of waste currently going into the landfill comes from commercial and industrial sectors. Recyclers must pay the cost of collecting, transporting and recycling. There are no subsidies or any credits. The cost of landfilling is artificially low in comparison to recycling, thereby putting collectors of waste for recycling at a disadvantage.

Why should anyone go through the effort of sorting waste for recycling, if this can be disposed of free of charge in the landfill? If there was a landfill charge, there would be a very real incentive for companies and businesses to sort their waste and sell it to the waste collectors and recyclers. If more companies and households sort their waste for recycling, the cost of collection and transportation for the waste recyclers will be reduced due to economies of scale. It is simply not worth their while to visit schools, companies or housing estates to collect a few bags of paper. However, if there was a considerable quantity, obviously, that would make a great difference.

I think many people in the waste recovery industry still support landfill charging as they recognize that this will be an important stimulus to their business. The recycling industry has low profit margins at the best of times. There are almost no developed countries in the world that do not charge companies and industries for landfilling waste. Hong Kong is, in fact, out of step with the rest of the developed world.

The other reason for my amendment is to change the deposit recovery system from waste producers to certain waste products. This might be a more important amendment than it first appears. My concern is that since many products in Hong Kong are imported, it may be impractical to collect a deposit from producers outside Hong Kong. Further, it is not clear from the motion whether it is proposing that a recovery deposit be levied on all producers of all products.

My amendment seeks to clarify that the deposit should be linked to the products rather than to the producers. It should be linked only to those products which are recyclable, such as paper, aluminium, glass and certain types of plastic. For waste which are difficult to recycle, incentives to reduce would have to come from landfill charging.

I think my amendment creates a fairer system. Why do I say that? Let me illustrate this by an example. Say, a deposit could be levied on plastic water bottles. The deposit could be collected from local producers according to how many bottles are sold each month, and presumably placed on the imported products directly. The motion limits the deposit recovery scheme to producers. I say let it be put on the products. This is more likely to create both producers and consumers sharing the cost, which I believe is a more useful way to promote waste reduction as a whole. In any event, I am not sure how we can stop the producers or the importers from passing at least a part of the cost onto consumers.

I also think there should be exemptions for those producers and importers who are limiting their waste. Certain products would be exempted if they are already being diverted from the landfill. For example, a bottle return system operated by a local manufacturer where bottles are collected, washed and reused would have no deposit levied.

In conclusion, I believe we need to look at all the options carefully before whatever system is adopted. It should be fair, practical and effective. We should accept the principle that the cost of disposing of a product at the end of its useful life should be factored into the cost of producing that product. In some countries, producers are given recycling targets which they are obliged by law to achieve. The producers can either develop their own recycling schemes or pay others, including green groups and local authorities, to set up recycling schemes. The important objective is to divert as many useful resources from landfilling as possible.

Mr Deputy, it is very useful to have this debate today but I see it as something at the beginning of our community discourse rather than at the end of it. That is why I want to make sure that the motion is kept as flexible as possible. It is important for the community to understand the complexity for Hong Kong to develop a waste management system. The Government's paper is a summary of a group of ideas. The Government itself, I believe, is not yet ready to come up with their final ideas. Of course, we would like the Government to come up with their ideas as soon as possible, but it is also important for green groups, academic groups, industries, workers groups, to get together and discuss this more.

As Miss CHOY said, some members of green groups and people in the industry met today. Two members of my staff were there. I am not sure whether other people would accept my amendment. But in a very hurried meeting today, as I understand it, it was not possible to really enter into the subject in any depth.

I do want to emphasize that I very much appreciate Miss CHOY So-yuk's motion, because it gives us a first opportunity to enter into a very complex issue. But let us not think that this is the end of the debate. This is the beginning of the debate. If Hong Kong is ever going to have a comprehensive, well-run waste reduction programme, it is going to need a lot of us in the whole community to adopt a different attitude, to be much more experimental in trying out different things. We also need the Government to be pushing and be willing to try out different things.

I would just end by making a final point, Mr Deputy. Public money should not be used to continue to subsidize waste disposal indefinitely. This is what is happening today. We have needs in other areas, such as education, health and welfare. We may have a budget deficit this year of some $50 billion and the Government is proposing, as you know, to cut Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments to save $550 million. And Mr Deputy, you know better than anyone else that hospital budgets are also being cut by some $100 million. Do we really think that the $360 million annual landfill operation cost cannot be put to better use? Well, of course, it can.

Miss Christine LOH moved the following amendment:

"To delete "the alternative of"; and to delete "from waste producers" and substitute with "on certain waste products"."

DEPUTY PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now propose the question to you and that is: That the amendment moved by Miss Christine LOH, be made to Miss CHOY So-yuk's motion.

We will now proceed to the debate. Does any Member wish to speak?

MR CHAN KWOK-KEUNG (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, the issue regarding the policy on waste management really attracts the attention of the various sectors in the community. As a matter of fact, the direction in which the Government changes the whole policy concerns not only the problem of environmental protection in Hong Kong, but it also reflects the Government's attitude regarding the development of an emerging industry, and affects the employment opportunities of low-skilled workers.

I have planned to move a motion on "environmental protection and industries" next week, now I have been pre-empted. Nevertheless, I do not mind a bit now that a fellow Member has moved the discussion forward. Some Members have lobbied me to move an amendment to the motion, but I think that the general views regarding this motion will not be too diverse. At the same time, it is now time we urged the Government to implement a change to the existing policy. Therefore, I also hope that the motion could be carried.

Mr Deputy, on the day when the Chief Executive delivered his policy address in early October, I pointed out seriously that the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) was keenly developing high technology to the neglect of the employment issue of low-skilled workers. I even wrote an article in the newspaper urging the Government to take the initiative of actively developing new industries, such as those relating to environmental protection, so as to retain certain types of jobs that require a low level of skill to accommodate low-skilled and less educated workers.

Apart from that, during our meeting with the Financial Secretary towards the end of last October, we in the Federation of Trade Unions formally proposed to the Government certain tax concessions and technical support programmes as incentives for investors to develop environmental protection and recycling industries, for major enterprises to use recycled products and to conserve energy. All such proposals were raised with reference to the relationship between environmental protection and employment; their objective is to retain more jobs that could meet the demand of our present human resources development, and to ensure a balanced development in our industries and economic structure.

Hong Kong in fact has over 1 million people in our workforce whose education standard is Form Three or below, and belong to the category of low-skilled labour. The Government must consider the livelihood of those workers who have not gone through retraining to upgrade their skills or those who are unable to adapt to the new technology working environment. The employment opportunities of such workers will always pose a problem.

The incident involving Concordia Paper Company not only sounds the alarm over the lack of an adequate waste management policy in Hong Kong, but also highlights the fact that the Government has never properly concerned itself with the development of the industry in question. Government officials, in the face of queries and criticisms from the community, have refused to put forward or accept some better suggestions on the ground that there could be no subsidies for individual operators. This reveals the lack of understanding of environmental protection industries on the part of the officials who simply regard such undertakings as "cottage industries", and not as proper types of industries. Or they have utterly no knowledge of environmental protection issues, nor have they any informed views. They merely think that problems could be solved by increasing the burden on consumers who would then reduce the generation of refuse.

I think that the Government must not consider environmental protection industries with a short-sighted attitude. I wish to stress that the environmental protection industries are not simply a form of pure business operation, they serve a social function in helping us protect the environment in Hong Kong. Therefore, the Government must not treat these industries as merely a form of economic activity, thus leaving the operators in the wilderness to fight for their own survival, to face competition from imported waste and recycled products that are subsidized by foreign governments. At the same time, it is logically unreasonable for Hong Kong not to improve its "fragmented" and "unsystematic" waste recovery system that has allowed the dumping of other countries' surplus waste in Hong Kong (strictly speaking, all the reusable waste imported from abroad is the waste of other countries).

In fact, the issue of environmental protection is arguable a "self-centred" one, no advanced country or area would allow "other people" to dump garbage on its own sovereign territory free of charge. This principle ought to be self-evident. Some western countries have policies to give incentives in the form of tax concessions and technical support to environmental protection industries, and to provide certain tax exemptions to undertakings that are able to conserve energy or create new jobs to meet planning targets, so as to meet the global environmental protection demands and to provide employment opportunities to local low-skilled labour. Policies that can look after the combined issue of environmental protection and employment are the current trend. The Government must adopt a new thinking and charge its old direction and old concepts.

Mr Deputy, I so submit.

PROF NG CHING-FAI (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, the problems in the waste paper recovery industry have made us feel that there is a need to look at our existing waste management policy with a new thinking.

The responsibility of waste disposal has all along been that of the Government, and it has been taken as one public service provided by the Government to the citizens. The Government, through the two Provisional Municipal Councils, collects the mainly solid waste and transport it to the landfills, basically paying all the cost so incurred. Though the concept of "user pays" has been introduced by the Government in recent years, there has been major difficulties in implementing such a concept. Therefore, the expenditure of the Municipal Councils as well as the cost of creating and operating the landfills are still being footed by the Government from public revenue.

As far as waste management policy is concerned, reduction of waste is naturally better than the passive collection and landfilling of waste; and there is no better way of reducing waste than to recover and recycle it. Therefore, encouraging the development of the recycling industry is the best of all policies, and is the only way meeting the objective of the sustainable development policy. Unfortunately, while the Government has the responsibility to dispose of waste, it thinks it has no responsibility to support the recycling industry.

We all know that it has been the consistent policy of the Government not to subsidize any specific industries and trades. All the Government does has been to provide a favourable business environment. The recycling industry being a private and profit-seeking operation will naturally receive no subsidy from the Government. This is understandable. And as a matter of fact, the industry itself did not in the past request any government subsidy.

Nevertheless, the predicament the waste paper recovering trade is facing as well as the consequential ill effects have compelled us to consider one issue, and that is: If this trade disappears altogether in Hong Kong as a result of its failure for lack of government support, how is Hong Kong going to get rid of the hundreds of tons of waste paper that is produced every day? The solution, it appears, is landfilling the waste paper as if it were a part of domestic waste. In that case, the cost and expenses we would have to bear might even be greater than that of government subsidies to the industry. Such cost and expenses include not only the those incurred in collecting and transporting the waste paper, and in creating the landfills, but also the cost in the form of loss of income for the trade and the ancillary industries, including unemployment of workers resulting from winding up of recovery companies, packing companies, as well as the loss of livelihood of scavengers. What is more, there will be a serious negative impact when the waste recovery programmes that have been in place for a long time in housing estates and schools and the long-time effort devoted to the education of the public and schoolchildren in environmental protection all come to naught.

Mr Deputy, the problem of the waste paper recovery industry is but the tip of the iceberg. The business of recovering other types of waste may or will soon face a similar plight. Glass recovery in Hong Kong has become extinct; and plastics recovery is facing the same problem following the fall in oil prices that has made plastics raw materials cheap.

In view of the above, I propose that the Government should look at the recovery trade with a new thinking, and refrain from treating it as merely a form of private business activities. I fully agree with what Mr CHAN Kwok-keung just said, that these industries also serve particular social functions. We must not let them fight alone for their own survival. As to how to support or even subsidize these industries, we could leave it to detail planning; on the question of which waste recovery trade to support or subsidize, we could decide according to their impact on the public. But we must first break the taboo of forbidding any support or subsidy for specific trades.

Mr Deputy, there can be multiple ways of support. For example, tax concessions, provision of land at low price or low rent for storage or processing of waste. As water transport is less expensive for waste recovery, consideration could be given to providing waterfront land. This would greatly reduce the operating cost of the trade. Apart from the provision of cheap land, the Government could take the lead in purchasing recycled products and giving direct subsidy to the recycling industry. This will also go a long way in helping the development of the industries. On the other hand, if and when the Government decides to subsidize the recycling industry, a profit control programme could also be considered for those receiving the subsidy, reducing or stopping the subsidy when the market or operating environment for such industries improves, or even requiring a percentage of the profit to be paid into a recycling fund set up by the Government. The Government could also consider subsidizing some non-profit-making environmental protection organizations so that they can start their own recycling operation; the Government could study the feasibility of investing in some recycling industries and contracting out the operation or management of the same to private enterprises. The chemical waste processing plant on Tsing Yi is a good case in point.

Mr Deputy, to support or subsidize the recycling industry, the Government could also consider setting up a "recycling fund" with funding from the Government. A recycling levy on waste producers could also be considered to replenish the fund. As to which waste producers we should charge the levy, extensive consultation and careful study will be necessary. As Miss Christine LOH just said, any scheme to be implemented must be fair, reasonable and practical. In view of the above, I support the suggestions in the original motion of Miss CHOY So-yuk.

With these remarks, Mr Deputy, I support the original motion.

MR LAW CHI-KWONG (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, the consultation paper of the Waste Reduction Framework Plan published by the Government in November 1998 referred to the principles of "polluter pays" and "user pays" in its effort to encourage waste producers to reduce waste production as well as recycling with a view to lengthening the life span of the existing landfills. The Government has been seeking the co-operation of the community in reducing waste and in disposing of waste in a responsible manner. However, it is an irony that obviously all the objectives outlined in the above-mentioned consultation paper will not be achieved if the Government does not expeditiously respond to the case of Concordia Paper Company that closed down in December 1998 for difficulties in operation and to the ensuing economic difficulties will be encountered by the local waste paper recovery trade. If the Government refuses to respond, the domino effect may result in the collapse of the whole recovery trade, and this will shorten the life span of our existing landfills. The 2 000 tons of waste paper produced every day will cost the people of Hong Kong $6.6 million a month to dispose of if not recovered. The most important thing in all these is that about 2 000 people will lose their job.

We hope that when looking at the overall problem, the Government would base its consideration for a waste management strategy on three principles. Firstly, environmental protection industries are what we deem as economic activities with externalities. Apart from profits for the operators, these industries will bring reduced costs of waste disposal on the part of the Government and indirect improvement to the living environment of the general public. These are what we call the externalities. There are at present no effective ways to ensure the operators to benefit from such externalities, and if the waste recovery trade collapses, waste paper or waste will have to be transported to landfills for disposal, resulting in an increasingly heavy burden on tax and rates payers. Simply put, involvement of the Government in environmental protection industries is to transfer, through various means of support for such industries, the externalities of the environmental protection industries to the operators. This way will make the development of the whole industries more cost effective.

The second principle that warrants consideration is that each and every country and region around the world has the responsibility to conserve the resources on the planet. As a SAR of China, Hong Kong should also actively promote the concept of "sustainable development". Therefore, it is imperative for the Government to support the development of environmental protection.

The third principle is that the ultimate means to achieve the objective of reducing waste and efficient use of resources is to help change the habit and thinking of the public. According to the data provided by the Environmental Protection Department, the volume at present recovered is only 17% of the recyclable waste paper, that is to say, the remaining 83% is out there waiting to be recovered. On the other hand, domestic waste recovered amounts to a meagre 8% of the total. In this respect, the Government should introduce more measures to nurture public awareness and habit of treasuring resources and making efficient use of them, so as to establish a cultural base for environmental protection.

Whenever we ask the Government to support waste recycling, the Government would decline by hiding behind the principle of not interfering with the free market economy. But the principle of "user pays" as proposed by the Government is insufficient to achieve the environmental protection effect. Therefore, the principle of "not interfering with the free market economy" must be viewed from the perspective whether or not the free market economy is able to transfer the externalities to the operators.

The motion of Miss CHOY So-yuk suggests the setting up of renewable resources centres. The Democratic Party can support the suggestion in principle. Whether the centre is called renewable resources centre or whatever name is unimportant. The most important element is the externalities of the environmental protection industries I just referred to. In that way, capital can be injected into a fund by way of taxation, and then through intermediary organizations under contract, reusable waste can be purchased from recovery traders for resale to exporters or recycling operators. Any profit generated by the last chain will then be returned to the fund. Naturally, this mode of operation will include the transit centres mentioned by Miss CHOY So-yuk or people in the industry.

Apart from the above, the Government could also consider several other ways. First, on the issue of research in environmental protection, the Government could set up an environmental protection research fund to encourage green organizations and institutes of higher education to conduct environmental protection research projects on the one hand, and to finance reviews of recycling strategies and their effectiveness on the other.

A number of Members have mentioned that government departments, public bodies, subvented organizations and schools could take the lead in promoting or setting down a ratio for the use of recycled products. I believe that this will not only motivate the various departments, but also enhance public awareness in this respect. On the other hand, we know that at present many types of waste are not labelled clearly, making the cost of recovery very high. How are we going to introduce labels for the various types of waste? I believe an introduction of such labels will be helpful.

In view of the limited time I have, I wish to make known our view on the amendment on behalf of the Democratic Party. Actually we could support the amendment in principle, but we think that the amendment is too sketchy without seriously addressing related issues such as the principles of "polluter pays" and "user pays". We hope that there are future opportunities to discuss the problems concerned. The Democratic Party will therefore abstain from voting on the amendment. As to the original motion, it has the support of the Democratic Party. Thank you, Mr Deputy.

MR AMBROSE LAU (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, now that environmental protection industries and the principle of sustainable development are taken very seriously by governments of all countries and regions, it is outdated and gravely mistaken for the Government to stick to the so-called "positive non-intervention" policy and do nothing while the environmental protection industries, including those of waste paper recovery and recycling, are fighting alone for their very survival.

The failure of Concordia Paper Company has reduced the processing capacity of the waste paper recovery and recycling industry in Hong Kong. If Future's Safe Company also closes its door, the waste paper recycling industry in Hong Kong will cease to exist, leaving the burden of financing the disposal of the annual 27 000 tons of waste paper entirely to the Government. At the ascertainable cost of $830 per ton to the Government, the annual 27 000 tons of waste paper will mean a disposal cost of over $220 million.

The problem does not end with the extra money the Treasury has to pay for the disposal of the waste paper. If the waste paper recycling industry ceases to exist in Hong Kong, people depending on the industry for their livelihood will lose their jobs and will be compelled to apply for public assistance, pushing the Government's expenses on Comprehensive Social Security Allowance (CSSA) higher. It is an irony that the Government on the one hand reviews the CSSA scheme with the declared aim of encouraging people with working capacity to rejoin the workforce, but on the other is destroying the livelihood of a large number of people who are willing to eke out a living by collecting waste paper, and driving them into the ranks of CSSA recipients. This amply demonstrates the contradiction in government policies.

From the perspective of the principle of sustainable development, it is also a mistake for the Government to let the waste paper recycling industry to fight alone for its survival. If the annual 27 000 tons of waste paper were landfilled, the usable life of the landfills will be shortened, and the harmful gases released by the waste paper will also pollute our environment. What is more, treating that huge volume of waste paper as garbage will also be an enormous waste of the forest resources on Earth. The depletion of forests will endanger the planetary ecology, bringing incalculable losses.

Mr Deputy, the fastest growing industries of the new century, apart from information technology, will be those in environmental protection technology. All countries have actively drafted stringent environmental protection standards as well as policies to promote the development of environmental protection industries. Many countries have adopted a set of policies to promote clean and environmental technologies by compulsory means or by subsidies. Even in mainland China, environmental protection industries are actively taking off with support from the Government. However, Hong Kong, while claiming to be one of the world's most advanced cities, is not doing anything in this respect. This reflects the complacency and lack of foresight on the part of the Government.

With the short-sightedness of the Government, the recycling industry of Hong Kong has been on a rapid decline. For example, the glass recovery trade went out of business a long time ago; companies engaging in waste plastics recovery all moved to the Pearl River Delta; the same is true for others such as waste oil reprocessing and waste metals recovery. The present crisis involving waste paper actually exposes the terminal state of the recycling industry that is about to breathe their last breath. The Government is still stressing its "positive non-intervention" policy; this perforce is a wrong policy.

Mr Deputy, we must make reference to other people's experiences. We need only look at the ways the various countries are actively assisting the development of environmental protection industries to understand that the "positive non-intervention" policy of Hong Kong is outdated. For example, as early as in October 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States introduced the Prevention of Pollution Act to require producers to prevent and reduce pollution at source, and to recover and reuse usable waste wherever possible. The United States Government even requires the administration or conglomerates to give priority to the purchase of environmentally friendly and recycled products. Other European and American countries such as Germany and Canada have also put in place adequate programmes to encourage the recovery of waste, such as setting up community waste collection points where a system of waste separation is also in place to facilitate the people to separate their waste before sending the same to the collection points nearby. The government then dispatch trucks to transport the waste to the recycling operators or exporters. With such measures greatly reducing the cost of waste recycling, the related industries are given an environment conducive to their survival and development. In Hong Kong, on the contrary, the Government not only does not give sufficient subsidy or assistance to the waste recovery and recycling industries, but also does not take the lead in buying recycled products, thus failing on the latter count to steer other consumers in the community to supporting the market for environmentally friendly products. Such practice of the Government is the main cause for the decline of our environmental protection and recycling industries.

Mr Deputy, in view of the huge expenses incurred in disposing of refuse, and the factors relating to environmental protection, pollution of the ecology and the employment opportunities for the underprivileged in the community, there is a need for the Government to set up renewable resources centres and a recycling fund, so as to systematically assist the development of our recycling industry, to promote environmental protection industries in Hong Kong, to reduce the volume of our waste and to create employment opportunities for the underprivileged. I therefore support the original motion of Miss CHOY So-yuk.

MR CHAN WING-CHAN (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, most people will just throw waste away. Even the Government that knows waste can be reused is unwilling to invest any resources in the recycling industry; it simply lets waste get disposed of. Citing "not appropriate to interfere with business activities" as the reason, the Government is not prepared to subsidize the waste recycling industry. As a matter of fact, waste disposal is not only a business activity, it is also a form of social service, involving both the current environmental protection policy and industrial policies, and is closely related to the life of each and every citizen.

Waste management in Hong Kong has always been a very much fragmented affair. This not only is unfavourable to the waste recycling industry, but also does not help our environmental protection effort. At present, there are two ways to handle waste (in the case, for example, of waste paper). One is for manufacturers to turn out recyclable or non-recyclable products that are either thrown away by consumers after use or collected by recovery traders who then turn it over to recycling plants for sale as merchandise after the recycling process to local or overseas importers and exporters. This process is a loose one because the recovery traders' main source of waste supply is from schools and scavengers; as the volume collected by the latter represents merely the very tip of the waste iceberg, it is impossible to recover all recyclable waste and as a result, the objective of reusing all waste as far as possible cannot be realized. The other way to handle waste is for the two Municipal Services Departments to dispose of the waste discarded by consumers. In this case, the waste is not separated, but is totally consigned direct to the landfills.

Following the crisis in waste paper disposal triggered off by the recent failure of Concordia Paper Company, the Government has floated the idea of solving the problem of the increased volume of waste by raising the charge for landfilling. But has the Government considered the issue of land resources in Hong Kong? The reason is that the capacity of our existing landfills is limited, and if the dumping of our present daily 16 000 tonnes of solid waste continues in the current speed, our existing landfills will be used up by 2015. If all our present waste is landfilled without any pre-processing, the only result would be the speedy overflowing of our landfills. To increase the landfill charge cannot fully solve the problem of waste disposal.

Our present waste management system is riddled with inadequacies. Firstly, who should be responsible for the waste? Is it the consumers or the product manufacturers? Secondly, what are the ways to improve the channels for waste recovery and the development of the recycling industry so as to reuse waste as far as possible with the ultimate aim of generating less waste?

For these purposes, the Government should strengthen the waste management system, and set up an environmental protection and recycling fund which could provide low-interest or interest-free loans to the recycling industry. The specific way of operation is for the Government to collect a recovery deposit from manufacturers or suppliers of products. The scheme is to require manufacturers and suppliers of products bear the responsibility of recovering the waste coming out of their products, with a view to achieving recycling. This is in line with the principle of "producer pays", while the deposit so collected will be paid into the fund to subsidize the recycling industry.

Besides, Mr Deputy, the Government should form waste collection teams and set up waste recovery centres in various districts. Such teams and centres could be set up in housing estates and schools, and unemployed people could be given priority of employment. In this way, the problem of waste recovery can be solved while jobs are created for the unemployed. Why then not kill two birds with a single shot?

Mr Deputy, I so submit.

DR RAYMOND HO (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, the volume of waste has drastically increased as a result of our economic development and population growth. In the Waste Reduction Framework Plan for the next decade published by the Government last November, it is mentioned that the daily volume of municipal solid waste produced in Hong Kong has increased from the 12 500 tonnes in 1989 to 16 000 tonnes in 1997. If such a rate of increase continues, our landfills will be filled up by 2015. In fact, I am against the Government turning many of our beautiful bays, such as Tseung Kwan O, into landfills. Thus it is evident that Hong Kong needs to review its waste management policy as soon as possible.

Bearing in mind the principle of sustainable development, the Government should conduct more extensive consultation with organizations interested in or affected by the policies to be formulated. In reviewing the waste management policy, the Government should also take seriously the views of the professional bodies concerned, the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, for example, apart from consulting the related industries, and environmental protection and labour organizations. Under the Institute, there are 16 professional divisions, including that of environmental protection. There must be a certain degree of technical consideration in our waste management policy, and the decisions so made will have a direct bearing on the way the citizens live and businesses operate. Therefore, in formulating the relevant policy, the government must facilitate the involvement of the organizations and professional bodies concerned as far as possible.

The most important key to reducing waste and promoting the development of the recycling industry is to change the way citizens and commercial and industrial businesses look at and handle waste. The Government is duty-bound to properly educate the public, making them aware of the heavy burden waste disposal imposes upon society, and that everybody has the responsibility to reduce the volume of waste. The citizens could, through some changes in their habits and daily details, produce less waste and stop squandering resources. However, the general public in Hong Kong still has meagre knowledge about recycling. It is a pity that the Government lacks the will to introduce measures to require separation of domestic waste by the citizens, thus throwing away a lot of recyclable materials and increasing the volume of waste to be disposed of.

In the case of businesses, huge quantities of waste paper and materials from office machines such as toner cartridges are not fully recovered for recycling purposes. The volume of waste could otherwise be reduced. On the other hand, now that we have advanced computers and information technology, businesses could also create a paperless working environment. The electronic media should be used as circumstances permit to transmit messages instead of using paper. Handling of industrial waste must even be done more carefully because it has certain impact on the environment. Therefore the policy of and management by the Government in this respect must be more prudent, and should be handled properly as soon as possible.

Apart from enhancing environmental protection education for the public and businesses, the Government should play a leading role in giving priority to the use of recycled products wherever possible. On the other hand, the Government should set up the related facilities to facilitate citizens and companies to separate waste for recovery purpose. Separation of waste by the citizens and companies at source when they discard the waste would produce better environmental protection effectiveness than separating the waste after collection.

Naturally, publicity and education alone are not enough. We need to have laws to back up our requirement in waste management. Hong Kong does have some such laws which are however not strictly enforced, resulting in added difficulties in dealing with the problem of waste. Discarding waste is more than a personal choice, it entails the use of public resources in the follow-up actions. Therefore we must have laws to regulate the disposal and handling of waste, and these laws must be rigorously enforced to eliminate abuse of public resources and to avoid any and all unnecessary damage to our environment.

We could also promote the reduction in waste production through other means. The Waste Reduction Framework Plan of the Government talks about the principle of "polluter pays" and "user pays", requiring those who produce the waste to shoulder in total the cost of collecting, handling and disposing of the waste. But this is only an ideal. While the principle is reasonable, its implementation is considerably difficult, involving perhaps rather high administrative costs. Therefore the Government should think very carefully. At the same time, the Government could further study the possibility of collecting a recovery deposit from manufacturers.

Given that waste disposal has a direct bearing on public interests and the ecology of Hong Kong, the Government is indeed duty-bound to encourage and promote the development of the recycling industry. Of course I am not saying that the Government should give direct subsidy to individual recyclers. The Government could through various policies and the creation of a better operating environment give this industry a greater scope of development.

Finally, I hope that the Government could show more initiative and adopt a more proactive attitude in handling the issues of waste management, such as the separation of waste at source, penalty for indiscriminate disposal of waste or arbitrary increase in the production of waste, as I mentioned earlier. If the Government wishes to successfully change the public attitude and practice in respect of waste handling, it must take the lead and demonstrate its positive attitude by formulating a comprehensive and far-sighted policy for waste management.

Mr Deputy, I so submit. Thank you.

MR HUI CHEUNG-CHING (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, I do not doubt the determination of the Government in its environmental protection effort. However, I am not sure whether some of its measures can achieve effective environmental protection. A case in point is its recent proposal to charge the commercial and industrial sectors for waste disposal.

The purpose of introducing a waste disposal charge is evidently to compel the businesses to link waste production with their operating cost, thereby resulting in better resources management as well as waste reduction. But could the levy of a charge really reduce waste significantly? I have some reservations about this, because the charging proposal takes into consideration only the fact of businesses producing waste, but fails to address the cause of the problem.

Waste discarded by the commercial and industrial sectors does contain quite substantial quantities of re-usable materials. But the Government has to date not devised a proper waste separation scheme; and even waste recovery points are seriously inadequate. Without supporting facilities, have the business sectors any option but to consign all waste to the landfills? Can they screen the waste to sieve out those materials that need not become waste? What is more, quite a few trades, restaurants for example, have great difficulty in cutting waste because of the nature of their business; the volume of waste produced is even beyond their control. This leads to the question of who the producer of waste is ─ is it the business owner? the consumers? or both?

Such questions precisely show that putting a charge on waste disposal can easily turn into a controversial issue, and it cannot be implemented in a fair manner. The charge, instead of encouraging commercial and industrial concerns to reduce waste, might very well lead to evasion of the charge by such concerns, by for example arguing to whom waste belongs. Harm may come before any benefit.

As a matter of fact, charging a fee for waste disposal is merely a passive measure; it only goes to off-set part of the disposal cost of close to $800 per ton of waste. It does not actively conserve resources, prolong the usable life of our landfills; nor will it benefit the recycling industry. The withering of the recycling industry might result in the 4 000 recycling workers, and the several thousand elderly people who wish to earn their own living by picking up recyclable materials, joining the ranks of the unemployed. Does the Government wish they would also apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA)?

To reduce waste, the Government should not focus on charging fees which would add to the difficulties of the commercial and industrial sectors in their present economic hardship. Instead, incentives should be introduced to stimulate an increase in the efficiency of the recycling industry, to create employment opportunities and to promote economic development.

At present the heavy cost in the collection and separation of waste is the principal reason for local recyclers' struggle to stay in business. The Government could very well give them assistance in this respect. The Government could consider the combining the "support for self-reliance" scheme launched by the Health and Welfare Bureau in connection with its recent CSSA review with assistance to the recycling industry.

According to the CSSA review, the Government hopes to encourage the unemployed CSSA recipients to reintegrate into society through voluntary service such as cleaning the country parks. However, some people worry that voluntary service as cleaners does not help raise the employment skills of the unemployed people, instead such work might give them the feeling that they are being punished, thus creating a repugnance against the cleaning duties. Another side effect might be that other citizens would decline taking up voluntary cleaning duties for fear of being mistaken to be unemployed recipients of CSSA. How can we actively encourage the unemployed to seek a job to support themselves?

I think that the Government could form green recovery teams in various districts, and give priority to unemployed CSSA recipients to join such teams on fixed-term employment contracts. Under such arrangements, not only would the unemployed CSSA recipients no longer feel being punished and discriminated against, but the cost of collecting and transporting waste borne by the recyclers would also be lowered. When the question of collecting and transporting usable waste is solved, people taking part in separating and recovering waste in housing estates and schools would feel a greater degree of encouragement, and the present rate, at 30% to 40%, of usable waste recovered would also increase. Eventually, it is hoped that such measures would produce the benefits of creating jobs, saving on waste handling cost and reducing the pressure on our landfills.

Mr Deputy, waste recycling is a necessity for sustainable development; and sustainable development cannot be achieved by positive non-interventionism alone. The Government is perforce not omnipotent, but without the Government's active support, the waste recycling industry is bound to face numerous difficulties.

With these remarks, Mr Deputy, I support the motion of Miss CHOY So-yuk. Thank you, Mr Deputy.

MISS CHAN YUEN-HAN (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, Hong Kong is in a recession: our unemployment rate is climbing; the various trades and businesses are having extremely hardships; vast numbers of employees are subject to the threats of wage reduction and unemployment and are experiencing the pressure of drastically and rapidly declining quality of life; people and their families are suffering both physical and mental pains. In the midst of such a predicament, the Government must seriously study the question of leading Hong Kong out of this abyss, of restructuring our overall economy, and come up with more measures that are more specific and can better suit the realities in Hong Kong, so as to assist Hong Kong and its population living through this hard time.

The emerging environmental protection industries do have development potentials in Hong Kong. Not only can they help conserve energy, and reduce air, land and water pollution, they can, more importantly, provide employment opportunities for low-skilled workers, and play a part in the diversification of our industrial development. Their operation, in particular, entails labour-intensive procedures, thus retaining large numbers of low-skilled jobs. They provide a large number of jobs for the local workforce, and also produce products meeting global environmental protection requirements.

However, the major handicaps thwarting the development of the waste recovery and recycling industries are land and market. On the issue of land, we have learned from records that the Government granted two pieces of land, respectively in July and September 1998, to recycling operators, one for plastics recycling, the other for recovering waste metals. It is unknown whether the Government, in granting land for environmental protection industrial purposes in the early part of this year, will specify that certain land is restricted to waste paper recovery and recycling uses. We also have no knowledge of the area and specific planning details of the land to be granted by the Government. I believe all these questions are very much the concern of the public.

Mr Deputy, I think that the Government, in addition to conducting active studies to identify undeveloped land and supplying suitable land for manufacturers to develop their industries, should consult the various industries on the choice of land, including its location, size and supporting facilities. When the Government embarks on its next round of land granting exercise, I believe it should do a bit more in also providing basic facilities such as roads, sewage disposal and water supply. This is the only positive way of doing things.

Further, I wish to raise a point regarding electricity cost in Hong Kong which is, on average, more expensive than in most places in Southeast Asian countries even before the devaluation of their currencies. Electricity has become a heavy burden on environmental protection industry operators. For example, Concordia Paper Company that failed earlier used to pay a monthly electricity bill of around $7 million, more than the $6 million-odd in labour cost. Therefore, would the authorities allow operators to install auxiliary power supply facilities on site? If this is not possible, while the franchise of the power companies continues in effect in the next decade, how is the Government going to help the operators reduce their costs to enhance competitiveness? Of course, by cutting cost, I do not mean wage reduction. Can we consider making available some vacant premises in industrial estates, such as the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate? Will this be a way to help improve the operation environment? All these are issues that the Government must seriously consider.

Mr Deputy, here in Hong Kong most enterprises are small and medium-sized. Without a huge capital outlay, they cannot fully grasp new technology, and this impedes their ability to adapt to changes in the market. The Government should provide them with technical assistance in the form of market information and technical know-how in China and overseas countries regarding recycled products and materials. The Government should allow environmental protection industrialists enjoy a number of tax concessions. For example, tax concession could be granted to those who produce less waste in the process of production; or to those who introduce new production equipment to reduce pollution. We note that in the United States, environmental protection industrialists who invest not less than US$200,000 and create not less than five new jobs will be granted a tax reduction of US$500 for every US$100,000 invested; those investing not less than US$40,000 and creating one new job will still get a tax cut of US$500. Such a practice merits our consideration.

Mr Deputy, finally, I would like to raise an issue that we deem very important, and that is, whether the Government could take the lead in using products produced by our own environmental protection industries, so as to provide a basic local market for the industries concerned. I recall that the Chief Executive had proposed in a public speech on 9 December 1998 that the Government would improve its performance in the field of environmental protection, and would design an improvement plan that could be used to gauge the effectiveness of the new measures so that government departments could reduce waste and achieve top efficiency in the use of energy. However, his proposal did not include more specific arrangements, and we therefore do not know if it includes any priority in the purchase and use of locally-produced recycled products, paper in particular. We must know that where there is market demand, there is investment and production. We met the Chief Executive yesterday and he repeatedly stressed that investors had misgivings in the present climate. However, I would like to say that if there is a market, investors would naturally want to invest in Hong Kong in these industries, and government officials need not worry about the lack of resources in these areas. I hope that the Government would formulate a comprehensive plan in this respect so as to promote environmental protection industries in Hong Kong. This will help Hong Kong's environmental protection effort and will help retain some labour-intensive industries and create employment opportunities for low-skilled and less educated workers.

Mr Deputy, I so submit.

MRS SELINA CHOW (in Cantonese): Mr Deputy, the recent difficulty experienced by the waste paper recovery trade has aroused the concern of the public at large. The problem has in fact been there for a long time. We also know that the size of our landfills is actually very limited. Therefore, be it from the economic perspective, or from that of environmental protection, waste reduction is more useful than waste disposal. On this, I believe, we share a common goal. The motion today suggests that as a matter of principle an overall policy for managing and dealing with waste should be considered. This I also believe nobody would disagree. However, on certain more specific suggestions of the motion, the Liberal Party does have some reservations. When my colleagues, Mr James TIEN and Mrs Miriam LAU, later speak, they will discuss the issue in greater depth.

My speech today will focus on the strong views expressed to me by the sector I represent, in particular the hardwares business and the waste iron recovery trade, about the way the Government deals with waste, particularly the waste they recover. I believe the waste paper recovery trade shares a similar feeling, and that is, when the Government considers the handling and management of waste, it often resorts to punitive measures, hoping to stop people from producing waste through charges, while failing to give careful consideration to the possibility of joining force with the various sectors in society to achieve a uniform and unanimous objective in their common effort in waste management. What these recovery traders feel particularly strongly is that the Government does not have the habit of consulting them, not to mention giving them any subsidies. I believe that everybody now knows that in the face of the present economic hardships, some in these trades can never hope to survive; they hope the Government could give them subsidies. Naturally, if the Government wishes to support these trades, there are in fact a number of ways to do so. There is no denying that the communication between the Government and the operators in such trades has long been inadequate; certain measures of the Government are sometimes overly simple-minded. The trades I represent have told me a story that is pretty much a joke. They said that in respect of the waste iron business, the Government, having agreed that land was a problem, decided to make available a piece of land at a low rent for the operators to bid for its use. But how big do you think that particular piece of land is? 170 000 sq ft. Government officials said jokingly that 170 000 sq ft of land was sufficient for a golf course. The catch was that this 170 000 sq ft of land had to be leased by one operator and he was not allowed to sub-lease any portion of it. That is the crux of the problem, because while what any one of the operators needs may be 20 000 sq ft or 30 000 sq ft of land, many of them are interested in acquiring the use of some land. The Government did not do what the business thought practical, but deemed having done its duty with that offer which was in reality not practicable.

Further, the Government merely offered land, it did not know that for operation on the land to begin, storage facilities had to be built. As a result, the Government ruled that no structure of any kind would be allowed on that piece of land. Such was the thinking of bureaucrats who stuck to the rut, never knowing that the restrictions so imposed would simply defeat the objectives they originally set out to achieve. This also reflected that the Government is out of touch with the reality. I believe a sea change is needed here.

On the issue of charges, operators in the trade naturally opine that there should not be any punitive charging. The deposit proposed by Miss CHOY So-yuk today is an option in financing, but they have their reservations because they are not sure how "producer" is to be defined, who will bear the responsibility and what arrangements are necessary. Any snag in the scheme would result in unnecessary burden on them. We have seen that the sewage charge has already given rise to the big problem that every and all things are shoved to the commercial and industrial sectors. To those operators the present economic climate has made their business difficult; the added charge would make it even more difficult for them to survive the hardship. Therefore, it is not that the recovery and recycling industries do not support such schemes, they do support the underlying principles. They simply think that such schemes should only be introduced after in-depth discussions and studies have concluded that the schemes are practicable; they would not like any mistake at the very beginning that might make them suffer.

Another question is that the Government always thinks that punitive charging would be a sufficient deterrent for people to think twice before discarding waste. But the work it has done is in fact not adequate. The much talked about issue of recycling is a very important element in the effort to reduce waste. But has the Government done its job in this respect? I have asked the operators in the industry why we consistently failed to separate waste as it is done in other countries. They replied, "What can we do? For example, used polystyrene lunch boxes are only put inside dustbins meant for waste paper. When the lunch boxes attracted slugs and insects, they could no longer be separated." Where does the problem lie when we have such a situation? That is the result of the failure in basic education and promotion which are not being carried out by all government departments with concerted effort. I believe a review in this area must be conducted by the Government.

THE PRESIDENT resumed the Chair.

MR AMBROSE CHEUNG (in Cantonese): Madam President, I support in principle the motion moved by Miss CHOY So-yuk concerning the problems confronting the waste paper trade and recycling industry. I also wish to focus my present speech on the overall and macroscopic aspects of the situation. The waste management policy of the Government is, in my opinion, indecisive and lacking in a clear direction, and is probably wrong in terms of strategy.

The chief objective of the Waste Reduction Framework Plan published by the Government recently is in fact to alleviate the pressure on the landfills. The main strategy in handling waste at the present time is landfilling. In fact, to solve some other problems involved in waste handling, apart from landfilling, there should be a series of auxiliary programmes, including separation, recovery and recycling of waste, and the waste-to-energy incinerator that fewer people care to mention nowadays.

I would like to discuss the reasons why separation and recovery of waste has been that difficult. I would say it is pure fantasy for the Government thinks that reduction of waste can be achieved merely through separation, recovery and recycling of waste alone. The main reason is that separation is at present not a part of our refuse collection process. And it is exactly for this reason that the entire recycling industry has not been able to effectively contribute its effort in the whole process. But if the overall refuse collection operation is really to be changed, enormous cost and manpower requirement are involved.

Though the Provisional Municipal Councils are responsible only for refuse collection, with other matters relating to environmental protection being handled by other government departments, they did in the past make many suggestions regarding refuse collection. Apart from considering the idea of "transit storage" in old refuse collection stations, or to build "transit storage" in new ones, the Provisional Municipal Councils have at present recovery boxes in many private places, such as the Star Ferry piers, ferry piers on outlying islands, public housing estates and public places in 11 different districts. However, the volume of refuse from such recovery boxes is small. In other words, I think, it is still a very long way from implementing a successful programme of making separation, recovery and recycling of waste really effective.

If we solve the problems involving the waste paper trade, does it really mean waste and refuse could then be effectively reduced? The answer is "not necessarily". The Government has said in definite terms that in dealing with this problem, it was not inclined to adopt the principle of polluter/producer pays or user pays; nor would it resort to a charging scheme. The Government hopes to handle the issue through education on environmental protection. One of the main reasons behind this is that the Government already collects rates, hence any other form of charge must be considered very carefully for the result could be double charging.

Thirdly, I think the Government should in fact give some solid consideration to the idea of using incinerators, by that I mean hi-tech ones. After the debate in 1989, the old-type incinerators in Kennedy Town and Lai Chi Kok were pulled down. As a matter of fact, technology has been improving in the last decade, the hi-tech waste-to-energy incinerators now available are a good solution. The Urban Council approved a motion following a debate in 1995 suggesting the Government consider this way, and the Government promised it would. This same issue was debated again in 1997 by the Urban Council and a similar motion with the same suggestion was again passed. The Government told us that the matter was already under consideration. This idea has been purportedly under continuous consideration by the Government in the past five years. However, the Government is still saying lately that regarding the idea of re-introducing incinerators, it has to be sure that the latest technology can handle the problems generated by big incinerators. I hope that when the Government responds to our speeches, we can be informed of the conclusion of their study of the incinerator proposal.

The advantage of using incinerators is that the refuse can be reduced to about 10% of its original volume, and roughly a quarter of its original weight before being taken to landfills which then become supporting facilities. Another benefit is that using incinerators, about 20 000 sq m of land is needed, as compared to the 600 to 1 000 acres of land for landfills. Land is valuable, but once used as landfills, it can have no other use. The Government has all along think that incinerators are costly both in construction and operation. However, we know that incinerators can generate power which can bring income. Therefore in the long term, the book can be balanced. What is more, Macau and urban Tokyo are using incinerators. In fact, if we had incinerators, they could have been used in the bird flu incident last year, and I think it would have been much more effective.

Thank you, Madam President.

MRS MIRIAM LAU (in Cantonese): Madam President, according to surveys conducted by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), approximately 2 million tonnes of waste with recycling value is not recovered every year in Hong Kong, 670 000 tonnes of which is waste paper, representing 42% of the overall volume of all waste. Though the recovery rate of commercial waste reaches 53%, 150 000 tonnes of plastics and 400 000 tonnes of waste paper are not recovered; the recovery rate of domestic waste, at 8%, comprising 200 000 tonnes of plastics and 270 000 tonnes of waste paper, is even more disappointing. Such rates of recovery are really unsatisfactory. With a ballooning population in Hong Kong, and an increasing volume of waste produced, such rates of recovery will make landfills, however many their numbers, hopeless in solving the problem. The Government should make real effort to search for a long-term and effective waste management strategy. To cut waste in Hong Kong, not only reduction should be attempted at source, but ways should also be provided for the recovery and recycling of unavoidable waste.

The report of the consultants commissioned by the EPD in 1996 contains a suggestion for the Government to supply the capital through subsidy schemes to encourage waste reduction programmes. However, in its Waste Reduction Framework Plan, the Government has not accepted the suggestion, stating merely that it would earmark extra recurrent expenditure for the implementation of various waste reduction measures.

It has always been a taboo for the Hong Kong Government to subsidize commercial activities. However I hope that the Government could look at the waste recovery and recycling industry in a slightly different light, because this industry is in fact helping us solve a social problem; certain environmental protection organizations even describe their operation as the "social service of waste handling". It should be noted that every tonne of waste dumped in one of our landfills costs the Government $110; the amount will soar to over HK$800 if expenses such as transportation are included. All such costs are now borne by the taxpayers. One ton of waste recovered and recycled by the industry means one ton less for the landfills, and the Government can save the cost for disposing of that one ton of waste.

Naturally, nobody is asking the Government to provide subsidy blindly. We must first find out if the trade or industry concerned has any real need for subsidies; we should also study how subsidies should be made to avoid possible abuse. The purpose of giving subsidies must be to lower the cost for the recovery and recycling industry, to enhance its competitiveness, with the ultimate goal of increasing the volume of waste recovered, and not simply raise the profits of certain traders and operators.

As I understand it, the recovery trade, waste paper recovery in particular, is facing a lot of hardships. With the general fall in the prices of waste paper around the globe in recent years, the cost of recovering waste paper in Hong Kong has been higher than importing the same. In the circumstances, it is dubious if the waste paper recovery operators could stay in business, not to mention any increase in the volume of waste paper recovered because they are simply unable to pay more to attract more people to engage actively in waste paper collection. This may also be one of the reasons for such a poor recovery rate of waste paper in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government should appreciate the value of the waste paper recovery trade of Hong Kong, and give it assistance as far as possible.

As to the form of assistance, the Government should consult the industry with sincerity to probe the feasibility of setting up "waste transit centres" as suggested by the operators. Further, the Government should make reference to the practices in other countries. For example, in the United States, Iowa, Washington and Kansas states provide capital or loans for operators of recovery and recycling programmes to purchase new recycling equipment so as to encourage the development of the recovery and recycling industry.

At present, the only government support for the recovery and recycling industry consists of one "waste reduction and recovery hotline" for people seeking information on recovery and recycling. Other government departments do not have any matching measures to support the industry. For example, at present, even if the citizens take the initiative to separate their domestic refuse, the refuse (including materials with a recovery value) is totally consigned by the workmen of the Municipal Services Departments to the landfills. Though the Government has established funds to subsidize environmental protection education activities by non-profit-making organization, such education will be useless if most of the waste recovery companies fold up.

The environmental protection education programmes of the Government must also be improved. First, publicity campaigns on waste recovery and recycling targeting at the public should stress the fact that material recovered must be clean to have recycling value. Second, more realistic recovery programmes should be launched. For example, multi-compartment refuse boxes should be provided to make it convenient for citizens to separate the waste they discard, because if the waste is not separated right on production, the recyclable materials will be contaminated and become useless, suitable only for the landfills. Of course, if the operating environment of the recovery and recycling industry improves, thus enabling the operators to pay more money for recyclable waste, then citizens would be more willing to separate their refuse, and the programmes concerned would become much more effective.

Madam President, I so submit.

MR NG LEUNG-SING (in Cantonese): Madam President, with economic development and population growth, Hong Kong is increasingly strained in land resources for dealing with waste. According to statistics, the volume of solid waste discarded by the people of Hong Kong amounted to 16 000 tonnes in 1997, and with the present growth in the volume of waste discarded, the existing landfills will be full by 2015. Therefore, it is imperative and pressing for Hong Kong to have a comprehensive and long-term waste management policy. At the same time, this policy must be formulated after extensive consultation, with the Government listening to the views of the various commercial, industrial, environmental protection and labour sectors, and due attention should be given to the difficulties and worries of the local environmental protection industries. The consultation process is also a process of environmental protection education. I believe that only a policy, finalized after such an education process and with the citizens reaching a consensus, could be highly effective when it is implemented by the Government.

The Waste Reduction Framework Plan published by the Government aims to encourage the general public and businesses to cut waste production by applying the principle of "polluter pays" and "user pays", and by linking the disposal of waste with cost through market means. I believe that the major direction of the Plan is correct, but we have also to consider the justification of the various charges concerned because they will unavoidably increase the cost burden of enterprises, the small and medium enterprises in particular. As to citizens of the lower and middle strata, particularly those residents in old-style residential buildings, they have many practical difficulties in dealing with their domestic waste, and the cost in doing so is also higher. Therefore, any waste management policy must be reasonable and practicable. We must not turn a good policy on environmental protection into a nuisance to the community.

It appears there is still no decision yet at present as to whether the Waste Reduction Framework Plan will be in the long term implemented as a public sector or a private sector endeavour. I believe that the implementation of the plan will bring development opportunities to the environmental protection industries in Hong Kong, and will also create jobs for our people. In the long run, private participation in waste management programmes is economically effective and is a way to promote the development of environmental protection industries, provided we make sure we have adequate laws and ensure fair competition in the market. The recent predicament in the operation of the waste paper recovery trade has its root in our lack of a comprehensive programme that requires polluters to pay. As a result, the operators, buckling under heavy costs, are forced to seek subsidy from public coffers. In fact, private investment in environmental protection industries is still viable. When the Government formulates the comprehensive waste management policy, it should consider ways to create an ideal market and favourable investment environment for environmental industries.

Madam President, a comprehensive and long-term waste management policy will help Hong Kong achieve the objective of sustainable development, and will provide our citizens better quality of life, making in the process Hong Kong more attractive to foreign investors and tourists. Therefore, whether we look at it from the angle of environmental protection or that of economic development, the formulation and implementation of a sound waste management policy is a goal that merits the concerted effort of the people of Hong Kong.

Madam President, I so submit.

MR JAMES TIEN: Madam President, the recent closure of Hong Kong's dominant recycling plant, Concordia Paper, and the demonstrations that ensued over the state of the recycling industry clearly indicate the need for a review of the current waste management policy.

Despite having released the Waste Reduction Framework, the Government has still yet to flesh out its official policy and program on how to ensure the survival of the most integral industry to any city's waste management.

Luckily, we can look towards Asia's growing market for recycled products and recyclable materials. Weyerhaeuser Corporation, one of the world's most influential paper product companies, at a conference at the White House in May 1998 on the future of recycling, noted that the industry is expecting demand for recovered paper in Asia to increase by an additional 10 million tons between 1998 and 2002, adding to the already existing 40 plus million tons of recovered paper that is already being consumed. This is in contrast to the 37 million tons being consumed in North America, the 30 million tons consumed in Europe and the 10 million tons in the rest of the world. Asia is the world's largest recycled paper market.

Whilst the level of demand for other recyclable materials may not be at the same level as paper, Asia still remains a large market for the likes of iron, steel and plastic scraps.

The statistics just mentioned precisely indicate the fighting chance that Hong Kong's recycling industry has to become competitive if the business climate is right.

The question then is obvious: how can we offer the right business climate to the recycling industry without offering direct subsidies? How can the Government formulate an effective waste management policy?

I would like to suggest to the Government a number of policy ideas borrowed from experiences abroad.

First, we need to conduct more research into what can be done to lower the costs of recycling in Hong Kong. In examining the cost of land acquisition, property rent, development and building cost, utility prices, storage cost and marketing and delivery, we can foresee the kinds of cost obstacles the industry is up against.

The next thing we need to do is jump-start the recycling industry with policy and programs that aid the industry without offering crippling direct subsidies, such as helping the industry with business planning and investment forums.

The Clean Washington Centre is a good example to learn from. Working in partnership with businesses, industry and the government, it is a self-sustaining non-profit quasi-government organization aimed at providing comprehensive programs of technical assistance to the recycling industry in four main areas: business development, recycling technology, product marketing and policy research and analysis.

Lastly, the Government needs to take a leadership role in providing a vision. Although it has been mentioned that the Government buying more recycled paper would not help the industry, the Government should still play the part of the role model to citizens and corporations, and continue to purchase locally recycled products.

What Hong Kong needs is a strong and clear vision for recycling and a powerful sweeping public campaign hailing the benefits of recycling. Take for example the United State's Annual America Recycles Day held each year on 15 November. This year, chaired by Vice President A1 GORE, the nation-wide campaign celebrated the central theme of "If you're not buying recycled, you're not really recycling."

Hong Kong's economic development and population growth places great pressure on our environment. Recycling as well as waste reduction from an integral part of environmental protection. Hong Kong, as an international city, needs to immediately pursue a wide ranging recycling campaign and, under the principle of sustainable development, formulate the material recovery policy.

With respect to the motion being moved by the Honourable Miss CHOY So-yuk, there is some confusion in the wording. Whereas the English version states "collecting a recovery deposit from waste producers" which echoes the "producer-responsibility scheme" recently proposed by the Government, the Chinese version states "collecting a recovery deposit from the product manufacturer." How does one practically return the deposit collected from industrial product manufacturer? How does the industrial product manufacturer ensure that the consumer collects the product and returns it for recycle?

With these remarks, Madam President, the Liberal Party will abstain from voting at this time on Miss CHOY So-yuk's motion until her ideas are further clarified and refined.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Does any other Member wish to speak?

(No Member indicated a wish to speak)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Miss CHOY So-yuk, you may now speak on the amendment moved by Miss Christine LOH. You have five minutes.

MISS CHOY SO-YUK (in Cantonese): Madam President, just now Miss LOH in her speech said that she hoped to make my motion more flexible, but I fail to see what flexibility can be achieved. I only feel that I am more confused, because I do not understand the idea behind the deletion of "from waste producers" and its substitution with "on certain waste products". By deleting "from waste producers", Miss LOH seems not to agree to collecting the recovery deposit from the producers; if it is not collected from the producers, then it must be collected from the citizens. If that is the case, I do not understand how a deposit can be collected after the citizens discarded their refuse for recycling purpose; that would become a charge, not a deposit. The amendment would, instead of making the proposal more flexible, render it more ambiguous. Further, Mr LAW Chi-kwong also said that the much indistinct wording has failed to convey a clear idea, putting both the community and the Government at a loss as to what message such wording hopes to convey.

Miss LOH also mentioned that she hoped when the Government's waste management policy could be administered in a fair, practicable and effective manner. Madam President, I fully support this statement because I also hope that the handling of waste can be done in a fair, practicable and effective manner. It is for this very reason that I have proposed means that are quite different from the long-time government practices. I guess that Miss LOH hoped to propose charging the citizens, and that is the reason I am against her amendment. Miss LOH also said that there should be landfill charges. In fact, this is not fair, because at present the Provisional Municipal Councils do not pay landfill charges. Does her proposal imply that the Councils have to pay such charges in future? If that is the case, how will the issue of rates, and that of the charges, be reconciled? Mr CHAN Kwok-keung also said that such a charging was a passive measure in that it did not reduce the types of waste for the landfills, nor would it help the recycling industry. Therefore, landfill charges are also impracticable and unfair.

Furthermore, to require "polluter pays" is also not feasible. Simply put, if citizens are charged fees, they might discard their domestic waste into dustbins on the street; or put their own into their neighbours' refuse bins, creating conflicts. The administrative expenses may also greatly increase, because a way must be found to determine the volume of waste each family produces.

Since the Government proposed the practice of "polluter pays" earlier, the recycling industry is now facing a total collapse, showing that the proposed practice is an utterly inefficient solution. That is why we suggested collecting a deposit from the product manufacturers, in addition to urging the Government to take the initiative of setting up renewable resources centres. Only in this way can the issue be addressed efficiently and in a practicable and fair manner. This is a scheme that encourages waste reduction as well as reuse of waste. Thank you, Madam President.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Miss Christine LOH, do you consider part of your speech has been misunderstood? You may clarify.

MISS CHRISTINE LOH (in Cantonese): Madam President, I can only clarify that that I did in fact explain very clearly what my intention was. If I did not make myself clear enough, I would apologize to Miss CHOY So-yuk. But if she failed to get a clear understanding of my words, I do not think I am able to help her.

SECRETARY FOR PLANNING, ENVIRONMENT AND LANDS (in Cantonese): Madam President, I am grateful to Honourable Members for starting this new year with a debate on a very important and practical issue for Hong Kong ─ that of waste. As we strive to climb out of the economic trough in the months ahead, many of the factors that will affect our economic recovery lie outside our control and depend on world markets and economic decisions in other places.

But improving the way in which we manage waste is something that we can do for ourselves here in Hong Kong to make this city better, both environmentally and economically.

As some Members pointed out, over the decade between 1987 and 1996, the volume of Hong Kong's municipal waste ─ that is the combined total of domestic, commercial and industrial waste ─ increased by 38%, far outstripping the growth in population over the period. In 1997, over 3 million tonnes of municipal waste had to be disposed of in Hong Kong. As many Members said, Hong Kong cannot accommodate that level of waste production. It is a threat to our environment and represents great inefficiency in our use of resources. Those considerations prompted us to start a fundamental review of our approach to waste management.

The question we asked ourselves was how to change from a system focused on the collection of waste and provision of infrastructure to dispose of waste safely ─ a system that was imposing rapidly growing costs upon taxpayers and ratepayers ─ to a system that would provide economic incentive for the avoidance and reduction of waste, and for the development of businesses in separation, recovery, reuse and recycling of materials.

The review led to the publication of a draft waste reduction plan in 1997, which was the subject of extensive consultation with the waste management industry, with professional and advisory bodies, and with the then Legislative Council. In this connection, we have also consulted professional bodies and related industries. In response to the many views put forward, the draft plan was developed into the Waste Reduction Framework Plan that was published in November last year.

The Framework Plan sets out a wide-ranging "Prevention of Waste Programme". Measures under this programme fall into the following three categories:

(1) support for waste separation, recovery and reuse;

(2) removing incentives for waste creation and introducing incentives for waste avoidance and the recovery and reuse of materials; and

(3) education in environmentally responsible practices and recognition and reward for such behaviour.

Members may not have noticed that waste separation bins have already been set up in 132 public (83) and private (49) housing estates. The Provisional Urban Council and the Provisional Regional Council have placed recycling bins in 20 places frequented by the public (for example, bus terminus, KCR and MTR stations). This helps promote waste recovery and recycling initiatives. The Airport Authority also provides similar facilities at the Chek Lap Kok Airport. This may not sound much but is still a beginning ─ the beginning of initiatives for waste separation. We will be changing building regulations to require more space to be provided for waste separation in new buildings ─ to help make such activities more practical and more economically viable ─ and we will be working to extend the coverage of waste separation facilities throughout the territory, to give every household the opportunity to support waste reduction activities. We will be providing grants for material recovery projects, and have already begun to provide land specifically for recycling and recovery facilities. With regard to land grant and other kinds of assistance, we have heard Members' views and we will take them into consideration. We will also be giving technical and publicity support to demonstration schemes to introduce new technologies to promote waste minimization and material recovery.

The question of incentives is crucial. At the moment, the people of Hong Kong see no cost of throwing things away. The taxpayers and ratepayers pay whatever it costs to collect and dispose of waste. As some Members pointed out, while anyone in the business of collecting or recycling material for reuse faces the constant handicap that the waste producers have little incentive to separate material carefully and do not have any cost if they decide to throw material away.

Due to the closure of a recycling plant, in recent weeks and during the course of this debate, a number of people have suggested that rather than the Government subsidizing waste producers, we should, instead, subsidize waste collectors or recyclers. Others have argued that it is more environmentally and economically sound to inject funds to recycle waste than to pay for it to be landfilled. This idea sounds tempting, but it ignores the fundamental point of reducing the production of waste in the first instance. Such a direct subsidy would only encourage waste production, instead of waste reduction. It would not solve the problem at all. Giving direct subsidies to some industries might also breach our commitments to the World Trade Organization in terms of various kinds of trade.

The question we should be asking is whether the taxpayers and ratepayers should shoulder any subsidy at all. If we were to introduce landfill charges, this would prompt waste producers to take waste reduction and waste separation seriously. It will give the waste recovery, collection, and reuse industry a sounder economic footing. It will give encouragement to efficient business and to environmentally responsible practices, rather than perpetuating the subsidy of inefficient practices and wasteful behaviour.

I want to make clear that the Administration does not see landfill charging as the single answer to the waste problems in Hong Kong. There is much else that we need to do as well. But I do want to stress two things:

- First, without the constant discipline and strong incentive towards efficiency that landfill charging will provide, it is unlikely that anything else we do in terms of education and promotion will achieve and sustain a real change towards the responsible use of resources that Hong Kong needs if it is to become a more sustainable city for us all in the new century;

- Second, we do not see the introduction of such a charge as a punitive measure. Nor is it a disingenuous device conjured up by us. Most other countries have long adopted this approach. Our objective is to remove subsidies that are damaging for Hong Kong's environmental and economic performance. A charge will help to make clear the costs of waste production, collection and disposal to the community, commercial and industrial sectors, so that we can work more effectively to reduce those costs. We are reviewing past proposals for charges and intend within the next few months to set out options for transparent, effective and practicable charges with effects ranging from the simple removal of subsidies to waste production to the provision of resources to support industrial, commercial or public waste recovery and similar environmental initiatives.

This is in response to a number of suggestions made in this Council and by others involving creation of a fund to support recycling and other environmental measures. Such schemes operated in other countries with funding provided by proceeds from landfill charges. We will need to consider carefully how such a scheme might operate successfully here in Hong Kong, but it is an idea with considerable merits.

With regard to government subsidies to environmental research, education and promotion, the Administration set up the $50 million Environment and Conservation Fund in 1994. Last year, an additional $50 million was injected into the Fund to finance environmental research and promotion carried out by organizations and members of the public.

We share the view of the importance of education in changing behaviour. Educational programmes are already well underway, with strong support from and the participation of environmental groups. We will continue to improve the environmental education of government officials. The Green Manager Scheme in government departments remains one of the useful channels for this. We will introduce a new initiative. Recently, I have written to the Secretaries of Policy Bureaux and the various department heads, asking them to publish annual environmental reports. This will ensure that environmentally responsible practices are implemented and duly recognized. These are the initiatives taken within the Government. Giving more opportunity for the community to put environmental knowledge into practice is also vital. Waste separation facilities are one means to do that. Providing information on environmentally responsible products and encouraging purchase of such goods are another important area which we will be working on in partnership with the business sector. We will also be introducing a scheme, known as wastewise, to give recognition to companies that promote effective waste reduction practices.

The many measures under the waste prevention programme, which I have only touched upon in outline, will be carried forward through a number of institutional changes. They will also be backed up by new infrastructural provision. The Honourable Ambrose CHEUNG asked repeatedly about the Government's plans concerning incinerators. My answer is, one of the largest infrastructure items in terms of waste management to be constructed will be new waste-to-energy incinerators. The Government will confirm this proposal in a few months. We are also prepared to consider the creation of a Renewable Resources Centre, or centres. We will shortly initiate a study to examine the integration of material recovery facilities within the waste management system. We maintain an open mind on the outcome of that study.

The first institutional change is that we will shortly establish a Waste Reduction Committee. This will bring together business, environmental groups, academics and the Government to implement the various measures under the prevention of waste programme. Task forces will also be established in key sectors to identify and implement specific measures to reduce waste from particular businesses and sectors. Those for the hotel industry and for the public housing sector have already been set up. Others for the Government, fast food outlets and restaurants, retailers and the new airport will follow in the first phase.

The above-mentioned Waste Reduction Committee and the various Task Forces will be supported by resource recovery units being set up by the Environmental Protection Department. They have been set the target of doubling the amount of material removed from the municipal waste stream by 2007. To achieve this, they will need to allocate specific targets for each sector, review and to ensure progress, and recommend new measures and targets after the review. They will be reporting regularly to the Advisory Council on the Environment, and their reports will be given to this Council and to the community as well. Implementation of the Waste Reduction Framework Plan is an essential step towards making Hong Kong a more sustainable city, so reporting on progress will play an important part in monitoring and measuring progress towards that important goal.

The Honourable Miss CHOY So-yuk should not be too surprised, therefore, if our response to her motion is to say that we do not need more reviews. What we should do now is to take action rather than making empty promises and doing a review. The community expects the Administration to make good its words and to implement the comprehensive programme of improvement to the waste management system set out in the Waste Reduction Framework Plan.

Many suggestions made by Honourable Members have to be considered by the Government very carefully. However, my impression was that most of the views supported the various measures under the waste reduction plan. We take to heart the urgings of Members to ensure that the waste management system in Hong Kong is improved and that a better basis is provided for development of the business of recovery and reuse of materials. This is our objective. As Members have pointed out, it will require steady and systematic changes in practice by the Government, by commerce and industry, and by each and every household in Hong Kong over the coming years. These changes involve changes both in terms of behaviour and attitude. These changes might be uncomfortable to make, but they are changes that will be well worthwhile, for the sake of ourselves and for our children in the years ahead.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you and that is: That the amendment moved by Miss Christine LOH be made to Miss CHOY So-yuk's motion. Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(Members raised their hands)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I think the question is not agreed by a majority respectively of each of the two groups of Members, that is, those returned by functional constituencies and those returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections and by the Election Committee, who are present. I declare the amendment negatived.

Miss CHOY So-yuk, you may now reply and you have up to six minutes 42 seconds.

MISS CHOY SO-YUK (in Cantonese): Madam President, I am grateful that over 10 Members have spoken. Their proposals have greatly fleshed out the whole idea, in particular their valuable views in respect of charge reduction, waste management, recovery and recycling.

In the field of waste recovery, Hong Kong is having tremendous competition internationally, particularly in the face of support of foreign countries to their own industries in the form of subsidies and assistance. Land in Hong Kong is exceptionally precious, but we have given up incinerators and the Government has not taken any action. I feel that the Government must act as quickly as possible, because there is no time to lose. I am highly in favour of the suggestion of Mr Ambrose CHEUNG about the use of hi-tech incinerators. As a matter of fact, many foreign countries that gave up incinerators have reverted back to using them, and have been doing so for quite some years. Therefore certain negative aspects of previous incinerators have already been overcome with present-day high technology.

Mr James TIEN mentioned the ambiguity caused by the difference between the Chinese and English versions of my motion. I wish to say that I moved my motion in Chinese and I also said very clearly that I suggested the Government to collect a small sum from the manufacturers, that is, the producers. Let me also take this opportunity to comment on the suggestion just made by the Secretary for reducing waste through the "polluter pays" scheme. I think such a scheme is utterly unfair, because the user, or the person or citizen who discards the waste, has no choice at all over the volume of waste. For example, if you need to read news articles, you have to buy a newspaper, but you cannot only buy that portion of the newspaper you need, you have to take the advertisements pages as well. The result is, of course, you throw away those pages you do not need. Thus it can be seen that the user himself has no control over the volume of the waste. That is why many countries collect a deposit from the manufacturers.

I wrote to you, Madam President, and the Chief Secretary for Administration previously expressing my hope that this Council and the Government could wherever possible use recycled products. You, Madam President, lost no time to reply me in a positive way, but I am still awaiting an answer from the Chief Secretary for Administration. I wonder if this demonstrates the difference between the degree of importance attached to the issue of environmental protection by the Government and that by this Council.

Furthermore, I wish to express my gratitude here to the many Members who spoke in support of my motion. We have strongly and firmly made known our views that what the Government is doing is insufficient, nor is it comprehensive, otherwise, we would not have this motion today. I hope my motion has the support of you all, so that the Government is pressed into taking immediate actions, and ceases to be "a government that discards".

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now put the question to you and that is: That the motion moved by Miss CHOY So-yuk, as set out on the Agenda, be approved.

Will those in favour please raise their hands?

(Members raised their hands)

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Those against please raise their hands.

(Members raised their hands)

Mrs Selina CHOW rose to claim a division.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Mrs Selina CHOW has claimed a division. The division bell will ring for three minutes.

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Before I declare that voting shall stop, are there any queries? Voting shall now stop and the result will be displayed.

Functional Constituencies:

Mr Michael HO, Dr Raymond HO, Mr LEE Kai-ming, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong, Mr Ambrose CHEUNG, Mr HUI Cheung-ching, Mr CHAN Kwok-keung, Mr Bernard CHAN, Mr CHAN Wing-chan, Dr LEONG Che-hung, Mr SIN Chung-kai, Mr WONG Yung-kan, Mr Timothy FOK, Mr LAW Chi-kwong and Dr TANG Siu-tong voted for the motion.

Mr Kenneth TING, Mr James TIEN, Mr Edward HO, Mrs Selina CHOW, Mr Howard YOUNG and Mrs Miriam LAU abstained.

Geographical Constituencies and Election Committee:

Miss Cyd HO, Mr Albert HO, Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, Mr Martin LEE, Mr Fred LI, Mr James TO, Miss Christine LOH, Miss CHAN Yuen-han, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, Mr Gary CHENG, Mr Andrew WONG, Mr Jasper TSANG, Dr YEUNG Sum, Mr LAU Chin-shek, Mr LAU Kong-wah, Miss Emily LAU, Mr Andrew CHENG, Mr SZETO Wah, Mr TAM Yiu-chung, Mr David CHU, Mr NG Leung-sing, Prof NG Ching-fai, Mr CHAN Kam-lam, Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung, Mr Ambrose LAU and Miss CHOY So-yuk voted for the motion.

Mr HO Sai-chu abstained.

THE PRESIDENT, Mrs Rita FAN, did not cast any vote.

THE PRESIDENT announced that among the Members returned by functional constituencies, 21 were present, 15 were in favour of the motion and six abstained; while among the Members returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections and by the Election Committee, 29 were present, 27 were in favour of the motion and one abstained. Since the question was agreed by a majority of each of the two groups of Members present, she therefore declared that the motion was carried.

NEXT MEETING

PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): I now adjourn the Council until 2.30 pm on Wednesday, 13 January 1999.

Adjourned accordingly at seventeen minutes past Eight o'clock.

Annex I

WRITTEN ANSWER

Written answer by the Secretary for Health and Welfare to Dr TANG Siu-tong's supplementary question to Question 1

A breakdown on the additional school social work posts created over the past few years and our future plans is as follows:

Year

Total number of School
Social Workers (SSW)

Additional SSW Posts
Created


1992-93

151

--

1993-94

181

30

1994-95

228

47

1995-96

250

22

1996-97

272

22

1997-98

286

14

1998-99

300

14

1999-2000

300

--

The number of new school social work posts has doubled in the past seven years. At present, we spend over $170 million every year on the school social work service. But this must be viewed in the context of our total welfare expenditure on young people which exceed $1 billion per annum. Young people are served through a variety of means including Children and Youth Centres, Outreach teams and so on. Currently, one school social worker is provided in each of the 154 schools which admit Academically Low Achievers. Other schools are provided with a school social worker for every 1 500 students.

The Working Group on Review of School Social Work Service has just completed its study on the Service and put forward a package of improvement measures to enhance support for students. We are now examining these recommendations and will explore how services for young people can be more effectively provided taking into account views collected from the public and the educational and welfare sectors.

WRITTEN ANSWER ─ Continued

In particular, strengthening the interfacing between the various youth services provided in schools and community-based facilities will enable us to better target resources to best meet the needs of students. I understand that early action will be taken in this regard.

Annex II

WRITTEN ANSWER

Written answer by the Secretary for Health and Welfare to Miss CHAN Yuen-han's supplementary question to Question 1

As set out in my main reply, we plan to create an additional 134 Social Work Officer (SWO) grade posts and 171 Social Work Assistant (SWA) grade posts in the current financial year. In the 1999-2000 financial year, the numbers will be 115 SWO and 111 SWA grade posts respectively. A breakdown of these posts by service area is attached for Members' reference.

Appendix

Creation of New Posts By Service Area

(a) 1998-1999


Service Area

Number of SWO
Grade Posts

Number of SWA
Grade Posts


Family

31

20

Elderly and Medical Social Services

40

100

Services for Offenders/Drug Abusers

23

--

Young People

31

27

Rehabilitation

8

17

Support Service (in SWD)

9

17

TOTAL

134

171


(b) 1999/2000


Service Area

Number of SWO
Grade Posts

Number of SWA
Grade Posts

Family

56

11

Elderly and Medical Social Services

25

38

Young People

10

32

Rehabilitation

24

30

TOTAL

115

111

Annex III

WRITTEN ANSWER

Translation of written answer by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs to Mr LEE Wing-tat's supplementary question to Question 2

Last year, the Immigration Department received a total of 386 687 applications for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region entry permit for Taiwan residents to come to Hong Kong. Among them, 521 (0.13%) were refused. Each application was considered on its own merits, and the reason for refusal is not suitable for disclosure. The Immigration Department has not kept separate statistics on entry applications made by Taiwanese officials, nor has it had separate records on the number of such applications refused.

Annex IV

WRITTEN ANSWER

Translation of written answer by the Secretary for Health and Welfare to Mr Edward HO's supplementary question to Question 3

The number of clinical psychologists amongst the group of allied health professionals for mental health service provided by the Hospital Authority is as follows:

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99


Total Number of Clinical Psychologists

29

28

30

Annex V

WRITTEN ANSWER

Written answer by the Secretary for Housing to Miss Emily LAU's supplementary question to Question 5

The Housing Authority (HA) has always maintained a system whereby it closely monitors the performance of individual contractors. This was formalized in 1990 when an Approved List of Contractors was established and promulgated. Since then, the HA has removed 81 contractors from the list for the following reasons:

(a) failure to fulfil the requirement of the International Standards Organization (63 cases);

(b) liquidation (seven cases);

(c) failure to meet financial criteria (five cases);

(d) contractors' own request (four cases); and

(e) deficiency in executing HA contracts (two cases).

Annex VI

SECURITIES (INSIDER DEALING) (AMENDMENT) BILL 1998

COMMITTEE STAGE

Amendments to be moved by the Secretary for Financial Services

Clause

Amendment Proposed


2

By deleting the clause and substituting -

"2. Interpretation

Section 2(1) of the Securities (Insider Dealing) Ordinance (Cap. 395) is amended in the definition of "judge" -

(a) in paragraph (a), by adding "or a deputy judge" after "judge";

(b) by repealing paragraph (b) and substituting -

"(b) a former judge or a former deputy judge of the Court of First Instance; or

(c) a former judge or a former deputy judge of the High Court of Justice which was in operation before 1 July 1997;".".

New

By adding -

"3. Constitution of Tribunal

Section 15(2) is amended by adding "on the recommendation of the Chief Justice" before "and 2".".




1 Other professionals include research assistants, teachers, insurance consultants and so on.

2 Others include those who went on for further education, or respondents with information provided unclear.