Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)1299/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/PL/EA/1

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting
held on Friday, 5 March 1999, at 8:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Christine LOH (Chairman)
Hon HUI Cheung-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP

Public officers attending :

For all items

Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

For item V only

Mr Howard CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Ms Wendy KO
Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Principal Environmental Protection Officer
(Noise Management and Policy)
Environmental Protection Department

For item VI only

Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Dr David HA
Senior Environmental Protection Officer
(Waste Policy and Services)
Environmental Protection Department

Mr Patrick C K LEI
Principal Environmental Protection Officer
(Waste Policy and Services)
Environmental Protection Department

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper Nos. CB(1)910 and 966/98-99)

The minutes of meetings held on 8 and 11 December 1998 were confirmed.

II Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. Members agreed to discuss the following items proposed by the Administration at the next regular meeting of the Panel which was rescheduled for Monday, 29 March 1999, at 10:45 am -

  1. Proposal to further tighten light duty vehicle emission standards and to introduce emission standards for motorcycles; and

  2. Extension of Innovative Energy Efficient Equipment Pilot Programme for Government buildings.

3. Members agreed that another item proposed by the Administration on "Measures to minimize the impact of a proposed road project on the ecology of the Tai Ho Stream" would be included for discussion under the subject of "Conservation Strategy for Lantau" at a later stage.

4. Referring to a submission entitled "Restructuring Hong Kong's Power Sector and Maintaining Environmental Priorities" provided by the Friends of the Earth (FOE), the Chairman suggested and members agreed to discuss the subject at the next meeting provided that FOE accepted the invitation. (Post-meeting note-: Since the Economic Services Panel had decided to invite FOE to express their views when the consultancy study on the interconnection system between the two power companies was discussed, the Chairman decided not to discuss the subject for the time being. The Panel would consider at a later stage the need to discuss the subject from the environmental perspective.)

5. Mr LAU Kong-wah said that he noted from press reports a research conducted by an academic of the City University of Hong Kong on the quality of Dongjiang water. Since the subject would be further discussed by the Panel, he suggested requesting the academic to provide a copy of the research findings for members' reference and providing the Administration's paper on the subject to him for comment.

(Post-meeting note: The LegCo Secretariat had separately written to Dr H Y CHEUNG of the City University of Hong Kong and Dr K C HO of the Open University of Hong Kong requesting them to provide a copy of their research reports and to comment on the test results of Dongjiang water as provided by the Administration.)

6. Mrs Miriam LAU said that the Financial Secretary indicated in the Budget Speech that he was prepared to exempt auto-Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from the payment of duty. Other than that, he had not made any commitment on the provision of financial incentives to encourage the switch from diesel to LPG taxis. She reiterated the need for the introduction of financial incentives because the taxi trade had expressed difficulty in making further financial outlay to comply with the LPG Scheme under the present economic situation. She sought information on the latest position of the matter and when the Administration was ready to brief members.

7. The Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (DS/PEL) said that the Administration was ready to report the progress of the LPG Scheme. The major issues which had yet to be resolved were the location of LPG filling stations and the cost of LPG, which had to be cheaper than diesel in order to encourage the switch. Provided that the fuel companies were willing to lower the price of LPG, the Administration was prepared to exempt auto-LPG from the payment of duty to ensure the competitive price of LPG as compared with that of diesel. DS/PEL said that the Administration was aware of the concerns expressed by the taxi trade about the need for the provision of financial incentives and so far this had not been ruled out. The Administration would be able to report in April 1999 after it had completed talks with the fuel companies.

(Post-meeting note: the Administration suggested and the Chairman and Mrs Miriam LAU agreed to discuss the LPG Scheme in June 1999.)

III Information papers issued since last meeting

8. Members noted the following information papers issued since the last meeting -

  1. LC Paper No. CB(1)930/98-99 - a report entitled "Restructuring Hong Kong's Power Sector and Maintaining Environmental Priorities" provided by FOE; and

  2. LC Paper No. CB(1)960/98-99 - discussion papers for the Advisory Council on the Environment entitled "Heading towards sustainability" and "Amendment to the Waste Disposal Ordinance".

IV The work programme for developing environmental policy
(LC Paper No. CB(1)937/98-99(01))

9. At the invitation of the Chairman, DS/PEL briefly explained the work programme for developing new environmental policies and initiatives. He said that back in 1989, there was a White Paper with an action programme on the environment which determined the agenda for the 1990s. The action programme had almost been completed with the publication of the Waste Reduction Framework Plan and the setting up of the Waste Reduction Committee. The old approach of mitigating emissions coming from economic activities was not working. While there was a high level of public awareness of particular problems, this had not been translated into willingness to take actions. The reasons could possibly be that people did not fully understand the choices available. There was a need to involve more people in the process of determining and setting environmental objectives and building up public understanding on the choices which should be made to improve the environment. The excessive emissions and waste were a reflection of inefficient economic activities. The deteriorating environment had not only deterred foreign business investments but had also discouraged some people who were born and raised in Hong Kong to stay and live here. Much greater quantitative improvements in environmental performance were needed for Hong Kong's economy and society. To help the process start, the Administration would be holding two forums on 10 and 11 March 1999. All LegCo Members and their assistants, as well as political groups, business associations, community groups, professional and academic institutions, had been invited to attend. An introductory presentation would be given on the challenges that confronted Hong Kong's environment and on the general nature of changes that would be needed to achieve environmental improvement. Participants would then be invited to join in discussion on the types of objectives that should be set for a quality environment. They would also be invited to join or contribute proposals to a number of working groups that would be set up to consider particular areas of environmental performance. The proposals developed by the working groups would be used as the basis for preparing a Green Paper on new environmental policies to be issued by November 1999 for wider public consultation. Taking account of public responses to the Green Paper and the indicators derived from the Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21), the Administration would refine the proposals and issue a White Paper which would set the environmental agenda for the new century. It was expected that the White Paper would be published in the year 2000.

10. DS/PEL said he had proposed that three working groups be set up to consider the following areas of environmental performance -

  1. improving the urban environment

    The focus would be on urban issues such as city planning and waste collection;

  2. conserving a productive and vibrant natural environment

    The main concerns would be on nature conservation and preservation of biodiversity; and

  3. making efficient use of resources

    Issues such as waste recycling, energy conservation, and better building designs to reduce materials would be looked into.

DS/PEL said that subject to the views of the community, more working groups could be formed. There would be a co-ordinator for each working group and secretarial support would be provided by the Administration. Participants would be asked to meet over the period from end of March to end of June 1999, and to prepare reports that could be shared with all participants. More forums could then be organized to allow the working groups to report on their work.

11. On the details of the forums, DS/PEL informed that the two forums held in March 1999 would be chaired by two Executive Councillors, namely Mr LEUNG Chun-ying and Dr Raymond CHIEN. There would be an initial presentation on the pressures that Hong Kong was facing and what needed to be done. To stimulate discussion, people interested in different aspects of environmental problems would be invited to talk about their vision and what they would like to achieve. Representatives of some major companies and green groups would also be giving presentations. Mr Ronnie WONG of the Environmental Campaign Committee would speak on environmental awareness. Interaction among participants would be the key of those forums. Participants had been provided with information papers and a response form to indicate issues to be raised. The ideas coming up from the forums would be reported back to all the participants.

12. Responding to the Chairman's enquiry on the extent of Government involvement in these forums, DS/PEL said that all Government bureaux and departments had been invited to send representatives to attend. The Administration would like to change the public idea that only Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau were responsible for environmental performance. Every Government bureau and department had some impact on the environment through their programmes and policies. There was a strong motivation for Government representatives to attend as each bureau and department had to publish environmental reports from 1999-2000 financial year onward. So far, there had been a good response from those who were invited to attend.

13. Mrs Miriam LAU said that she supported holding forums and involving the community in the discussion on environmental policies, she was however concerned that the actual implementation of policies was easier said than done. She considered it necessary to involve parties to be affected by the relevant policies in the early stages of planning. For example, the bus companies and the truck industry which were the major polluters must be involved in discussing vehicle emission strategies. DS/PEL agreed that affected parties should be involved in the planning of policies. The difficulty encountered was the large number of organizations involved in the transport trade. He confirmed that representatives of the bus companies and the truck industry had been invited to the forums and three transport representatives would attend the forums. He shared Mrs LAU's view that having discussions with academics without the participation of affected parties would not solve environmental problems.

14. Mr CHAN Wing-chan was concerned if consultants would be employed in collating and analysing the ideas put forward by the working groups for the compilation of the White Paper on the environment. DS/PEL said that consultants would not be involved in the process to develop environmental policies. Instead of relying on consultants' advice, the Administration considered it more useful to come in direct contact with the community to get information on what was needed. However, it was likely that some ideas put forward by the working groups might involve detailed economic analysis, and at that stage, consultancy studies on a particular proposal might be required. DS/PEL stressed that in view of Hong Kong's uniqueness, it was difficult to apply overseas experience to resolve the pressures which were facing Hong Kong. Therefore, problems would have to be addressed in the context of the local situation and the people of Hong Kong would need to be involved in giving their ideas. The new approach emphasising consultation and consensus within the community would be helpful.

15. On Mr CHAN Wing-chan's further enquiry on the possibility of engaging consultants in any part of the process, DS/PEL reiterated that there was no need for consultancy in developing environmental policies. Consultants would only be needed when there was a concrete programme. At the present stage, the Administration was only receiving views from the public. Whilst some members of consultancy associations had been invited to participate in the forums, they would be acting in their individual but not professional capacity. The Administration would use existing resources to organize the forums, serve the working groups, and prepare the Green Paper and the White Paper. There would be no resource implications for the proposed programme. The Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau should be the resource for developing environmental policies. As real improvements required the engagement of people, access to information was important. The Bureau would be providing information to the people on what went wrong and what were the opportunities. It would also set targets for improvement and provide supporting measures to help reach these targets.

16. Noting the on-going studies on sustainable development as well as transport-related issues, Mrs Miriam LAU was concerned about integration of these studies in developing environmental policies. DS/PEL said that before adopting an integrated approach to formulate policies, it was necessary to know the aspirations of the community. SUSDEV 21 would identify these aspirations and develop indicators which would be useful tools to every bureau. It would provide ideas on how policies on the environment, transport and housing could be integrated to maximize environmental, economic and social benefits. The ideas put forward in the forums could be tested against the indicators provided by SUSDEV 21 which would be available within the year. These indicators would help in developing the environmental agenda to make Hong Kong a better place to live in.

17. In response to the Chairman's concern about the high costs for SUSDEV 21, DS/PEL agreed to provide information on a breakdown on the costs.

(Post meeting note: A breakdown on the costs for SUSDEV 21 was provided by the Administration and circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)1097/98-99.)

18. As regards the Chairman's enquiry about the role of the Panel in the process of developing environmental policies, DS/PEL said that he would need to reflect on this. In any case, all LegCo Members and their assistants would be invited to the forums in their personal capacity to contribute ideas in developing environmental policies. He would make a report to the Panel on the work of the working groups after they had formulated proposals. Admin.

19. Mr HUI Cheung-ching said that he agreed that it was necessary to implement good environmental policies to improve living conditions, he was however concerned about possible financial burden on the business community, thereby reducing the competitiveness of Hong Kong. DS/PEL said that the Administration was trying to find a win-win situation such that the business community could engage in activities which were both beneficial to the environment and the economy. The business community was aware of the adverse effects of environmental pollution and was keen to adopt good environmental practices. It had been shown that apart from bringing benefits to the environment, good environmental practices would bring about economic returns. The Administration would make effort to demonstrate these opportunities to the business community. This was considered the right approach and was far more preferable and effective than applying control and enforcement actions.

20. As waste reduction was one of the key issues under SUSDEV 21, Mr CHAN Wing-chan sought information on the progress of incineration of waste. DS/PEL advised that the Administration was in the final stage of receiving a report on the setting up of incinerators. The report would cover issues of financing, site selection and institutional arrangements to operate the incinerators. The reports would be discussed by the Waste Reduction Committee and after that, the Administration would brief the Panel.

21. Mr CHAN Wing-chan said that LegCo Members recently visited Japan and were very impressed with the incineration facilities there. He called on the Administration to make reference to Japan in setting up incinerators in Hong Kong.

V Proposed amendments to the Noise Control Ordinance, Cap. 400
(LC Paper No. CB(1)937/98-99(02))

22. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment 1) (PAS/PEL(E1) briefly explained the Administration's proposal to amend the Noise Control Ordinance (NCO) to specify explicitly that when an offence under NCO was committed by a body corporate, the top management of the body corporate could be held liable for the offence. He advised that the existing provisions of NCO were ineffective to deter repeated violations possibly because the corporate management was not held personally liable for the action of its companies. In the past three years, 44 bodies corporate were convicted five times or more under NCO. Twelve of these bodies corporate had more than ten convictions. To deter repeated violations, the Administration considered it necessary to amend NCO to place unambiguously the onus of compliance with the provisions of NCO on the top management of a body corporate. The proposed amendments would include explicit statutory defence provisions for the corporate management, except for an offence related to the carrying out of construction works without a construction noise permit. A Code of Practice would be issued to guide the industry in exercising due diligence to prevent violations under NCO. Subject to further consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment and approval from the Executive Council, the Administration intended to introduce the proposed amendments to LegCo in May 1999.

23. On the consultation process, the Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Noise Management and Policy) (PEPO) advised that the construction industry had been notified in mid-February 1999 about the proposed amendments and the Administration had not received any feedback nor strong objection so far. PAS/PEL(E1) added that to hold the top management personally liable for an environmental offence committed by a body corporate was not a new proposal. There were similar provisions for example under section 29 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance, Cap. 499 and section 47A of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance, Cap. 311.

24. Mr CHAN Wing-chan pointed out that apart from the construction industry, other trades which emitted noise in the course of carrying out activities should also be consulted on the proposed amendment. PAS/PEL(E1) said that the application of NCO was not confined to construction sites but to other noisy activities. PEPO added that industrial/commercial noise was dealt with separately from construction noise. Operators of businesses which emanated noise exceeding the stipulated limits in their premises would be first issued with noise abatement notices. Prosecution would be taken only if they failed to take remedial measures within the period specified in the notice. Hence, the proposed amendments would not have serious impacts on non-construction industries.

25. Responding to Mr CHAN Wing-chan's enquiry on penalties for contravention of NCO, PAS/PEL(E1) clarified that commission of offences under NCO attracted criminal liabilities and fines irrespective of whether the convicted body was a corporate or an individual. The convicted however was not liable for imprisonment under the existing penalties. The proposed amendments did not attempt to change the penalties but to state explicitly that when the offender under NCO was a body corporate, the top management of that body corporate would commit a like offence. Separate proceedings would be instituted against the body corporate and the top management.

26. Mrs Miriam LAU was of the view that the proposed amendments were contentious and would have serious repercussions. She considered it necessary to consult the affected parties extensively. Given the number of construction works undertaken year by year, Mrs LAU queried whether the problem was serious enough to justify a change to the existing legislation as only 44 bodies corporate were convicted five times or more under NCO for the past three years. Moreover, with the complex system of sub-contraction, it was unclear from the proposed amendments as to which level of contractors should be held responsible for the noise offences. Mrs LAU suggested that as an alternative measure, the Administration might consider imposing heavier fines for repeated violations to enhance the deterrent effect. The increase in fines would add up to the project costs and the management of a body corporate would take extra care in avoiding repeated violations.

27. PAS/PEL(E1) replied in response that the proposed amendments to NCO were not targeted at repeated offenders only. They were meant to hold the top management of a body corporate liable for noise offences. The necessity for such proposals was evident from an analysis of the conviction records. Of the 410 conviction cases under NCO for the year 1998, 199 were first conviction and 211 subsequent conviction. Of the first conviction cases, 118 cases or 60% were bodies corporate and 81 cases were either sole proprietors or individuals. Of the subsequent conviction cases, 97% or 205 cases were bodies corporate and only 6 cases were sole proprietors or individuals. These figures clearly showed that the corporate management of some companies did not appear to have given due regard to NCO possibly because they were not held personally liable for the actions of their companies. Although the EPD continued with its efforts to promote environmental awareness of corporate management, the effects were not visible. There was hence a need to bring NCO in line with other environmental legislation to hold the management liable for offences committed by the body corporate. The proposed amendments would help promote changes in corporate philosophy with regard to environmental compliance and reduce the possibility of repeated violations.

28. Regarding the proposal of imposing scale fines for repeated convictions, PAS/PEL(E1) advised that this had already been the case under the existing NCO. In fact, the maximum fines under NCO were doubled in 1994 but this had not produced sufficient deterrence against repeated violations. PEPO added that the maximum fine under NCO was $100,000 for first conviction and $200,000 for second or subsequent conviction. The highest fine imposed for repeated conviction of construction noise offences in 1998 was $160,000 and the average fine was around $26,000.

29. Mrs Miriam LAU requested the Administration to provide a breakdown on the amount of fines imposed by court for first and subsequent conviction under NCO in the past few years. She said that such information would shed light on why the fines imposed had failed to achieve a deterrent effect. While agreeing to provide the requisite information, PAS/PEL(E1) pointed out that the amount of fines was decided by court. In the Administration's view, the crux of the issue was not the amount of fines imposed but the fact that the management of a body corporate was not held personally liable for the offences. The proposed amendments would encourage the corporate management to establish and operate a proper management system to prevent breaches of NCO.

30. Mrs Miriam LAU remained of the view that the Administration should exhaust possible means to deter violations of the law before resorting to making legislative amendments to hold the corporate management liable for an offence. Should the Administration consider the amount of fines imposed by court too low vis-a-vis the severity of the offence, it could seek for a review of the sentence. The Administration could also apprise the court of the severity of the problem. Where appropriate, it could make amendments to increase the maximum fines. PAS/PEL(E1) said that to enable the court to better understand the severity and extent of the noise problem, EPD had briefed the judicial officers on the importance of NCO, the enforcement situation, and the effects of noise offences on residents. However, he stressed that the independence of the judiciary had to be respected and the ultimate decision on the amount of fines imposed rested with the court. PEPO added that EPD briefed the Judiciary on the operation of NCO in 1993 and 1996.

31. Mr HUI Cheung-ching shared Mrs Miriam LAU's concern about the level of management which should be held liable for an offence. He suggested that contractors repeatedly convicted of offences under NCO should be disqualified from bidding Government contracts. PAS/PEL(E1) said that he believed under the existing arrangement, the works departments already had a mechanism in place to assess the environmental performance of their contractors including the latter's performance under the NCO. PEPO added that under the existing practice, charges would be brought against the main contractor for contravention of NCO because he had the overall responsibility for managing the works site notwithstanding the subcontraction of the works.

32. Dr LEONG Che-hung was concerned about hearing losses resulting from prolonged exposure to high level of noise. He sought information on comparison on hearing capability of employees before and after they joined an occupation the working environment of which was noisy. Such information would assist in establishing the effect of prolonged exposure to excessive noise. If the adverse effects could be substantiated by statistical evidence, then there would be a cause for tightening control on noise polluting activities.

33. PAS/PEL(E1) advised that there was an increasing trend of violations against NCO by corporate institutions as shown by the conviction records, totalling 252 cases in 1996, 445 cases in 1997 and 410 cases in 1998. DS/PEL added that the Labour Department had kept records on workers suffering from hearing impairment which was attributed to occupation and these could be made available to members for reference.

34. Noting the Administration's intention to introduce the proposed legislative amendments to LegCo in May 1999, Mrs Miriam LAU expressed concern that there had not been adequate consultation with the industry, nor was there a broad consensus reached amongst members of the Panel to support their introduction. The Chairman said that she accepted in principle the spirit of the proposed amendments, but concurred with members on the need for adequate consultation. Members agreed to further discuss the subject at the next Panel meeting on 29 March 1999.

VI Proposed amendments to the Waste Disposal Ordinance, Cap 354
(LC Paper No. CB(1)937/98-99)

35. The Chairman drew members' attention to a submission from the Estate Doctors Association which was tabled at the meeting. The Association strongly objected against the imposing of rigid conditions on health care providers and users under the proposed Clinical Waste Control Scheme (CWCS).

(Post-meeting note: A copy of the submission was circulated to members of the Panel under LC Paper No. CB(1)978/98-99)

36. At the invitation of the Chairman, The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment 2) (PAS/PEL(E2) briefly explained the proposed amendments to the Waste Disposal Ordinance (WDO) as detailed in the Administration's paper. PAS/PEL(E2) stressed that under the proposed CWCS, only light-hand control would be imposed on the part of Government. The scheme would rely on professional discipline. Regulations would be made to control collection and transportation of clinical waste and the disposal facilities. Hospitals and medical institutions should look after their own internal arrangements under the guidelines to be agreed by the medical institutions, the medical associations and EPD. PAS/PEL(E2) said that as the submission from the Estate Doctors Association was brought to his attention just before the meeting, he would need time to consider the issues raised before giving comments. He stressed that details of the proposed CWCS had yet to be finalised and inputs from the Estate Doctors Association were welcome. The Administration planned to introduce the Waste Disposal (Amendment) Bill to LegCo in June 1999.

37. Dr LEONG Che-hung declared interest as the representative of the medical functional constituency. Referring to paragraph 15 of the paper on publicity and public consultation of CWCS, Dr LEONG said that there was general support from the medical profession on the need for proper clinical waste disposal and he had no doubts about the extensiveness of the consultation. However, problems arose in the discussions between the medical profession and EPD on the implementation of CWCS through the introduction of a Code of Practice (COP). There was a general consensus on the first phase of CWCS which would involve major clinical waste producers. The problem rested with the second phase under which CWCS would be extended to cover small clinical waste producers. The medical profession was concerned whether small clinical waste producers could practically comply with COP. Dr LEONG said that paragraph 3.2 of the draft COP stated that if minor clinical waste producers could demonstrate that they had established a satisfactory level of control by means of self-regulation, implementation of the second phase of CWCS might be held in abeyance. This was a basic agreement reached between the medical profession and EPD concerning the implementation or otherwise of the second phase of CWCS. However, the Administration seemed to go back on this agreement as the paper stated that the Administration intended to proceed to the second phase but only at a later stage. In this connection, Dr LEONG sought clarification on whether the Administration would be withholding the implementation of the second phase of CWCS if self-regulation on the part of minor clinical waste producers was satisfactory. He further pointed out that COP under CWCS was not practical for minor clinical waste producers. Minor clinical waste producers found it difficult to comply with requirements such as the need to provide separate lockable storage cabinets and separate refrigerators for storage of clinical waste and to weigh and keep records of the waste which were being stored.

38. In response, PAS/PEL(E2) confirmed that if minor clinical waste producers were able to demonstrate satisfactory self-regulation, the second phase of CWCS would be held in abeyance. The Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Waste Policy and Services) added that in the course of discussions with Estate Doctors Association and the Hong Kong Medical Association (HKMA) on the implementation of CWCS, members of the medical profession indicated that COP was suitable for large but not minor clinical waste producers. The agreement reached was that COP would apply to major clinical waste producers under the first phase of CWCS. As for minor clinical waste producers, they would be subject to self-regulation in the first place. Noting that HKMA had issued a set of guidelines for reference by all its members, EPD agreed to study these guidelines and make suitable amendments regarding proper disposal of clinical waste. It was expected that the revised guidelines would provide guidance to minor clinical waste producers on clinical waste disposal.

39. Dr LEONG Che-hung was glad to learn that the Administration would not proceed to the second phase of CWCS if minor clinical waste producers exercised proper self-discipline in disposing of clinical waste. He hoped that the Administration would continue its dialogue with the medical profession in order to come up with a set of practical and workable COP. He was aware that some suggested amendments to the draft COP by HKMA had not been accepted by EPD. He called on the Administration to work with both the medical profession and the patients who were small clinical waste producers in some cases to find an amicable solution to the problem of clinical waste disposal. PAS/PEL(E2) gave an undertaking to work with the relevant parties.

40. Referring to paragraphs 6 and 7 of the paper, Mr CHAN Wing-chan expressed concern that Hong Kong might become a dumping ground for international waste if waste which was imported for re-export or transshipment for recycling was stranded in Hong Kong for whatever reasons and was allowed to be disposed of in local landfills. Mr CHAN enquired about the possibility of banning import of waste to Hong Kong.

41. PAS/PEL(E2) said that at present, WDO provided for the control of import and export of hazardous or contaminated waste before any shipment took place. The owner of the waste must obtain a permit from the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) in advance of the shipment. DEP would not issue the permit unless the competent authorities of the receiving country or the originating country gave pre-approval for acceptance. Therefore, the import and export of hazardous and contaminated waste were tightly controlled. However, there were slight problems in the control of other wastes which were traded internationally through Hong Kong for environmental reasons. This trade, which amounted to $20 billion a year, should be encouraged. Although the existing provisions of WDO prohibited the import of waste for the purpose of disposal, there was no control over the import and export of waste for reuse and recycle. The proposed amendments to WDO aimed at dealing with cases where, at the time of import, the intention was to recycle or re-export but subsequently there had been changes which led to the stranding of the waste in Hong Kong. Under the existing system, it was often difficult to prosecute successfully since the waste owners did not have the mens rea (the guilty intent) to commit the offence of importing for the purpose of disposal at the time of import. To close this loophole, it was proposed that importers or owners of any imported non-hazardous waste must obtain an authorisation from DEP before they could dispose of the waste at any local waste disposal facilities. If the waste owner failed to seek proper authorisation but disposed of the waste in local landfills, he would be prosecuted. DS/PEL added that the presumption was against disposal. DEP would only give an authorisation if the importer or owner could prove that it was impractical to return the waste to the country of export and that he had explored but had been unsuccessful in identifying other outlets to reuse, reprocess or recycle in a manner acceptable to DEP.

42. The Chairman remarked that the amendments relating to the disposal of imported waste and the Basel Ban were relatively simple. However, the amendments relating to the control of clinical waste would be controversial. She enquired about the timeframe for the introduction of the amendments and the associated regulations in respect of CWCS. PAS/PEL(E2) agreed that the amendments relating to the control of clinical waste would be the issue of most interest to members. Since drafting of the regulations on CWCS was subject to the work progress of the Law Draftsman, the Administration planned to introduce the amendments to WDO first in June 1999. The regulations would be expected to be completed in summer. The Chairman hoped that the regulations would be ready when the amendments to WDO were scrutinized by LegCo.

VII Any other business

43. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:40 am.

Legislative Council Secretariat
7 May 1999