LC Paper No. CB(2) 1434/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/H/5
Minutes of the Special House Committee MeetingMembers present :
held in the Legislative Council Chamber
at 9:00 am on Friday, 5 February 1999
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum (Deputy Chairman)
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Margaret NG Ngoi-yee
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon HUI Cheung-ching
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
Hon FUNG Chi-kin
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JPMembers absent :
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon SZETO Wah
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JPPublic Officers attending :
Clerk in attendance :
- Mrs Regina IP, JP
- Secretary for Security
- Mr Ambrose LEE, JP
- Director of Immigration
- Mr Ian WINGFIELD
- Law Officer (Civil Law)
- Mr Timothy TONG
- Deputy Secretary for Security
- Miss Cathy CHU
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Mr T K LAI
- Assistant Director (Visa & Policy)
Staff in attendance :
- Mrs Justina LAM
- Clerk to the House Committee
- Mr Jimmy MA,
- JP Legal Adviser
- Mr LAW Wing-lok
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)5
- Miss Mary SO Senior
- Assistant Secretary (2)8
1. The Chairman said that the purpose of the special meeting was for the Administration to brief members on the judgment of the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) delivered on 29 January 1999 on cases relating to the right of abode (ROA) of persons born in the Mainland to Hong Kong permanent residents. He added that as this was a meeting of a committee of the Council, members were covered by the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance.
2. Referring to the paper on "Judgment of the Court of Final Appeal on the Certificate of Entitlement Scheme", the Secretary for Security (S for S) said that the paper provided information on the CFA's judgment and the Administration's preliminary assessment of its implications. S for S explained that the procedures for C of E applications published in the Gazette in July 1997 following the enactment of the Immigration (Amendment) (No.3) Ordinance 1997 (the No. 3 Ordinance) had been nullified by the CFA's judgment. The Administration's immediate task was to draw up new procedures for accepting and processing C of E applications. She further explained that under the C of E Scheme, Mainland residents remaining in Hong Kong who claimed ROA under Article 24(3) of the Basic Law (BL) could not apply for a C of E in Hong Kong. They had to return to the Mainland to make such application.
3. S for S informed members that the Director of Immigration (D of Imm) would visit Beijing in the following week. The purpose was to discuss with the Mainland authorities the new application and verification procedures, arrangements to be adopted to establish child-parent relationship for children born out of wedlock to Hong Kong permanent residents, and the possibility of appointing an entity on the Mainland as an agent of Hong Kong's Immigration Department (ImmD) to process C of E applications from Mainland ROA claimants. The Administration hoped that the new arrangements for ROA claimants to apply for the C of E would be published in the Gazette in about three weeks' time.
4. Referring to the 13 000 Mainland children whose ROA had been established under the C of E Scheme, S for S said that their Cs of E had been sent to the Bureau of Exit-entry Administration (BEEA) in the Mainland. In addition to a C of E, these eligible Mainland children were also required under the Mainland law to obtain a One-way Permit (OWP) before they could leave for Hong Kong. The Administration would need to work out arrangements with the BEEA to facilitate their entry as a matter of priority. She further said that the ImD had received 16 000 C of E applications from ROA claimants most of whom were under the age of 20. The BEEA had also received about 18 000 C of E applications, of which 15 000 were made by persons aged 20 or above. She added that all these applications were submitted by Mainland ROA claimants prior to the CFA's judgment and would be dealt with first.
5. S for S said that another priority task was to ascertain the number of Mainland residents eligible for ROA. According to the CFA's judgment, there were two new categories of persons who were eligible for ROA. The first category was Mainland children born out of wedlock to Hong Kong permanent residents. The Administration did not have an estimate of the number of such Mainland children. The second category was those born to Mainland residents who came to Hong Kong and subsequently acquired permanent resident status after seven years' ordinary residence in Hong Kong. The number of this category of eligible persons would be much larger and difficult to assess. This was because those Mainland residents who were admitted to Hong Kong in January 1992 or earlier for settlement would have become Hong Kong permanent residents in January 1999, and their Mainland children would now become eligible for ROA under BL 24(3) following the CFA's judgment. Some of these Mainland children could be 40-50 years of age and if they entered Hong Kong and acquired permanent resident status under BL 24(2), their children residing in the Mainland would also become eligible persons. If these children came to Hong Kong and acquired permanent resident status after seven years' ordinary residence, their Mainland children would also become eligible for ROA. This pattern of acquisition of ROA would repeat itself every seven years.
6. S for S further advised that there were no readily available updated data pertaining to persons who were born in the Mainland to Hong Kong residents. The figures given in paragraph 13 of the paper were obtained from a survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) from November 1995 to January 1996. In order to come up with a reliable estimate on the number of persons who were or would be eligible for ROA, the C&SD would shortly conduct a household survey on the number of Mainland children and spouses of Hong Kong residents. The Mainland authorities would also conduct similar surveys in two cities in the Guangdong and Fukien provinces. Once the data had been obtained, the Administration would draw up plans for the provision of a wide range of services including education, employment, housing, social welfare, medical care, transportation and other infrastructure facilities to cater for the intake of the new arrivals in the coming years. S for S reiterated that the immediate task was to work out the new C of E application procedures. The Administration would also have to deploy resources to handle the expected influx of applications following the announcement of the new procedures. The Administration's aim was to facilitate the entry of eligible persons in an orderly and timely manner in compliance with the CFA's judgment.
7. The Chairman thanked S for S for her introduction and invited questions from members.
8. Mr LAU Kong-wah asked whether the 13 000 Mainland children whose ROA had already been established under the C of E Scheme were required to obtain the C of E from the BEEA before they could enter Hong Kong. S for S responded in the affirmative and added that the Cs of E in respect of these eligible Mainland children had been sent to the BEEA. They could either approach the BEEA to find out how soon they could leave for Hong Kong, or they could enquire from the ImmD about the progress of their C of E application. She emphasized that in addition to a C of E, eligible persons would be required under the Mainland law to obtain a OWP in order to be able to leave for Hong Kong.
9. Mr LAU further asked whether the Administration had drawn up any plan to facilitate the entry of eligible Mainland residents within a reasonable timeframe. In reply, S for S said that it would be difficult to tell at the present stage what would be the reasonable timeframe for eligible Mainland residents to come to Hong Kong. Much would depend on the number of eligible persons as well as the application and verification arrangements being worked out with the Mainland authorities, particularly the procedures relating to DNA tests for determining the eligibility of Mainland children born out of wedlock to Hong Kong permanent residents.
10. Mr CHAN Wing-chan asked whether Mainland children born in wedlock and those born out of wedlock would be given parity in treatment in applying for a C of E. S for S responded that applications from children born in or out of wedlock would be dealt with on an equal footing, and that C of E applications would be processed on a "first come, first served" basis. She added that she had been advised by some legal experts that it would not be unreasonable if priority was given to younger children.
11. Miss CHAN Yuen-han enquired whether the number of Mainland residents eligible for ROA would be as high as 800 000 as reported in the press. In reply, S for S said that such reports were pure speculation. The Administration would carry out a household survey to find out the number of eligible Mainland residents. Miss CHAN further asked what arrangements would be put in place to enable those Mainland residents whose ROA had been established under the C of E Scheme to come to Hong Kong. S for S responded that the CFA had ruled that there would be no need to require the C of E to be affixed to the OWP to establish ROA under BL 24(3). However, C of E holders would still be required to obtain a OWP before they could leave for Hong Kong. The Administration would seek the cooperation of the Mainland authorities to issue OWPs to Mainland ROA claimants as soon as their C of E applications were approved. This would, in effect, mean that the current daily quota of 150 would no longer exist.
12. Mr Martin LEE expressed his appreciation for the positive and forthcoming manner in which S for S had tackled the problem. He said that if other Bureau Secretaries would adopt the same approach, it would help prevent divisiveness from occurring between the older generation of Mainland migrants who had become Hong Kong permanent residents and the new arrivals.
13. Miss Emily LAU hoped that the special task force headed by the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS) would draw up contingency plans to deal with the expected influx of eligible Mainland residents so as to ensure that their entry would not have a serious impact on existing programmes and services for the community. S for S said that the current arrangements for the provision of services to new arrivals from the Mainland were intended to cater for a daily intake of 150 Mainland residents. The special task force would examine the impact of the arrival of a sizeable number of eligible persons on the provision of a wide range of services and find solutions. She added that the special task force would hold its first meeting later in the morning and CS would meet the press immediately after the morning. The Administration would also brief Members on the progress as and when necessary.
14. Miss LAU requested that CS should come to the House Committee meeting in the afternoon to brief members on the issues deliberated by the special task force. The Chairman undertook to convey Miss LAU's request to the Administration. He added that the House Committee would discuss in the afternoon how proposals and recommendations made by the special task force would be followed up.
15. Miss Margaret NG said that the CFA's judgment had rendered a number of provisions in the Immigration (Amendment) (No.2) Ordinance (the No.2 Ordinance) and the No.3 Ordinance null and void. The judgment also nullified the C of E application procedures specified in the Gazette Notice published on 16 July 1997, which involved the BEEA in the processing of C of E and OWP applications from Mainland ROA claimants. She asked when a bill would be introduced to amend the No.2 and No.3 Ordinances in the light of the CFA's judgment.
16. In reply, S for S said that her understanding was that the CFA's judgment did not say that the involvement of the BEEA in processing C of E applications was unconstitutional. Law Officer, Civil Law (LO(CL)) added that whilst the judgment deleted certain parts in the Notice relating to the role of the BEEA in the operation of the C of E Scheme, the judgment made it clear that the Administration could consider appointing the BEEA as an agent of the ImmD, although the BEEA's role would be different from that prior to the CFA's judgment. He further said that a bill would be introduced as soon as possible to amend the No.2 and No.3 Ordinances to reflect the CFA's judgment.
17. Miss Margaret NG further said that under BL 31, Hong Kong residents had freedom to travel and to enter or leave Hong Kong. The Mainland authorities therefore had the obligation to give effect to this provision in the BL. She asked whether the Administration had reflected this to the Mainland authorities.
18. LO(CL) responded that BL 31 applied to both permanent residents and non-permanent residents of Hong Kong. It dealt with freedom of travel to other countries or regions and freedom to enter or leave Hong Kong. In his view, the provisions in BL 31 were unlikely to affect the existing Mainland law requiring Mainland residents eligible for ROA to obtain a OWP before they could come to Hong Kong. D of Imm supplemented that the Administration would request the Mainland authorities to process OWP applications at the same time when C of E applications were being processed.
19. Mr James TO enquired about the basis of the Administration's interpretation of BL 24(2) and (3) as explained by S for S earlier. S for S pointed out that the CFA had ruled that the permanent resident status was not determined at the time of birth, and that the status would be acquired by a Mainland child whose parent subsequently acquired ROA. Referring to the example which she had given earlier, she reiterated that if those Mainland children who were eligible for ROA under BL 24(3) came to Hong Kong and became Hong Kong permanent residents after seven years' ordinary residence, their children remaining in the Mainland would also become eligible for ROA under BL 24(3). This pattern of acquisition of ROA would continue to pass on to future generations.
20. Mr James TO said that he was still slightly worried that the Administration's interpretation might not reflect the true intent of BL 24(3). The Chairman suggested that the issue raised by Mr TO be followed up by the relevant Panel. Members agreed.
21. Mr Albert HO said that the new application procedures being worked out by the Administration should aim to facilitate the lawful and orderly entry of eligible Mainland residents within a reasonable timeframe. The Administration should request the Mainland authorities to grant a OWP to ROA claimants at the same time when they were issued with a C of E. In order to avoid an influx of Mainland ROA claimants coming to Hong Kong through illegal channels, the new procedures should be widely publicised so that people would know what procedures to follow in applying for a C of E. He asked whether the Administration had any plans to explain the legal implications of the CFA's judgment to the Mainland authorities and seek their cooperation in facilitating the orderly entry of C of E holders as a matter of priority. He also expressed reservations about the proposal of appointing the BEEA as an agent of the ImmD and suggested that the Administration should consider setting up offices in the Mainland to process C of E applications.
22. S for S said that the new C of E application procedures would be announced as soon as possible and be given wide publicity. D of Imm added that the suggestion that both the C of E and OWP be issued simultaneously had already been conveyed to the BEEA. Their initial response was that there was a need to coordinate the issue of the C of E and OWP. They also emphasized that Mainland residents eligible for ROA would be required under the Mainland law to obtain a OWP before they could come to Hong Kong.
23. Mr CHENG Kai-nam pointed out that there was no specific mention in the BL that Mainland children born to Chinese nationals who came to Hong Kong and later became Hong Kong permanent residents after seven years' ordinary residence would be eligible for ROA. He asked the Administration to further explain why it came to the view that such children would become eligible for ROA under BL 24(3).
24. In reply, LO(CL) said that BL 24(3) made it clear that children born outside Hong Kong of those residents referred to in BL 24(1) and (2) would be eligible for ROA. If these children were now in their forties and had children themselves, their children's right of ROA would accrue after they had stayed in Hong Kong for seven years and satisfied the condition in BL 24(2).
25. Miss Margaret NG added that the grandchildren of those residents referred to in BL 24(2) would only be eligible for ROA if their parents had become Hong Kong permanent residents by virtue of BL 24(2). If the parents of these grandchildren did not exercise their ROA and come to Hong Kong for settlement, the grandchildren would never be able to become eligible for ROA.
26. Mr Ronald ARCULLI asked whether the Administration would consider adopting special measures to facilitate the timely and orderly entry of the 13 000 eligible Mainland residents who had already been issued with a C of E. As for those residents who became eligible for ROA following the CFA's judgment, he suggested that the Administration should explore the possibility of making special arrangements whereby some of these eligible persons would be allowed to go to Macau or Shenzhen in batches pending their orderly and lawful entry into Hong Kong, thus avoiding the problems that would arise if all eligible persons entered Hong Kong within a short period of time.
27. In response, S for S said that the 13 000 eligible persons were aged below 20 and their ROA had been established before the CFA's judgment. They could enter Hong Kong if they were issued with a OWP by the Mainland authorities. There would be no problem in absorbing all the 13 000 eligible persons in the coming year as the Administration had taken these persons into account in terms of the provision of services. She added that in respect of the two new categories of eligible persons, it would be difficult to assess at this stage the impact of their arrival on the provision of services as the exact number of these eligible persons would not be known until after the surveys to be conducted in Hong Kong and in the Mainland had been completed. She further said that Mr ARCULLI's suggestion was imaginative, but it would be difficult for the Administration to impose conditions requiring C of E holders to go to Macau or Shenzhen for the purpose of awaiting their lawful entry into Hong Kong. She added that some people had suggested that persons whose ROA had been established could be allowed to come to Hong Kong and obtain a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card first and then return to the Mainland. The Administration would give consideration to this suggestion.
28. Mr LAW Chi-kwong pointed out that under the OWP system, persons being issued with OWPs were required to leave for Hong Kong within two weeks from the date of issue of the OWP and that their Mainland household registration would also be cancelled after they had left for Hong Kong. He suggested that the Administration should request the Mainland authorities to consider the possibility of issuing other types of exit permits, e.g. a Two-way Permit, to C of E holders so that they would have the choice of returning to the Mainland if they could not adjust to living in Hong Kong.
29. D of Imm responded that the Mainland authorities had been requested to allow C of E holders who were issued with a OWP more time to make arrangements to come to Hong Kong. The Mainland authorities' response was that they would consider extending the two-week period on a case by case basis. D of Imm further said that under the Mainland law, a Mainland resident moving from one province for settlement in another province would have his household registration in his original place of residence cancelled. He would consult the Mainland authorities on whether Mr LAW's suggestion of granting C of E holders with a Two-way Permit to enable them to come to Hong Kong and retain their Mainland household registration would be in breach of the Mainland law.
30. Mr LAW said that eligible Mainland children arriving in Hong Kong without their mothers would create family problems. He suggested that the Administration should request the Mainland authorities to allot part of the current 150 daily quota under the OWP system to these mothers to enable them to arrive earlier to look after their children.
31. S for S explained that mothers of children with ROA were already given priority under the OWP system. Currently out of the 150 daily quota, 45 were reserved for children with ROA and 30 for their mothers. She further advised that eligible Mainland children born of Hong Kong permanent residents would be given priority in compliance with the CFA's judgment. Spouses of Hong Kong permanent residents, however, had no claim to ROA.
32. Mr Howard YOUNG said that the Administration should send a clear message to Mainland ROA claimants that they had to apply for a C of E in the Mainland, so as to avert the likelihood of a mass influx of illegal migrants claiming to have ROA in Hong Kong. He asked whether under the new C of E application procedures, some mechanism would be put in place to ensure that those ROA claimants who entered illegally would not be allowed to gain an unfair advantage over those waiting in the queue to enter legally. LO(CL) responded that this was an operational matter which would be considered in the context of the discussions with the Mainland authorities.
33. Mr James TIEN said that in order that the business sector could make plans for the creation of job opportunities for eligible Mainland residents coming to Hong Kong, the Administration should provide an up-to-date estimate of the number of persons who were born to Hong Kong residents and still living in the Mainland, together with details of their education level and job skills. The Administration should also provide a timeframe within which these eligible persons would arrive, as well as the priority system to be adopted to facilitate their timely and orderly entry into Hong Kong.
34. In response, S for S reiterated that the C&SD would conduct a household survey to ascertain the number of Mainland children and spouses of Hong Kong residents in order to provide the necessary data for the Administration to map out plans to meet the increase in the demand for the provision of a wide range of services. The data to be covered in the survey would be on such items as the number of persons, sex, age, educational level and job skills.
35. S for S further said that it would take time to process the large number of C of E applications expected to be filed immediately following the announcement of the new application procedures. The processing time for applications made by Mainland children born out of wedlock would obviously be longer as they would be required to undergo DNA tests. Until a reliable estimate of the number of Mainland residents eligible for ROA was obtained, it would be difficult for the Administration to determine the timeframe for their orderly arrival. As regards the priority system to be adopted for processing applications, one possible way would be to deal with applications on a "first come, first served" basis, but the suggestion that younger children should be accorded priority would be considered. The Administration would hold further discussions with the Mainland authorities to work out the arrangements to be adopted to implement the CFA's judgment.
36. Mr TIEN expressed doubts as to whether Hong Kong residents who had children living in the Mainland were able to provide accurate details of their children. S for S responded that as with any survey, the cooperation of respondents was essential to obtaining accurate data. In addition to the survey to be undertaken by the C&SD, similar surveys would also be conducted in two provinces on the Mainland. She added that sample checks would be conducted on the initial influx of applications. The findings of the sample surveys would shed some light on the personal particulars of the applicants.
37. Mr TSANG Yok-sing enquired about the time taken for processing a C of E application prior to the CFA's judgment as well as the number of C of E applications that had been received pending approval. He also asked whether the Administration had intentionally prolonged the processing time of the applications so as to regulate the entry of eligible persons under the C of E Scheme.
38. In reply, D of Imm said about 16 000 C of E applications were in hand awaiting processing. In regard to the 13 000 Cs of E already processed and sent to the Mainland authorities, the average processing time of an application was about 6-9 months. He further said that all applications were processed in accordance with established procedures. There was no attempt on the part of the Administration to delay the processing of applications in order to restrict the entry of eligible persons.
39. In response to Mr TSANG's further enquiry, D of Imm said that the processing of C of E applications could be expedited if more resources were provided. S for S supplemented that verification of applications had to be done by both the BEEA and ImmD. The BEEA would verify the applicant's identity, nationality and his relationship with his parents before the application was referred to the ImmD for further processing. Providing more resources to the ImmD would not necessarily result in C of E applications being dealt with more expeditiously.
40. Mrs Selina CHOW referred to Mr ARCULLI's suggestions made earlier and asked whether the Administration would discuss with the Mainland authorities with a view to devising some imaginative or innovative initiatives to tackle the problem. She suggested that consideration could be given to setting up schools modelled on the Hong Kong education system in Shenzhen to cater for the educational needs of eligible Mainland children pending their lawful and orderly entry into Hong Kong. The provision of social support services similar to those provided in Hong Kong, such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme and Old Age Allowance, to eligible Mainland residents staying in Shenzhen or Macau awaiting entry into Hong Kong was also worth considering. She was of the view that a comprehensive plan should be drawn up to provide the necessary resources for any measures that needed to be introduced to implement the CFA's judgment, rather than tackling the various problems on a piecemeal basis.
41. S for S reiterated that there was no problem in absorbing the 13 000 eligible Mainland children expected to arrive in the coming year, as the planned provision of services in the financial year 1999/2000 had already taken these children into account. She explained that when the C of E Scheme was introduced in July 1997, plans had been drawn up for the provision of services to cater for the phased intake of about 66 000 eligible persons under the age of 20 who were known to be in the Mainland as at July 1997. As there would be a significant increase in the number of eligible persons in the wake of the CFA's judgment, and given the impact of their arrival on the provision of services, the special task force headed by CS would be responsible for examining the implications and finding solutions. She further said that she would reflect Mrs CHOW's views to the special task force.
42. Mr Andrew CHENG asked when the surveys to be conducted in the Mainland would be completed given that the findings of the 1995 survey were likely to be an underestimate. He also expressed the view that the two cities to be chosen for the surveys should have a higher concentration of Mainland children born to Hong Kong residents, so that a more accurate estimate of the number of eligible Mainland children could be obtained.
43. D of Imm responded that he had held discussions with the Mainland authorities only last week and they had not yet indicated when the surveys would commence. However, they had agreed to conduct the surveys in two cities located in separate provinces where a larger number of Mainland residents were known to have come to Hong Kong for settlement.
44. Referring to the last part in paragraph 23 of the paper, Mr CHENG expressed concern that the new C of E application procedures would be published in the form of a Notice in the Gazette which would not be subsidiary legislation and thus not subject to negative vetting by the Legislative Council.
45. LO(CL) explained that following the enactment of the No.3 Ordinance, a Notice was published in the Gazette on 16 July 1997 pursuant to section 2AB(2) of the No.3 Ordinance specifying the application procedures under the C of E Scheme introduced by the No.3 Ordinance. Section 2AB(4) of the No.3 Ordinance further stipulated that such Notice was not subsidiary legislation. As on the previous occasion, D of Imm would issue a Gazette Notice specifying the new C of E application procedures once these procedures had been decided.
46. Mr CHENG was of the view that as the new C of E application procedures involved policy issues, they should be published as subsidiary legislation and be subject to negative vetting by the Council. The Chairman suggested that this issue be followed up by the relevant Panel. Members agreed.
47. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan said that a large number of C of E applications would be expected to be received by the ImmD following the announcement of new application procedures in about three weeks' time. He asked what number of C of E applications the Administration planned to process daily to facilitate eligible persons to enter Hong Kong within a reasonable period of time.
48. In reply, D of Imm said that since the introduction of the C of E Scheme in July 1997, the average number of C of E holders entering Hong Kong per day was 71. It would be difficult to say at this stage how many C of E applications would be handled each day under the new application procedures, as this would depend on the number of applications to be received following the announcement of the new procedures. However, the Administration's aim was to process applications expeditiously to facilitate the entry of eligible persons within a reasonable period of time in compliance with the CFA's judgment. S for S added that in the light of experience gained from the operation of the C of E Scheme over the past 18 months, the initial batches of applications were often straightforward and simple ones. Applications submitted at a later date were likely to be more complex and would take a longer time to process.
49. LO(CL) explained that a reasonable period of time referred to the "reasonableness" of the time that an individual who made an application had to wait to obtain the C of E. Whether the period of time was "reasonable" in respect of an individual applicant would depend on the date he submitted his application and the time that he had to wait before his application was determined. The Administration would, in the light of the number of applications received, take appropriate measures to process the applications within a reasonable period of time.
50. Mr CHAN Kam-lam said that the special task force should consider whether the current policy regulating the entry of Mainland residents for settlement in Hong Kong should be changed so as to allow children eligible for ROA and their mothers to come to Hong Kong together. This would help to prevent an increase in the number of single-parent families and lessen the burden on the CSSA Scheme. He also asked whether the Administration had discussed with the Mainland authorities as to how the verification procedures for Mainland children born out of wedlock to Hong Kong residents would be coordinated.
51. In reply, S for S said that the special task force would assess the impact of the arrival of eligible Mainland children and draw up plans to cater for the intake of these children. As regards the coordination of verification procedures, she reiterated that verification of the applicant's identity, nationality and his relationship with his parents would be conducted by the Mainland authorities before the C of E application was referred to the ID for further processing. D of I added that the Mainland authorities would require Mainland children born out of wedlock to undergo DNA tests to establish the child-parent relation with their resident parents in Hong Kong.
52. Mr CHAN further asked whether, upon arrival of the child born out of wedlock, the lawful spouse of the Hong Kong parent resident could initiate legal proceedings against the husband/wife for bigamy. The Chairman suggested that the issue be followed up by the relevant Panel. Members agreed.
53. The Chairman thanked the representatives of the Administration for attending the special meeting. The meeting ended at 10:38 am.
Legislative Council Secretariat
10 March 1999