Annex B


Summary of Queries Raised by Members and the Administration's Response
at the Special House Committee Meeting on 6 May 1999

Queries raised by MembersAdministration's response
1.Whether the Administration has drawn up any plans to tackle the problem of the impact of the arrival of 1.675 million Mainland residents with right of abode (ROA) on service provisions. The Administration has made a preliminary assessment of the implications of the arrival of eligible Mainland residents for service provisions. The drawing up of plans to deal with the problem would be the next step.

2.What is the basis for adopting the three-year time-frame for admitting the first generation of 692000 eligible persons. The Hong Kong Government has to admit the eligible persons within a reasonable time in compliance with the Court of Appeal (CFA)'s judgment. What constitutes a reasonable time-frame should be considered from the eligible persons' point of view. For instance, the lack of manpower in the Immigration Department in processing the Certificate of Entitlement applications could not be a valid reason for delaying the entry of these persons.Also, the public generally consider a three-year period as reasonable. The assumption that the first generation of 692000 would be absorbed within the next three years was used in making the assessment of service implications.

2a.Whether, given that some 253 300 flats would need to be constructed within the next seven years to cater for the intake of eligible persons, the Administration intends to abolish the seven-year residency requirement for public housing applicants The assessment of the implications on the provision of housing was made solely on the basis of the estimated figure of 1.675 million eligible persons. As the new arrivals would have housing needs irrespective of whether they are eligible for public housing, the Administration considers that it would be appropriate to make an assessment on the basis that they all need public housing.

3.The Administration should consider other options under the existing education provision, such as abandoning the target of 60% of primary schools children receiving whole-day schooling by 2002/2003 before deciding on building more primary schools to meet the demand. Assessment of service implications must be based on the basis of existing policies. The Administration therefore could not unilaterally abandon the policy of a whole-day schooling in primary schools without first consulting the parties concerned. The Administration still aims to achieve the target of 100% of primary school children receiving whole-day schooling by 2007/2008.

The reason why other contingency measures such as changing the practice of allocating primary school places from a district to a territorial basis and expanding the class size for secondary schools from 40 to 45 would be adopted was because it was virtually impossible to build the significant number of schools required to meet the demand within a three-year period.

4.The financial implications of admitting 1.675 million eligible persons (the total annual recurrent cost was estimated at $33 billion by Year 10 and a total capital cost of $710 billion within the next 10 years). In view of the current economic downturn which has brought about a deficit budget in the short term, coupled with the additional financial demand arising from the intake of eligible persons, it is envisaged that a return to balanced budgets over the medium term could not be realized. In these circumstances and based on a forecast trend growth rate of 3.5%, it is estimated that the rate of growth in government spending would exceed that of the economy as a whole by 70% by 2009/2010.

As regards public expenditure as a percentage of GDP, the 21.1% figure for 1999/2000 would likely increase to about 26% by 2009/2010. To redress such imbalance and to comply with Article 107 of the Basic Law, it would be necessary to consider the options of increasing government revenue and imposing swingeing cuts in government expenditure.

5.Why had the Administration not drawn up any plans to deal with the implications of the ROA since 1984 when the Sino/British Joint Declaration was signed; the issue of ROA "has not suddenly arisen from nowhere". The Administration's assessment sets out the impact on service provisions if all the 1.675 million eligible persons exercise their ROA to come to Hong Kong.

There are people who hold the view that the issue "has arisen from nowhere".

It is a well-known fact that there are different interpretations of Article 24 of the Basic Law in the community, even after the delivery of the CFA's judgment. This is mainly attributable to the fact that Article 24 was intentionally written in a loose manner to enable the HKSAR Government to make laws to set out the detailed implementation provisions later on.

Prior to the reunification, the Sino/British Joint Liaison Group had reached a consensus on the ROA issue. The Preparatory Committee (PC) made reference to such consensus to form their views on how Article 24 should be enforced.Although the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) accepted the PC's interpretations on Article 24, the CFA did not consider such interpretations as having any legislative effect because they were not enacted by the Standing Committee of the NPC.

6.Whether the one-year residency rule for new arrivals to become eligible for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) has been taken into account in arriving at the estimate that the additional yearly expenditure for social security will be $3.5 billion. A number of the new arrivals have parents in Hong Kong who are Hong Kong permanent residents and already in receipt of CSSA. These parents can apply for CSSA in respect of their Mainland children immediately upon their arrival in Hong Kong.

The estimate of $3.5 billion represents the annual recurrent expenditure in social security by the end of the first seven years. The estimate was worked out according to Social Welfare Department's records that about 14% of the new arrivals are on CSSA.

7.Whether the assessment on service implications outlined by the Administration serves to indicate that it is beyond the Government's capability to absorb even a significantly smaller number than the estimated number of 1.675 million eligible Mainland residents. Some people may have different assumptions on the number of eligible Mainland residents who would come to settle in Hong Kong. Different assumptions will give rise to different assessment of implications on the provision of services. The Administration's assessment of service implications was worked out according to assumptions which are considered by the Administration to be more realistic.

8.Whether, given the Administration's assessment that 876000 new arrivals will be added to the labour force and that a total of 125000 basic skills/pre-employment training places will be provided over the next 10 years, the Administration has assumed that the remaining 750000 new arrivals are skilled workers or whether the Administration will rely on the private sector to provide the necessary vocational training. Vocational training consists of two parts, i.e. basic skills/pre-employment training and retraining. Some 123000 basic skills/pre-employment training places and 823000 retraining places will be provided over the next 10 years. The Administration will assess whether it will be necessary to set aside part of the retraining places for basic skills/pre-employment training in the light of actual demand.

The question of whether new arrivals after training or retraining will be able to secure employment will depend on whether a sufficient number of new jobs will be created which, in turn, will be dependent upon the state of the economy.

9.Whether the Administration has assessed how many of the 876000 new arrivals of working age are without any job skills. The Administration has no knowledge of the job skills of the 876000 new arrivals who will be added to the labour force. Assuming that the new arrivals have reached secondary school level, about 90% of them are expected to require retraining.
10.A full-scale household survey should be conducted on the total population in Hong Kong to collect accurate data on the number of mainlanders with ROA in Hong Kong. Half of the 20000 samples have been covered as at mid-April. Samples already covered form a separate and scientific random sample by itself and can be used to draw inference on the overall situation. Sample size is not small by international standard.

It would be more appropriate to use specially trained enumerators to conduct surveys on randomly-selected samples to obtain specifically required data. To conduct a full-scale survey would require 10000 - 20000 specially trained enumerators. It would take time to train such a large number of skilled enumerators.

11.Why the "20-49" age group in the Annex to the paper on "Estimates of the number of mainlanders with right of abode in Hong Kong" covers a much wider age group that the others given in the Annex. The "20-49" age group covers those of working age.

The "6-11" and "12-19" age groups cover children of primary school age and secondary school age respectively. The "50-59" and "60+" age groups cover elderly persons.

12.Why the number of "children born out of registered marriage" is higher than the number of "children born within registered marriage" (the table in para.3 of the paper on "Estimates of the number of mainlanders with right of abode in Hong Kong" refers). The figure of 172000 given in the table does not include the 102000 persons with ROA prior to CFA's ruling. Also, the number of this category of children has decreased over the years because some have arrived under the One-way Permit (OWP) system.

The results from the survey conducted from November 1995 to January 1996 showed there were 320000 children born in the Mainland and still live there. This number did not include "children born out of registered marriage". A considerable number of the 320000 persons have already arrived under the OWP system over the last three years, but this has been offset to a certain extent by new-borns added to this category. This figure corresponds broadly to the figure of 274000 of first generation of "children born within registered marriage" given in the table.

Regarding the figure of 520000 "children born out of registered marriage", not all of them have been born to "mistresses" or "extra-marital relationship". A considerable number of them were born to "de facto marriage" in the Mainland. Up to the early 90's, a large number of persons who have children did not go through any formal marriage registration.

13.Reservations have been expressed on the accuracy of figures on "children born out of registered marriage" obtained under the "randomized response technique" (RRT) in respect of half of the 9200 households already covered up to mid-April. Experience obtained from the survey completed on the 9200 households indicated that enumerators encountered difficulties in using the "direct questioning method" in collecting data on the question concerning "children born out of registered marriage". The enumerators' feedback was that the "direct questioning method" was a complete failure, as respondents generally felt embarrassed or held a perfunctory attitude when being asked the question. Thus the number of "children born out of registered marriage" established via the "direct questioning method" cannot be relied on.

14.The Commissioner for Census and Statistics (C for C & S) should provide to Members a copy of the report covering the analysis of the answers by respondents to the question relating to "children born out of registered marriage" under the RRT. C for C & S has explained that the RRT was a very sophisticated technique which is adopted by the statistical profession in tackling issues with a high degree of sensitivity in a survey. Individual Members wishing to know more about the RRT could approach C for C & S who would explain the RRT to them in detail.

Legislative Council Secretariat
7 May 1999