LC Paper No. CB(2) 2817/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/H/5
House Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the special meeting
held in the Legislative Council Chamber
at 8:30 am on Saturday, 8 May 1999
Members present :
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum (Deputy Chairman)
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Margaret NG Ngoi-yee
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Members absent :
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon HUI Cheung-ching
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon SZETO Wah
Hon FUNG Chi-kin
Public Officers attending :
- Mrs Anson CHAN
- Chief Secretary for Administration
- Mrs Katherine
- FOK Secretary for Health and Welfare
- Mrs Regina IP
- Secretary for Security
- Mr Dominic WONG
- Secretary for Housing
- Mr Joseph WONG
- Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr Patrick LAU
- Acting Secretary for Planning, Environment and
- Mrs Carrie LAM
- Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
- Mr Gregory LEUNG
- Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare
- Mr Fred HO
- Commissioner for Census & Statistics
- Mr Ambrose LEE
- Director of Immigration
- Mr K Y TANG
- Government Economist
Clerk in attendance :
- Mrs Justina LAM
- Clerk to the House Committee
Staff in attendance :
- Mr Jimmy MA, JP
- Legal Adviser
- Mr LAW Wing-lok
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)5
- Miss Mary SO Senior
- Assistant Secretary (2)8
I. Meeting with the Administration
The Chairman said that the purpose of the meeting was to continue
discussion with the Administration on the preliminary assessment of the
impact of the arrival of 1.675 million Mainland residents who became eligible
for the right of abode (ROA) as a result of the Court of Final Appeal (CFA)
judgment delivered on 29 January 1999.
2. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Chief Secretary for Administration
(CS) briefed members on her recent trip to Beijing. She said that
the visit had been planned for some time and its objective was to exchange
views with the Central Government on matters of mutual concern. She
added that she had taken the opportunity to convey to Premier ZHU Rongji
and other Chinese officials Hong Kong people's concern over the impact
of the CFA judgment and to brief them on the preliminary findings of the
survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) on
the estimated number of Mainland residents eligible for ROA in the light
of the CFA judgment. She stressed that she had not brought along
any proposals on how to resolve the ROA issue for consultation with the
3. CS further said that the Chinese officials had told her that the
Central Government was very concerned about the impact of CFA's ruling
on the economy of Hong Kong. They had expressed the view that the
HKSAR Government should devise a solution on its own to address the problems
and that the Central Government would render assistance should the HKSAR
Government so request.
4. Miss Emily LAU said that the Chief Executive (CE) had said during
the Question and Answer Session on 6 May 1999 that he would not rule out
the possibility of not implementing the CFA judgment. She asked whether
the Administration could confirm that it would not seek ways to overturn
the CFA judgment.
5. CS replied that the Administration had no intention of not implementing
the CFA judgment. She pointed out that since the delivery of the
CFA judgment, the Administration had met with the Mainland authorities
several times to discuss the arrangements for admitting eligible persons
to Hong Kong in an orderly manner. In addition, the C&SD had
commenced a survey in early March to find out the estimated number of Mainland
residents eligible for ROA in order that an assessment could be made on
the impact of the new arrivals on service provisions and infrastructure
facilities. She further said that the Administration would consider
all relevant factors, including the level of public acceptance of the CFA
judgment, views from the legal profession, the international community's
perception of the faithful implementation of the "one country, two systems"
principle, effectiveness of the various options to deal with the problems
as well as the time constraint factor, before coming to a decision on how
to resolve the issue.
6. Mr James TO enquired whether the Administration had made a preliminary
analysis of the merits and demerits of the various options to tackle the
ROA issue. CS reiterated that the Administration would carefully
evaluate the various options before arriving at a decision. She assured
members that whatever option adopted would be in Hong Kong's long-term
interests and in conformity with the Basic Law.
7. Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung enquired how the CFA judgment would affect negotiations
with foreign countries on visa-free access for SAR passport holders.
Secretary for Security (S for S) replied that the CFA ruling had to some
extent affected on-going negotiations with foreign countries on visa-free
access arrangements. She added that the consulates of a number of
countries had expressed worries that the new arrivals would, upon obtaining
SAR passports, enter their countries and might overstay.
8. Miss HO Sau-lan enquired whether the Administration would arrive
at a decision on the ROA issue before the completion of the C&SD survey
at the end of the month. CS said that although the C&SD survey
would not be completed until the end of May, the mid-term survey findings
collected as at mid-April 1999 would provide reliable data for making projections
on service provisions. CS added that given the gravity of the problems
arising from the CFA judgment, the public would not wish to see any delay
on the part of the Government to come up with a solution.
9. Dr YEUNG Sum was of the view that the figure of some 80% of the respondents
wishing their Mainland children to settle in Hong Kong was on the high
side, having regard to the tendency that respondents would usually opt
to give a socially acceptable answer. He further enquired why the
assessment of the implications on service provisions was made on the assumption
that all of the 1.675 million eligible persons would choose to come and
settle in Hong Kong.
10. Commissioner for Census and Statistics (C for C&S) said that
most of the respondents would have considered whether it would be in the
interests of their children to come to Hong Kong, as well as the financial
burden which they had to bear, before indicating their wish for their children
to settle in Hong Kong. He further explained that the reason for
using a 100% arrival rate was to ascertain the maximum additional demand
on service provisions. He would not rule out the possibility that
the 80% figure would be adjusted upward or downward when the final results
11. Prof NG Ching-fai said that the majority of the new arrivals were
likely to come from Guangdong and Fukien provinces and asked whether CS
had met with officials of these two provinces to discuss the ROA issue
during her recent trip to Beijing, CS replied that she did not have
the chance to meet with them. S for S added that there were reports
of certain surveys being carried out in certain cities in Guangdong and
12. Mr SIN Chung-kai said that according to some press reports, CE had
cancelled his trip to the US and Canada because the Administration was
close to reaching a decision to approach the Standing Committee of the
National People's Congress (NPCSC) for an interpretation of the relevant
provisions in the Basic Law. He enquired whether CS had, during her
recent trip to Beijing, secured the Central Government's endorsement of
the Administration taking such a step.
13. CS reiterated that she had not brought along any options for endorsement
by the Central Government and that the Central Government had hoped that
the SAR Government would resolve the ROA issue on its own. She further
said that given the need to come up with a solution within a short time,
CE had decided to postpone his overseas trip and remain in Hong Kong to
handle the matter.
14. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung enquired whether the Administration had set a
deadline for arriving at a decision as to which option was to be adopted.
CS replied in the negative but added that since the public generally did
not wish the matter to be dragged on for too long, the Administration would
endeavour to resolve the issue expeditiously.
(CS left the meeting at this juncture)
15. Miss Margaret NG asked whether the Administration had considered
that seeking the assistance of the Central Government to overturn the CFA's
judgment by amending or interpreting the Basic Law would adversely affect
the international community's perception of judicial independence and the
rule of law in Hong Kong. She further enquired whether the Administration
had also sought the Central Government's assistance in facilitating those
Mainland residents who were eligible for ROA to come to Hong Kong.
16. S for S replied that the Administration attached great importance
to how Hong Kong was perceived by the international community in upholding
its judicial independence and autonomy. She further said that after
the delivery of the CFA judgment, the Director of Immigration (D of Imm)
had held three meetings with the Mainland authorities to discuss the arrangements
for the lawful and orderly exit of eligible persons to Hong Kong, as well
as the possibility of appointing an entity in the Mainland as an agent
of Hong Kong's Immigration Department to process Certificate of Entitlement
(C of E) applications. She herself had also met the relevant Mainland
authorities separately to discuss similar issues. She added that
although she did not accompany CS on her recent trip to Beijing, she believed
that CS had raised these issues with the Central Government.
17. In reply to Miss NG's further enquiry about the status of children
born to "de facto" marriage, D of Imm said that according to Chinese law,
if a man and a woman had registered their husband and wife relationship
in their respective place of domicile prior to 1990, the Mainland
authorities would recognize their marriage as valid although they did not
go through any formal marriage registration. Children born to Hong
Kong residents under "de facto" marriage in the Mainland would be considered
as children born within wedlock.
18. Mr Howard YOUNG said that CE had said at the Question and Answer
session on 6 May 1999 that about 1% growth in the economy would create
50 000 new jobs. He enquired whether the Administration's estimate
that the unemployment rate would increase by 10%-12% by the end of 2009
over and above the prevailing rate without the inflow of the new arrivals
had taken into account the new jobs created as a result of the capital
expenditure of $710 billion over the next ten years.
19. The Government Economist (G Econ) replied that the actual unemployment
rate by the end of 2009 would depend on the state of the economy and the
labour market at that time. Although he could not provide an estimate
on the employment creation at present in view of the wide scope of the
capital works programme, he believed that the new jobs would be mainly
in the building and construction sector. He also expressed doubts
as to whether the newcomers had the requisite skills to fill the anticipated
new job openings. He further pointed out that the current unemployment
problem was due to the fact that economic growth lagged behind the growth
in the labour force. He anticipated that with the inflow of the new
arrivals, the unemployment rate would rise if economic growth was slow
20. Secretary for Education and Manpower (SEM) supplemented that between
2000 and 2002, some 350 000 new arrivals would enter the labour market,
with an estimated 116 500 new arrivals coming in the year 2000 alone.
As Hong Kong's economy was currently undergoing an adjustment period, he
expressed concern that the upsurge in the number of people of the working
age would hinder the recovery of the economy. He further said that
although a massive construction programme would have to be undertaken to
meet the needs of the new arrivals, employment opportunities would not
immediately arise as it would take time to plan these projects before construction
work could commence. He added that the current unemployment rate
of 6.2% was unlikely to come down in the foreseeable future. The
Administration's assessment was that the addition of a significant number
of Mainland residents of working age to the labour market within a short
period would not only push up the unemployment rate but would also pull
down the overall wage level.
21. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG said that it was odd that the Administration had
only made a preliminary assessment of service implications based on the
maximum number of eligible persons, without providing an assessment based
on the number of eligible persons that Hong Kong was able to absorb.
S for S explained that the Administration considered it necessary to announce
the findings of the preliminary assessment so as to give Members and the
public some idea of the actual impact of the addition of 1.675 million
people to the population of Hong Kong.
22. Mr Ronald ARCULLI expressed concern that the Administration would
come to a decision on the ROA issue without fully consulting the LegCo.
Mr NG Leung-sing enquired whether the public would be consulted before
a decision was taken. Mr ARCULLI also enquired whether the Administration
had looked into the legal procedures for amending and interpreting the
23. S for S replied that CE had mentioned on 6 May 1999 that the LegCo
and the public would be consulted before a decision was taken by the Administration.
She further said that the Administration was now studying the legal procedures
involved in amending the Basic Law, and those relating to seeking an interpretation
of its provisions.
24. Mr Albert HO remarked that the Administration's preliminary assessment
of service provisions was intended to depict the worst-case scenario.
Taking the estimate of the additional housing requirement as an example,
he said that the estimate that all of the 1.675 million eligible Mainland
residents would need to have their own living quarters upon arrival was
too far-fetched and unrealistic.
25. Secretary for Housing (S for H) said that the assessment on the
housing requirement to cater for the inflow of 1.675 million eligible Mainland
residents had already taken into account that 78% to 80% of the eligible
persons were adults and therefore would not live with their family members
in Hong Kong. He further said that the assessment was based on the
existing method for calculating the housing requirement for new arrivals
from the Mainland.
26. In reply to Mr HO's further enquiry on the estimated number of new
arrivals who would require housing of their own, S for H explained that
his assessment was made on the assumptions that 25% of the first generation
of eligible persons would form new households during the first three years,
and thereafter the annual additional housing demand of the first generation
inflow would be assumed at 10%. As regards the second generation
of eligible person, S for H said that about 20% of them were assumed to
have the need to form new households during the first three years.
Similar to the first generation, the annual additional housing demand of
the second generation after the first three years would also be 10%.
S for H pointed out that the 10% annual growth rate for new households
was based on the results of the 1996 Population By-census.
27. Mr HO further enquired whether the C&SD could provide an estimate
on the number of eligible Mainland residents on the assumption that only
children born to persons who were permanent residents of Hong Kong at the
time of their birth were eligible for ROA. C for C&S replied
that the ratio between the number of first generation of children born
within registered marriages (i.e. 172 000) and the number of persons who
already had ROA prior to the CFA ruling (i.e. 102 000) could be used to
apply to the number of first generation of children born out of registered
marriage (i.e. 520 000) to arrive at the number of eligible persons born
to Hong Kong permanent residents at the time of their birth.
28. Mr NG Leung-sing enquired whether the Administration had inflated
the number of eligible Mainland residents in order to scare Hong Kong people
from accepting these persons to come to Hong Kong for settlement.
He further enquired whether seeking an interpretation of the relevant provisions
of the Basic Law was unlawful and the rule of law would be undermined.
29. S for S responded that there was no question of the Administration
adopting scare tactics. She stressed that the estimated number of
eligible persons was obtained from the C&SD survey which was conducted
in an objective and scientific manner. C for C&S supplemented
that the Policy Bureaux had never interfered with the work of his department
and his staff had carried out the survey in a professional and objective
manner. He pointed out that it was understandable that some people
would have reservation about the reliability of data on children born out
of wedlock obtained through the randomized response technique (RRT).
He assured members that the RRT had been proved to be quite effective in
eliciting highly sensitive information from respondents. S for S
added that under Article 158 of the Basic Law, the NPCSC had the power
to interpret the Basic Law.
30. In response to the queries raised by Messrs. CHEUNG Man-kwong and
LAW Chi-kwong relating to the assessment on education provision for the
new arrivals, SEM said that he had discussed with C for C&S and had
agreed that the assumption of 30% of the first generation inflow requiring
schooling was reasonable. SEM further said that, in order to come
up with a more accurate assessment, eligible persons aged between 0 and
5 and those aged 19 had been excluded from the assessment. Another
assumption used in the assessment was that about 80% and 10% of the eligible
persons aged 15 and 19 respectively would require secondary schooling.
Such exclusion had therefore reduced the percentage of eligible persons
requiring schooling to about 24%.
31. Referring to paragraph 13 of the paper entitled "Estimates of the
number of Mainlanders with Right of Abode in Hong Kong" which was tabled
at the special House Committee meeting on 6 May 1999, C for C&S explained
that the difference between 20% and 30% of the first generation inflow
aged below 20 was that the former referred to the 172 000 newly eligible
children born within registered marriage whereas the latter referred to
all of the 274 000 eligible children born within registered marriage.
32. Mr LAW further enquired about the basis for assuming a 5%-10% margin
of error in the survey findings. C for C&S replied that the estimated
5%-10% margin of error was their best estimate as it was not possible to
give a precise percentage of the margin of error in a sample survey.
In reply to Mr LAW's further enquiry about the estimated number of eligible
persons of the first generation who would not come to live in Hong Kong
if the Basic Law was amended, C for C&S said that another survey would
need to be conducted to obtain such information.
33. Mr TAM Yiu-chung remarked that the influx of eligible Mainland people
would widen the disparity between the rich and the poor in the community.
G Econ said that be agreed with Mr TAM's remark.
34. Mr HO Sai-chu enquired whether the influx of 1.675 million eligible
persons would have adverse effects on the law and order situation in Hong
Kong, and if so, whether the additional expenditure required to maintain
law and order had been included in the Administration's assessment on service
provisions. Mr HO further enquired whether more labour-intensive
industries would be relocated back to Hong Kong if the overall wage level
was lowered as a result of an increase in labour supply arising from the
inflow of eligible Mainland residents.
35. S for S replied that she would not rule out the possibility that
public order would be affected as a result of the inflow of the eligible
Mainland residents. Deputy Secretary for the Treasury supplemented
that the additional expenditure on maintaining law and order had not been
included in the estimated annual recurrent cost of $33 billion by the tenth
year and the total capital cost of $710 billion within the next 10 years.
G Econ said that even with a lowering of wage level, Hong Kong's overall
wage level would still be at a relatively high level and could not compete
with other countries in the region in labour-intensive industries.
The scarcity of land in Hong Kong was another deterrent factor. G
Econ further said that to relocate labour-intensive industries back to
Hong Kong would be at variance with CE's long-term objective of steering
Hong Kong towards developing high value-added and high technology industries.
36. Mr LI Wing-tat said that some economists had commented that the
projections on the demand for provision of services and on the unemployment
situation were exaggerated. He asked why the C for C & S's assumption
of an 80% arrival was not adopted by the Bureau Secretaries in working
out the preliminary assessment of the implications on the provision of
37. S for S responded that based on past experience in processing C
of E applications, very few Mainland ROA claimants who had been issued
with C of E's did not exercise their ROA to come to Hong Kong. The
assessment of the implications on service provisions was therefore made
on the assumption that all of the 1.675 million eligible Mainland residents
would come to settle in Hong Kong. She added that the estimate on
service provisions would need to be adjusted at the implementation stage.
38. G Econ said that different persons had different views on the impact
of the new arrivals on the labour market. He was of the view that
given that the growth in the economy at present was slower than the growth
in manpower supply, it would be realistic to assume that the economy could
not absorb the substantial increase in labour resources brought in by the
inflow of eligible Mainland residents.
39. In reply to Mr LI's further enquiry about the application of the
data obtained from the mid-term stage of the survey in working out the
assessment of service provisions, C for C & S explained that it was
a common practice internationally to publish preliminary estimate compiled
from data collected during the mid-term stage of a survey. He added
that the samples covered by the C&SD as at mid-April already formed
a separate and scientific random sample by itself and could be used to
draw inference on the overall situation. He further said that the
data on the question concerning "children born out of registered marriage"
collected via the "direct questioning method" was too low to be believable
and had to be disregarded. He also said that the preliminary assessment
of the implications on service provisions might need to be adjusted in
the light of the final survey results.
40. Mr LI further asked why no attempt was made to assess service implications
according to different scenarios. S for S replied that the first
and foremost assumption used in working out the preliminary assessment
of service implications was that the first generation of 692 000 eligible
persons would be adsorbed within the next three years. The three-year
timeframe was used in view of the requirement made in the CFA judgment
that C of E applications should be processed within a reasonable period
of time. She added that other assumptions used in assessing service
implications had been explained by other Bureau Secretaries.
41. Miss Emily LAU asked whether the assessment of service implications
on the basis of the coverage of half of the survey samples could be relied
on. C for C&S reiterated that the first half of the survey samples
formed an independent random sample and could be used to draw inference
on the overall estimate. The final data obtained after the completion
of the survey would not vary much from those obtained at the half-way stage
of the survey. He further pointed out that the release of data at
the half-way stage of the survey enabled the Bureau Secretaries to make
an early assessment.
42. Miss LAU further asked whether, if an amendment or an interpretation
of Article 24(2)(3) of the Basic Law was made, Mainland persons as well
as persons residing in other countries born to Hong Kong permanent residents
who were presently eligible for ROA would have their rights taken away.
S for S replied that this would depend on the terms of the interpretation
or amendment. She also pointed out that the C of E scheme applied
to both Mainland children and children living abroad born to Hong Kong
permanent residents. D of Imm. added that some 1 000 C of E applications
had so far been received from overseas applicants.
43. Mr James TO was of the view that the Government should release its
analysis on the legal aspects of the two options (i.e. amending the Basic
Law or seeking an interpretation of the Basic Law) so as to allow the public,
and the legal profession in particular, to give their views on these two
options. Dr YEUNG Sum added that the Administration should also provide
separate assessment of the positive and negative impacts of the two options
on the rule of law and service provisions for the information of the public.
S for S said that the views expressed by Mr TO and Dr YEUNG would be considered
by the Administration.
44. Miss Cyd HO said that according to the Provisional Legislative Council
Brief on the Immigration (Amendment) (No.5) Bill 1999 issued on 8 July
1997, the entry of Mainland residents for settlement in Hong Kong had been
regulated through the One-Way Permit (OWP) System. Referring to S
for S's earlier statement that the C of E scheme also applied to persons
born in overseas countries to Hong Kong permanent residents, Miss HO asked
whether the Administration had widely publicized the C of E scheme in these
countries so as to ensure that the persons concerned would become aware
of their entitlement to ROA in Hong Kong.
45. S for S replied that the OWP System was implemented in 1982 to regulate
Mainland residents coming to Hong Kong for settlement. The Immigration
(Amendment) (No.3) Ordinance enacted on 10 July 1997 provided that a person's
status as a permanent resident of the HKSAR under Article 24(2)(3) of the
Basic Law could only be established by his/her holding a valid travel document
with a valid C of E affixed to it. Operationally, it meant that persons
who were born in the Mainland to Hong Kong permanent residents would have
to apply for the OWP and the C of E in order to come to Hong Kong for settlement.
As for persons who were born in overseas countries to Hong Kong permanent
residents, they would have to apply for the C of E via the Chinese Consular
posts in the countries where the applicants were resident. S for
S added that the fact that over 1 000 C of E applications had been received
from overseas applicants was an indication that the C of E scheme had been
publicized in the countries concerned.
46. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung said that given that some economists took the
view that the new arrivals, could stimulate the local economy, the Government
should provide an assessment of the positive impact of their arrival.
Mr Albert HO shared Mr LEUNG's view. G Econ responded that the Administration
would assess the additional labour requirement arising from the capital
works programme to cater for the inflow of 1.675 million eligible Mainland
residents. G Econ added that the new arrivals would not contribute
much to consumption spending in the economy initially as they needed to
have jobs and income before spending. G Econ also pointed out that
Hong Kong was an externally oriented economy and economic growth in the
long run would have to come from doing business with other places, rather
than relying on internal consumption only. G Econ undertook to make an
assessment of consumption spending in the local economy stemming from the
inflow of the new arrivals.
47. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan said that the Administration's assessment that
the first and second generations of inflow would push up the unemployment
rate by 10% and 12% by the end of 2002 and 2009 respectively was based
on unrealistic assumptions, without taking into account the new employment
creation arising from the additional consumption by the two generations
of inflow and the new job creation as a result of growth in the economy
between now and 2009. He asked whether G Econ would review his assessment
on the unemployment situation using more realistic assumptions.
48. G Econ explained that the current high unemployment rate was due
to the fact that the rate of increase in labour supply had exceeded the
rate of growth in the economy as well as in employment. The inflow
of 1.675 million Mainland residents, which would be additional to the normal
growth in Hong Kong's population, would affect the unemployment rate in
a very significant way as detailed in paragraphs 20 - 21 of the paper on
the assessment of service implications. He further explained that
the additional 10% and 12% unemployment projections were worst-case scenario
figures, but pointed out that it would be irresponsible of the Administration
to assume that Hong Kong's economy would be able to absorb such a large
population inflow. He added that he would provide further details
on the assessment of employment creation arising from both the massive
capital works programme and the additional consumption spending for Members'
49. In response to Mr LEE's further enquiry about the number of overseas
Hong Kong residents returning to Hong Kong, G Econ said there would continue
to be inflows of these returnees in the coming years but the number was
expected to be lower than those in the past few years. G Econ pointed
out that the returnees would constitute another regular source of labour
50. Mr Howard YOUNG said that according to the information provided
in the paper on the estimates of the number of Mainlanders with ROA in
Hong Kong, there were 102 000 persons who already had ROA prior to the
CFA ruling, as opposed to the figure of 66 000 persons provided by the
Administration in 1997. S for S explained that the figure of 102
000 included persons of all ages, whereas the previous figure of 66 000
persons covered persons below 20 only.
51. Mr Martin LEE expressed dissatisfaction that the Administration
had released its assessment of the implications of the new arrivals on
service provisions without providing solutions to the problem. In
his view, the Administration should explain to the public the implications
of amending the Basic Law or seeking an interpretation of the Basic Law
from the NPCSC. He was particularly disappointed that no public officer
had made any statement that seeking an NPCSC interpretation would have
the effect of undermining the rule of law in Hong Kong. He added
that the fact that the Chief Executive had stated in the Question and Answer
session on 6 May 1999 that the Administration would act expeditiously to
tackle the problem implied that the Administration had decided on the interpretation
52. S for S said that the Chief Executive had said that the Administration
would act in a resolute and expeditious manner to resolve the ROA issue
and that it would announce its decision as soon as possible so that the
public would be able to give their views on the decision.
53. Mr Ambrose CHENG pointed out that according to Article 22(4) of
the Basic Law, the Mainland authorities had to consult the HKSAR Government
in determining the number of persons who would be granted approval to enter
Hong Kong for settlement. He asked how the Government had arrived
at the three-year timeframe for absorbing the first generation of eligible
54. S for S replied that the three-year timeframe for the intake of
eligible persons was not part of the CFA judgment. The Administration
considered it reasonable to absorb the first generation of eligible persons
within a period of three years to reflect the spirit of the CFA judgment.
She added that it would be irresponsible on the part of the Government
if it did not process C of E applications within a reasonable period, given
that it was stated in the CFA judgment that an C of E applicant could involve
public law remedies in Hong Kong courts if there was unreasonable delay
by the Government in dealing with the application.
55. Miss Margaret NG said that when the Administration in February this
year sought clarification from the CFA on its judgment delivered on 29
January 1999, the Administration had stated that it was not attempting
to overturn the CFA judgment. She pointed out, however, that two
of the four options to resolve the right of abode issue under consideration
by the Administration - one involving asking the CFA to make another ruling
in a subsequent case and the other involving the seeking of an interpretation
from the NPCSC - would have the effect of overturning the CFA judgment.
She asked why there had been a complete reversal of the Administration's
56. S for S replied that the Administration had not at any time asked
the CFA to change its ruling on the right of abode cases. She also
said that the Administration had made no announcement about which options
were being considered to tackle the right of abode issue.
57. The Chairman said that it was time to call the meeting with the
Administration to a close. He thanked the Administration's representatives
for attending the meeting.
II. Any Other Business
58. The Chairman said that a further meeting had already been scheduled
for Tuesday, 11 May 1999 at 4:30 pm to discuss the way forward.
59. Mr Martin LEE and Dr YEUNG Sum suggested that legal experts, economists
and academics in migration studies should be invited to give their views.
Miss Emily LAU expressed support for the suggestion and further proposed
that the Secretariat should prepare a schedule of meetings and deputations
to be invited for members' consideration at the next meeting.
60. Miss Margaret NG added that the Bar Association would be happy to
come along to express their views as they had done a lot of research on
the ROA issue.
61. Mr Ronald ARCULLI said that consideration should be given to the
question of whether outside opinions should be sought on the legal procedures
involved in amending or interpreting the Basic Law .
62. Mr James TO was of the view that a special meeting should be held
in the morning of the following Monday, given that it was likely that an
announcement on the option to be adopted by the Administration would be
made after the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday in the following week.
Mr Martin LEE echoed Mr TO's view.
63. The Chairman said that scheduling a special meeting from 8:30 am
to 10:30 am on Monday, 10 May 1999 would clash with the meeting of the
Bills Committee on Securities (Margin Financing) (Amendment) Bill 1999.
Mr Ronald ARCULLI, Chairman of the Bills Committee, said that he would
re-schedule the Bills Committee meeting to another date. Mr SIN Chung-kai
expressed support for re-scheduling the Bills Committee meeting.
64. The Chairman said that he would convene a special meeting on Monday,
10 May 1999 from 8:30 am to 10:30 am. The agenda of the meeting would
include the following items -
- the way forward in following up on the right of abode of persons
born in the Mainland to Hong Kong permanent residents;
- meeting with deputations/individuals; and
- schedule of meetings and deputations invited/to be invited.
65. The Chairman asked members to let the Secretariat know as soon as
possible if they had suggestions on deputations/individuals to be invited
so that invitations could be sent out immediately.
66. In response to Miss Emily LAU, the Chairman said that it was within
his authority to convene an urgent meeting of the House Committee by giving
less than three days' notice and also decide on the agenda of the meeting.
67. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 11:35 am.
Legislative Council Secretariat
14 September 1999