LC Paper No. CB(2) 2035/98-99
Ref : CB2/H/5
House Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the 31st meeting
held in the Legislative Council Chamber
at 2:30 pm on Friday, 14 May 1999
Members present :
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
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
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Hon Margaret NG Ngoi-yee
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon HUI Cheung-ching
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon SZETO Wah
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon FUNG Chi-kin
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Members absent :
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Clerk in attendance :
Staff in attendance :
- Mrs Justina LAM
- Clerk to the House Committee
I. Confirmation of the minutes of the 30th meeting held on 7 May 1999
- Mr Ricky C C FUNG, JP
- Secretary General
- Mr Jimmy MA, JP
- Legal Adviser
- Mr LAW Kam-sang, JP
- Deputy Secretary General
- Mr LEE Yu-sung
- Senior Assistant Legal Adviser
- Ms Polly YEUNG
- Assistant Secretary General 1 (Acting)
- Mr Ray CHAN
- Assistant Secretary General 3
- Miss Connie FUNG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 3
- Mr Arthur CHEUNG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 5
- Mr KAU Kin-wah
- Assistant Legal Adviser 6
- Mr Charles FOO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (Complaints) (Acting)
- Miss Kathleen LAU
- Chief Public Information Officer
- Miss Mary SO
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2)8
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1950/98-99)
The minutes were confirmed.
II. Matters arising
Report by the Chairman on his meeting with the Chief Secretary for Administration
2. The Chairman said that he had informed CS that there would be a series of special House Committee meetings to discuss the right of abode issue and had requested that the Administration be represented at these special meetings. The Chairman added that CS had replied that the Administration would try to arrange for the relevant public officers to attend these meetings.
3. The Chairman further said that he had informed CS that the scrutiny work of the Bills Committee on International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill had been suspended. Its slot had been taken up by the Bills Committee on Provision of Municipal Services (Reorganization) Bill.
4. Referring to a number of items of subsidiary legislation which had been gazetted but not tabled in the former Legislative Council, the Chairman advised members that the Administration was inclined to establish a mechanism to rectify oversights and was considering the introduction of a validation bill.
III. Business arising from previous Council meetings
(a) Legal Service Division's reports on bills referred to the House Committee in accordance with Rule 54(4)
(i) Telecommunication (Amendment) Bill 1999
(LC Paper No. LS 173/98-99)
5. The Legal Adviser said that the Bill sought to introduce certain significant changes relating to the control and regulation of the telecommunications services in Hong Kong. He recommended that a Bills Committee be formed to study the Bill, as the Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting and the public had expressed concern about the changes proposed in the Bill.
6. Mrs Miriam LAU suggested that a Bills Committee be formed. The following members agreed to join : Mr HO Sai-chu, Mr SIN Chung-kai (as advised by Dr YEUNG Sum), Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung and Mrs Miriam LAU.
(ii) Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital Incorporation (Amendment) Bill 1999
(LC Paper No. LS 167/98-99)
7. The Chairman said that the Bill was a Member's bill introduced by Mr Eric LI.
8. The Legal Adviser explained that the Bill sought to clarify and further define the power of investment of the corporation established under the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital Incorporation Ordinance (Cap. 1072). He added that Mr Eric LI would propose Committee Stage amendments to bring the savings provision in the Bill in line with the Council's decision on the savings provision in the Adaptation of Laws Bill 1998.
9. Members agreed that the Second Reading debate on the Bill could be resumed.
(b) Legal Service Division's report on subsidiary legislation tabled in Council on 12 May 1999 (gazetted on 7 May 1999)
(LC Paper No. LS 176/98-99)
10. The Legal Adviser introduced the paper which detailed the six items of subsidiary legislation gazetted on 7 May 1999.
11. The Chairman suggested that a subcommittee be formed to study the District Councils (Subscribers and Election Deposit for Nomination) Regulation, the Maximum Scale of Election Expenses (District Councils) Order 1999 and the Electoral Affairs Commission (Nominations Advisory Committees (District Councils)) Regulation made under the District Councils Ordinance as well as those to be presented later. Members agreed. The following members agreed to join: Miss Cyd HO Sau-lan, Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mr Ronald ARCULLI and Mr Andrew WONG.
12. Members did not raise any queries on the remaining three items of subsidiary legislation.
13. The Chairman reminded members that the deadline for giving notice to amend the subsidiary legislation was 9 June 1999 or 16 June 1999, if extended by resolution.
IV. Further report by the Legal Service Division on outstanding bills
Adaptation of Laws (No.13) Bill 1998
(LC Paper No. LS 184/98-99)
14. The Legal Adviser said that the Administration had proposed Committee Stage amendments relating to the adaptation of the reference to "the Governor" in the Bill in line with similar adaptations in the Adaptation of Laws Bill 1998 and Adaptation of Laws (No.2) Bill 1998, which had been passed by the Council on 28 April 1999 and 31 March 1999 respectively.
15. Members agreed that the Second Reading debate on the Bill could be resumed.
V. Further business for the Council meeting on 19 May 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(3) 1622/98-99)
16. Members noted the new oral questions to be asked by Mr CHAN Kam-lam and Mr MA Fung-kwok.
VI. Business for the Council meeting on 26 May 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(3) 1623/98-99)
17. Members noted that 20 questions (six oral and 14 written) had been scheduled.
(b) Bills - First and Second Readings
(i) Road Tunnels (Government) (Amendment) Bill 1999
(ii) Roads and Tunnels Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 1999
(iii) Banking (Amendment) Bill 1999
(iv) Witness Protection Bill
18. Members noted that the above four Bills would be introduced into the Council on 26 May 1999 and considered by the House Committee on 28 May 1999.
(c) Government motion
19. Members noted that no notice had been received.
(d) Members' motions
(i) Motion on "Interpretation of the Basic Law"
20. Members noted the wording of the above motion to be moved by Mr Albert HO Chun-yan.
(ii) Motion on "Promoting extensive use of English"
21. Members noted the draft wording of the above motion to be moved by Mr James TIEN Pei-chun.
22. The Chairman reminded members that the deadline for giving notice of amendments (if any) to the motions was 18 May 1999. The Chairman further said that the speaking time limits stipulated in rule 17(c) of the House Rules would apply.
VII. Advance information on business for the Council meeting on 2 June 1999
(i) Motion on "Problem of youngster gangs"
23. Members noted that Mr HO Sai-chu had been allocated a debate slot.
(ii) Motion on "Renaming of the former Government House"
24. Members noted that Mr Howard YOUNG had been allocated a debate slot.
VIII. Proposed Amendments to House Rules
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1840/98-99 issued vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 1852/98-99 dated 4 May 1999)
25. The Chairman said that the amendments proposed in the paper were mainly consequential amendments to changes made to the Rules of Procedure approved by the Council on 9 September 1998 and 28 April 1999. The amendments also included agreed procedures or practices which had not yet been incorporated in the current set of House Rules. In addition, some minor textual amendments were made to enhance clarity and improve presentation.
26. Members endorsed the proposed amendments to the House Rules as detailed in the Annex to the paper.
Position report on Bills Committees/subcommittees
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1932/98-99)
27. The Chairman said that there were 16 Bills Committees and three subcommittees in action. Seven Bills Committees were on the waiting list, including the Bills Committees formed to study the Shipping and Port Control (Amendment) Bill), Protection of Wages on Insolvency (Amendment) Bill 1999, Organized and Serious Crimes (Amendment) Bill 1999, Adaptation of Laws (No.5) Bill 1999, Adaptation of Laws (No.10) Bill 1999, Trade Marks Bill and Telecommunication (Amendment) Bill 1999.
28. The Chairman added that the Bills Committee on International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill was held in abeyance pending the Administration's response to queries raised by the Bills Committee.
X. Any other business
(a) Debate on Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong's motion moved at the special House Committee meeting held in the morning of Friday, 14 May 1999 but was adjourned for debate at this House Committee meeting
(Wording of Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong's motion issued vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 1988/98-99 dated 14 May 1999 tabled at the meeting and attached in Annex
29. The Chairman said that at the special House Committee meeting held in the morning, members agreed to adjourn the debate on Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong's motion to this meeting.
30. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that despite the Committee's repeated requests for the Administration to send representatives to attend the special House Committee meeting held in the morning, including a motion in this regard passed by members at the meeting, the Administration still declined the House Committee's request. The Administration's refusal not only showed total disrespect for the Council, it was also an indication of its unwillingness to listen to outside views on the right of abode issue.
31. Mr Andrew WONG said that given the importance of the right of abode issue, other representatives of the Administration should attend the special House Committee meeting in the morning even if the Secretary for Justice (SJ) and the Secretary for Security (S for S) could not do so.
32. Miss Margaret NG considered it necessary for the Administration to listen to the views of the legal profession before coming up with a solution to the issue which had far reaching impact on Hong Kong's rule of law and judicial independence. Miss Emily LAU, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, Mr James TO, Mr LEE Wing-tat and Mr Ambrose CHEUNG concurred with Miss NG.
33. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan was of the view that members should exercise their role of monitoring the Executive Authorities, and convey the views of the public to the Administration.
34. Mr Albert HO said that it was very unusual for the Administration to decline to attend committee meetings of the Council, particularly where an issue of great significance was discussed. He further said that if members did not support Mr CHEUNG's motion, it would be difficult to expect the Administration to take the Council seriously, and this in turn would undermine the relationship between the Executive Authorities and the Legislature. Mr Martin LEE echoed Mr HO's views.
35. Mr CHAN Kam-lam said that there was no valid ground for reprimanding the Administration for not attending committee meetings of the Council, as they were not obliged to do so unless being summoned. He added that the special meetings were intended for members and not the Administration to listen to the views of outside experts. Mr TSANG Yok-sing and Dr LUI Ming-wah concurred with Mr CHAN. Mr TSANG added that there was no question of the Administration not being apprised of the views made by the legal experts and academics at the special meeting held in the morning, as such views had already been made public and debated upon.
36. Mr Ronald ARCULLI said that the Administration might have valid reasons for not sending representatives to attend the special meeting. For example, SJ and S for S might have prior commitments or that the Administration considered it not the appropriate time to respond to the issue. Mr Ambrose LAU shared Mr ARCULLI's views.
37. Mr James TIEN said that the fact that public officers had not been sent to attend the special meeting should not be taken to mean that they would not consider outside views, having regard to the fact that the Council was not the only channel for the experts in the legal profession and the academia as well as members of the public to express their views to the Administration. Mr NG Leung-sing and Miss CHOY So-yuk echoed Mr TIEN's view.
38. Mr Martin LEE enquired about what had been done in regard to inviting the Administration to attend the special meetings to discuss the right of abode issue. The Chairman responded that he had informed CS of these special meetings at their regular meeting on 10 May 1999. The LegCo Secretariat had also kept the Director of Administration closely informed of the dates of the special meetings and the deputations/individuals invited to attend.
39. In reply to Mr James TO's enquiry, the Chairman said that the Administration had not given any reason for not attending the special meeting held in the morning. The Chairman then read out a letter which had just been received from SJ, which stated that although the Department of Justice did not send any representatives to attend the special House Committee meeting held in the morning, arrangements had been made for staff of the department to closely follow the proceedings of the meeting and take note of the views expressed by various deputations.
40. Prior to taking a vote on Mr CHEUNG's motion, the Chairman informed members that the Administration had just advised the LegCo Secretariat that representatives from the Department of Justice and the Security Bureau would attend the special House Committee meeting to be held on the following day.
41. The Chairman then put Mr CHEUNG's motion to a vote. The results were 18 in favour of the motion and 26 against. The Chairman declared that Mr CHEUNG's motion was negatived.
(b) The Secretary for Justice not attending the special House Committee meeting held in the morning of 14 May 1999 and the special House Committee meeting to be held on 15 May 1999 to brief Members on her recent trip to Beijing
42. The Chairman said that during the past few days, he and the LegCo Secretariat had made repeated requests for SJ and S for S to brief members on their recent trip to Beijing. However, no definite date had been given by the Administration.
43. The Chairman informed members that he had just received a letter from SJ informing him that she would attend before the House Committee personally to brief members on the right of abode issue when it was appropriate to do so.
44. Miss Emily LAU said that SJ should brief members on the various options being considered by the Administration to resolve the issue, at the earliest possible time
45. Mr James TO said that the Administration had the responsibility to let the public know what options it was considering, and their impact on the long-term overall interests of Hong Kong. He suggested that a motion be moved urging SJ and S for S to come to brief members on their recent trip to Beijing at the special House Committee meeting to be held on the following day.
46. Mr LEE Wing-tat suggested that the Chairman should convey to the Chief Executive (CE) or CS members' request that the Administration should consult the Council first before deciding on how to deal with the right of abode issue.
47. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG said that if the Administration felt that it had difficulty in disclosing any information on the issue at this stage, consideration could be given to inviting the Administration to hear members' views on the issue, say on the following Monday.
48. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan said that given the urgency of the issue, it was incumbent upon the Administration to disclose all the relevant information, including the Central Government's views on the options of amending the Basic Law or seeking an interpretation on certain provisions of the Basic Law. He agreed that SJ and S for S should come to brief members at the earliest possible time.
49. Dr YEUNG Sum informed members that CS had said to the press after attending a special Executive Council (ExCo) meeting earlier in the day that the Administration would come up with a solution as soon as possible.
50. The Chairman suggested and members agreed that a letter should be sent to SJ urging her to brief members on her Beijing trip at the earliest possible time.
(c) The way forward on the issue of the right of abode in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of 1.675 million people in the Mainland
51. The Chairman invited members' views on the way forward in dealing with the right of abode issue, given that no more deputations/individuals had been invited to present their views after the special House Committee meeting to be held on the following day, and that the Administration had indicated that it would resolve the issue expeditiously.
52. The Chairman further referred members to two separate motions proposed by Mr James TIEN and Mr LEE Wing-tat tabled at the meeting, as follows -
Wording of the motion proposed by Mr James TIEN
53. Dr YEUNG Sum suggested that the two proposed motions be combined as one as they were not mutually exclusive. He hoped that different political parties and groups of the Council could set aside their differences and worked towards a united stance to press the Administration to consult the Council on the various options before making a final decision on the right of abode issue.
54. Mr James TIEN said that his motion was originally proposed to be moved at the special meeting to be held on the following day. Mr TIEN further said that he had no strong objection to merging his motion with that of Mr LEE.
55. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that CE should consult the Council and the public on the various options before taking a decision on the issue. Miss Emily LAU, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, Miss Cyd HO and Mr Andrew CHENG echoed Mr LEE's views.
56. Miss LAU further said that she did not understand why some members had the impression that CE in Council would make a decision on the following Tuesday. In her view, it would be totally unthinkable and unacceptable that the Administration would decide on a solution to deal with the issue, before seeking the Council's views. Miss LAU asked whether the Chairman had been given any assurance by CS that the Council would be consulted first. The Chairman responded that at his meeting with CS on 10 May 1999, he had not been given any assurance that the Administration would first seek the views of the Council before making a decision.
57. Miss CHOY So-yuk wondered how public consultation would be conducted if the Government announced its decision after the ExCo meeting on 18 May 1999.
58. Mr CHAN Kam-lam questioned the need for the Administration to consult the Council before taking a decision on the issue, having regard to the fact that different political parties and groups of the Council would meet with CE on the following day to exchange views on the issue. Mr TSANG Yok-sing and Mr NG Leung-sing concurred with Mr CHAN. Mr NG added that further consultation might not be conducive to resolving the issue given that both the Administration and most Members had already formed their views on how to resolve the issue.
59. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG pointed out that CE's meeting with different political parties and groups of the Council would be held behind closed doors. It was necessary for the Administration to openly consult the views of the Council and the public.
60. Mrs Selina CHOW said that she did not oppose to public consultation but expressed concern that public consultation would delay the tackling of the issue which had been left unresolved since the delivery of the Court of Final Appeal's judgment on 29 January 1999. Mrs CHOW further said that the most important task then was to urge the Administration to come forward with an option for consideration by the Council. On the question of merging the two proposed motions, Mrs CHOW said that the proper procedure was for Mr LEE Wing-tat to propose amendments to Mr James TIEN's motion.
61. Miss Emily LAU said that given such an important issue, Members needed time to thoroughly consider whatever options the Administration would come up with. She strongly objected to the Administration making any decision before consulting the public and the Council.
62. Mr Andrew CHENG agreed that there should be public consultation before the Administration made a decision. He pointed out that Panels were consulted on legislative and financial proposals prior to their introduction into the Council or the Finance Committee. He could not see how a decision on the right of abode issue could be made without any formal consultation with Members.
63. Miss Christine LOH questioned whether the Administration was ready to make any decision, given that there were a lot of problems and queries, including those relating to the survey findings which the Administration had yet to address satisfactorily.
64. Mr Andrew WONG proposed that the Administration should be requested to move a Government motion to seek the Council's views on the option chosen by the Administration in dealing with the right of abode issue. Mr Martin Lee, Mr Ambrose CHEUNG, Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung and Miss Christine LOH expressed support for Mr WONG's suggestion.
65. The Chairman suggested that the wording of such a motion could be along the line of "That the House Committee urges the Government to move a Government motion in the Legislative Council on its proposed direction in relation to the right of abode issue as soon as possible, stating also the reasons for rejecting other options.".
66. In reply to Mr NG Leung-sing's enquiry, the Legal Adviser said that the Government motion as suggested by Mr WONG would not have any legislative effect and its passage would only require the support of more than half of Members present at the Council meeting.
67. The Chairman proposed to move an amendment to Mr TIEN's motion using the wording he suggested in paragragh 65 above. The wording of Mr TIEN's motion as amended by the Chairman was as follows -
68. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that he would withdraw his motion in the light of the Chairman's proposed amendment to Mr TIEN's motion.
69. Mr TSANG Yok-sing suggested that the Chairman suspend the meeting for a while to enable members to consider Mr TIEN's motion and the Chairman's amendment. Members agreed.
(The meeting was suspended for ten minutes)
70. Miss Emily LAU said that she could not agree to the motion nor the amendment, as she could not accept seeking an interpretation of certain provisions of the Basic Law as an option to resolving the issue of right of abode. Moreover, there should be extensive public consultation on the Government's proposals before a decision should be made.
71. Members agreed to put the Chairman's amendment to Mr TIEN's motion to a vote. The results were 36 voted in favour of the amendment, 3 voted against it, and 1 abstained. Members then proceeded to vote on Mr TIEN's motion as amended by the Chairman. The results were 37 voted in favour of the amended motion and 4 voted against. The Chairman said that a letter would be sent to CE informing him of the motion passed by the House Committee.
72. The Chairman informed members that CS had postponed the regular meeting with him and Dr YEUNG Sum on 17 May 1999 to 19 May 1999. The Chairman added that he was not aware of the reason for the postponement.
73. Dr YEUNG Sum said that in the event that the Administration should announce its decision on how to deal with the right of abode issue next Tuesday, approval should be sought from the President for the moving of a Member's motion in this regard at the Council meeting on 19 May 1999.
74. Miss Emily LAU said that if an urgent motion debate were to be held at the Council meeting on 19 May 1999, a special meeting should be held next Tuesday to enable members to discuss the wording of the motion. Mr James TO shared Miss LAU's view.
75. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan concurred with Dr YEUNG. He further suggested that SJ and S for S should come to brief members on their recent trip to Beijing next Monday and that CE be invited to attend a meeting of the Council to discuss the issue.
76. Mr LEE Wing-tat concurred with Mr LEE and suggested that the Chairman should extend the invitation to CE in person.
77. Mr CHAN Kam-lam questioned the necessity of making arrangements for a further special meeting, as it was not certain that the Administration would announce its option after the ExCo meeting on 18 May 1999.
78. Dr YEUNG Sum and Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong suggested that, in addition to the special meeting scheduled for the afternoon on 18 May 1999, a special meeting should also be held in the morning of 17 May 1999.
79. In summing up, the Chairman proposed to write to CE inviting him to attend a meeting of the Council to discuss the right of abode issue. He would also inform CE of the motion passed by the House Committee and urge the Administration to make arrangement for SJ and S for S to brief members on their Beijing trip at the earliest possible time. Members agreed.
80. The meeting ended at 5.54 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
19 May 1999