Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)2857/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/HA

LegCo Panel on Home Affairs

Minutes of special meeting
held on Monday, 29 March 1999 at 4:30 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon CHOY So-yuk (Chairman)
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon Christine LOH
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP

Members Absent :

Hon Albert HO Chun-yan (Deputy Chairman)
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP

Member Attending :

Hon Fred LI Wah-ming

Public Officers Attending :

Mr David LAN
Secretary for Home Affairs

Mr NG Sek-hon
Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs (Culture and Sport)

Mr NGAI Wing-chit
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Miss Flora TAI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. New Structure for culture and sports
[File Ref : HAB CS/CR 1/1/124]

The Chairman informed members that the Administration had briefed the Panel at a meeting on 8 March 1999 about the public consultation exercise conducted by Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) on the new administrative framework for culture, arts, recreation and sports services. The Administration subsequently released the Consultant Report and the Administration's Initial Responses on 26 March 1999 to Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo). The purpose of the meeting was to follow up on the concerns raised by members particularly those relating to the independent Consultant's Report on the new structure for culture and sports. At the Chairman's invitation, Secretary for Home Affairs (SHA) highlighted the key points in the Legislative Council Brief on Review of District Organizations : New Institutional Framework for Arts and Culture, Sports and Recreation. SHA informed members that the Administration was examining the 35 main recommendations in the Consultant's Report on Culture, the Arts, Recreation and Sports Services, and the following three main recommendations had been accepted as the basis for the new framework -

  1. a new Department should be set up under HAB to take over the Provisional Municipal Councils' (PMCs') main responsibilities in arts and culture, sports and recreation;

  2. a non-statutory high-level Culture and Heritage Commission (the Commission) should be set up to advise Government on the formulation of the overall cultural policy and on broad funding priorities for arts and culture; and

  3. the Administration should bring in more private sector management initiative into the new Department by contracting out a wider spectrum of services.

SHA stressed that the overall objective was to reduce Government's direct involvement and to bring in more private sector initiative in the delivery of arts and culture, sports and recreation services.

2. The Chairman invited questions from members and requested the Administration to respond. The gist of the ensuing discussion is summarized in the following paragraphs.

Public participation in the new structure for culture and sports

3. Ms HO Sau-lan expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Consultant's recommendations. She said that setting up a new government department to take over the main responsibilities of the PMCs would defeat the purpose of enhancing public participation. SHA responded that the future Culture and Heritage Commission would also provide for public participation, as most of its members would be unofficials who possessed knowledge, experience and interest in culture. The only government officials representing on the Commission would be SHA and the Director of Leisure & Cultural Services. Referring to paragraphs 5, 7 and 8 of the Administration's Initial Responses (Annex B to LegCo Brief), SHA said that the new structure provided new venues for expert and community participation in the management of arts and cultural services. Ms HO Sau-lan disagreed with the Administration's argument, pointing out that the Commission would only have an advisory role as the policy-making power would be centralized in the hands of Government. Moreover, the Commission would not comprise any elected members. SHA responded that the Administration did not preclude the possibility of appointing some elected members to the Commission.

4. Mr Fred LI also expressed disappointment that the Consultant's Report had not explained the reasons and benefits for replacing PMCs with a new government department. He asked the Administration to explain what improvements would be brought about by the change. SHA clarified that it was not the responsibility of HAB to determine the future of PMCs, but the Chief Executive's 1998 Policy Address had given direction in this respect. SHA considered that there would be increased accountability of the new Department in the provision of cultural and recreational services, as its funding would require LegCo approval while PMCs were financially autonomous. The Chairman remarked that the existing municipal services departments were also accountable to the elected councils. Mr Fred LI opined that the new structure would lead to Government steering the direction of cultural and recreational development with reduced public participation. This would hamper the development of culture, arts, recreation and sports in the long run. SHA reiterated that up to 10 members of the Culture and Heritage Commission would be drawn from the business, professionals, the management, the arts community, and supporters of cultural programmes, etc. It would be for the public to judge whether the Commission members or the elected members of PMCs would make more contribution to the development of culture and sports. He stressed that one main objective of the Commission was to co-ordinate the efforts of various sectors in the provision of cultural services, in order to address the problem of fragmentation in the existing structure of culture. SHA emphasized that Government was committed to facilitating the long-term development of culture and arts, based on the principles of freedom of expression and creativity and pluralistic development of arts.

The Culture and Heritage Commission

5. Mr CHENG Kai-nam commented that the role of the proposed Culture and Heritage Commission was unclear. He was worried that, without a specific, concrete role for the Commission, it would simply become one of the many advisory bodies to the Government. Mr MA Fung-kwok shared similar concerns. Mr CHENG Kai-nam was of the view that, as a high-level advisory body, the Commission should concentrate more on policy formulation. He criticized that while the Consultant's Report gave a detailed account on promotion of culture in tourism, it failed to address some important aspects such as the future direction for cultural development and international exchanges.

6. In response, SHA said that the operation of the Commission would be similar to that of the Education Commission, and its members would be drawn from the experts and practitioners in the arts and culture community. He agreed with Mr CHENG Kai-nam that the function of culture was not limited to promotion of tourism, and that the Commission should advise the Government on broader policy issues. On the membership of the Commission, SHA said that the Chairmen of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Antiquities Advisory Board and Council of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts would be appointed to the Commission to provide the necessary co-ordination among these statutory bodies. In this regard, Mr MA Fung-kwok expressed concern that their appointment might lead to conflict of interest, as the Commission would advise on broad funding priorities for these statutory bodies. Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs (DS(HA)) replied that the Administration had considered carefully whether potential conflict of interest would arise and concluded that their appointment would be necessary for the effective co-ordination of services by the Commission. As there would be a maximum number of 17 members on the Commission, the possibility of conflict of interest should be minimal.

7. Mr MA Fung-kwok asked about the authority and resources for the Commission to perform its task of formulating a cultural policy. SHA and DS(HA) said that adequate resources would be provided for the operation of the Commission which would also have its own secretariat. The Commission could make funding requests to carry out research projects. In this connection, Mr Ambrose CHEUNG expressed doubts on whether the Commission, being advisory in nature, could effectively assist in policy formulation since Government would assume the policy-making role.

8. The Chairman asked the Administration whether there were any clear-cut objective and terms of reference for the Commission. SHA informed members that a Task Force would be set up shortly and one of its tasks was to work out the detailed terms of reference for the Commission. He also referred members to paragraph 12 of the Administration's Initial Responses which gave a brief account of the Commission's role.

9. Mr Edward HO noted that the proposed Commission would be a non-statutory body although it would advise on broad funding allocations to other statutory bodies. In this connection, he inquired why the Administration did not set up a statutory Commission. SHA explained that it would be simpler and expeditious to establish a non-statutory body. Moreover, the high status of the Commission and its ability to discharge its functions would not be affected whether or not it was a statutory body. The Education Commission was a good example which had proved to be operating successfully. In this regard, Mr Edward HO reminded the Administration that the overlapping responsibilities and the relationship between the non-statutory Education Commission and the statutory Board of Education had given rise to a number of problems. Ms HO Sau-lan commented that the Administration might want to bypass LegCo by establishing a non-statutory Commission. SHA clarified that the Administration had no intention to bypass LegCo in the provision of cultural and leisure services. On the contrary, the estimates of revenue and expenditure of HAB and the new Department would have to be vetted by LegCo under the new structure.

10. In response to Mr Edward HO's enquiry about the need for various tiers of departmental advisory committees, SHA said that these committees would assist the new department in providing different services such as museum and library services.

Formulation of an overall culture policy

11. Ms HO Sau-lan expressed dissatisfaction that the Consultant's Report had only focused on rationalization of the organizational structure and the operations of the new Department, without any discussion on the policy direction for culture and arts, sports and recreation. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG expressed similar views. Ms HO added that the Consultant's Report had emphasized the function of culture to promote tourism but neglected the importance of enhancing the quality of the community. She also pointed out that there was no mention of the role of Education Department in promoting the development of arts and culture. In response, SHA explained that the Consultant was only tasked with recommending a new structure for the provision and management of culture and the arts, recreation and sports services; formulation of the cultural policies would be the task of the future advisory body (the Culture and Heritage Commission). To address Ms HO's concern, the Administration could consider including a representative of the Education Department in the Commission.Admin

12. Mr CHENG Kai-nam expressed disappointment that the Consultant's Report did not provide an in-depth analysis of the development of culture and sport in Hong Kong for the purpose of formulating long-term policies in these areas. he also noted that the Report did not describe the philosophy or model adopted for devising the new structure. In this connection, he hoped the Administration could conduct more research to facilitate the formulation of a cultural policy. SHA responded that the Administration did have a policy for arts based on two broad principles as set out in paragraph 5 of the Administration's Initial Responses. He explained that it was not possible for the Administration to formulate a cultural policy in the past, as over 80% of the resources and venues for culture and art were controlled by PMCs. With the rationalization of the administrative structure, Government had a vision for the future cultural scene which was described in paragraph 5 of the Administration's Initial Responses. The Culture and Heritage Commission to be established by the end of 1999 would advise Government on the formulation of an integrated cultural policy. However, the Administration did not have a concrete timetable for an overall cultural policy yet.

13. Ms HO Sau-lan expressed doubts about the competence of government officers, who were not experts in cultural and arts matters, in formulating a cultural policy for Hong Kong. SHA responded that the Administration would consult the Commission, international experts, other stakeholders and the general public before reaching a decision. In this connection, Mr MA Fung-kwok reminded the Administration that it should avoid giving the impression of dominating or steering the future direction of cultural development. Mr Andrew CHENG added that the policy should allow pluralistic and diversified development of arts and culture.

Improvements to the administrative framework

14. Members noted that a new Department would be established to take over the responsibilities for providing culture, recreation and leisure services, and some 250 posts would be deleted as part of the streamlining exercise. Mr Fred LI noted that the structure of Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) and Hong Kong Sports Development Board (HKSDB) remained largely unchanged under the new structure. He therefore inquired what improvements would be brought about by the reorganization, given a similar structure and staff force.

15. SHA responded that the deletion of some 250 posts was only the first step of the streamlining exercise. The Administration would continue to examine other measures to achieve economies of scale, with regard to staff views. There would also be increased accountability under the new structure. While LegCo approval was not required for the financial arrangements and contracting-out proposals of PMCs, such arrangements and management initiatives of the new Department would be scrutinized by LegCo in future.

16. Mr Timothy FOK stressed the importance of a balanced distribution of resources for the healthy development of culture and sports, as most cultural and sports bodies faced the problem of insufficient resources at the time of economic downturn. Mr FOK urged the Administration to further reduce red-tapes and streamline the structure so that more resources could be directed to benefit the development of culture and sports. He said he would collate views from the 71 National Sports Associations (NSAs) under Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong (SF&OC) on the Consultant's Report.

17. In response, SHA acknowledged the concern about effective allocation of resources and the need for further streamlining. He said that the Administration would take the following measures -

  1. to further streamline and rationalize the existing structure and operation within one year after establishment of the new Department;

  2. to expand the scope and speed up the pace of contracting-out arrangements in the provision of culture and leisure services; and

  3. to launch pilot schemes for contracting out the management of selected venues.

18. The Chairman inquired about the delineation of responsibilities among new Department, HKSDB, 71 NSAs, District Councils (DCs) and the private sector to avoid duplication of resources in sports and recreation. She asked how economies of scale could be achieved under the new structure. SHA said that each stakeholder would have a role to play under the new structure. While HKSDB would continue to focus on elite sports, the new Department would be responsible for general recreation and sports for the community. DS(HA) added that the 71 NSAs, which possessed expertise in different sports, would work alongside with HKSDB on elite training and with the new Department to promote general recreation and sports. At the district level, the new Department would work closely with District Offices, DCs and various District Sports Associations.

19. Referring to paragraph 10.04 of the Consultant's Report, Mr Fred LI queried why the Administration had accepted the Consultant's recommendation to discontinue small-scale free outdoor entertainment. Mr LI noted that the Task Force had yet to review all public entertainment programmes to assess the cost-effectiveness of each programme. SHA responded the Administration only gave some preliminary views on the Consultant's recommendations about possible savings upon reorganization. He noted that different opinions had been expressed on ways to achieve cost-effectiveness, and proposals such as corporatization and contracting out of services would require further examination before a decision was taken. DS(HA) supplemented that the Administration had only indicated agreement in principle as more detailed reviews on the cost-effectiveness of the programmes would be necessary. In this connection, the Chairman remarked that the community was more concerned about streamlining instead of discontinuation of services.

International experts

20. Mr CHENG Kai-nam queried whether it was necessary to appoint international experts to advise Government on the development of culture, arts, sports and recreation services, since such development must suit the unique situation of Hong Kong. SHA responded that the new Department would largely rely on the local experts on the advisory panels, and international experts would only be invited to inject new ideas and to advise on the long-term development of certain specialized services such as museums and libraries. Mr MA Fung-kwok commented that while Government could make reference to overseas experience, Hong Kong must develop its own model on cultural development appropriate to its situation. Mr Timothy FOK shared Mr MA's view, and urged the Administration to make more use of local expertise.

The Role of Government

21. Mr Andrew CHENG expressed strong views that the Consultant's Report was to support Government's intention to centralize all powers for the provision of art, culture and leisure services. While the Consultant recommended that Government should adopt a non-interventionist policy, the new structural framework would create an environment conducive to monopolization of cultural and leisure services by the Government and bureaucratic interference. He strongly urged the Administration to improve the co-ordination among PMCs and other stakeholders in the provision of cultural and sport services under the existing framework. SHA stressed that Government had no intention to centralize all powers for the development of cultural and sports activities. SHA reiterated that there had been criticisms about the lack of co-ordination for the provision of cultural and sport services and overlapping resources under the existing structure. A new structure was therefore proposed to streamline the existing administrative framework, and to bring about other improvements such as rationalization of resources and increased participation of private sector. Mr Andrew CHENG said that he remained to be convinced of the purpose of the reorganization.

22. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG shared the view that it would be more fruitful for the Administration to improve the co-ordination of management of venues and resources under the existing structure. He expressed grave concern that the new structure would reduce the scope of pluralistic cultural development, if all resources and venues were to be centrally controlled by Government. In response, SHA reiterated that the broad direction was to reduce Government's direct involvement and to bring in more private sector initiative in the delivery of arts and culture, sports and recreation services.

23. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG commented that the review of the current structure did not give any direction for future cultural development. He said that government officials in HAB and the Consultant were not familiar with the provision of culture, arts and sports services. In this connection, he informed members that PMCs had already sought expert advice on corporatization of the performing companies. Mr CHEUNG also suggested that the Consultant should be invited to explain to the Panel the rationale of his recommendations in the Report. In this regard, SHA said that it would be up to the Consultant to decide whether to accept the invitation. In response to Mr CHEUNG's enquiry of whether the Consultant was required under his terms of appointment to be present at meetings, DS(HA) advised that the Consultant had attended relevant meetings and open forums.

Public consultation

24. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG pointed out that the Consultant had only discussed with a limited number of organizations/individuals and senior government officials, and the number of written submissions received by the Consultant was less than 30. He therefore questioned whether there had been sufficient input to enable the Consultant to formulate his views on the existing structure and operations. Mr CHEUNG was of the view that the Administration should conduct another round of public consultation on the Consultant's Report, and to obtain views of the culture and sports communities on the proposed structure. His views were shared by Ms HO Sau-lan. In this connection, the Chairman advised the Administration to conduct another round of consultation, since no concrete proposals had been put forward by the Administration during the previous consultation exercises and divergent views had been expressed by the community on the proposed reorganization.Adm

25. In response, SHA said that the Administration had conducted public consultation in June and July 1998 on the review of district organizations, and it had noted the concerns raised by the arts and sports communities about overlapping responsibilities and the lack of co-ordination under the current structure. To address these concerns, HAB had commissioned another round of consultations in November - December 1998 to gauge public views. The views obtained had been relayed to the Consultant who had taken them into consideration when compiling his report. Concerning a member's comment on the late issue of the Report, SHA said that HAB needed time to examine the Consultant's Report which was received only in February 1999. The Administration had released the Consultant's Report together with the Administration's Initial Responses at the earliest possible opportunity. Ms HO Sau-lan maintained the view that it was totally unacceptable to deprive the public of the opportunity to express their views on important proposals in the Consultant's Report. In this connection, she requested the Administration to widely publicize the Consultant's Report so that the general public could comment on the Report. Adm

Provision of Municipal Services (Reorganization) Bill

26. Referring to the Administration's previous indication that the Provision of Municipal Services (Reorganization) Bill would be introduced into LegCo in mid-April 1999, Ms HO Sau-lan considered that the Consultant's Report on the new structure would have an impact on the Bill. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG expressed concern that members would have difficulties to discuss the Bill before further public consultation on the new structure was conducted. Ms HO commented that it might not be appropriate for LegCo Members to scrutinize the Bill at the present stage until after further public consultation.

II. Way forward

27. Following up on the concern about gauging public views on the Consultant's Report, Mr Ambrose CHEUNG suggested that the Panel should conduct public consultation to provide representative views to the Administration. Members noted that there were about 1 200 electors under the relevant functional constituency. After discussion, members agreed that the Panel should place advertisements in newspapers inviting public submissions on the Consultant's Report and receive oral representation from deputations of the arts and sports communities. To allow time for concerned organizations to prepare their submissions, members agreed that two special meetings should be held in May 1999 to meet deputations. Members further agreed to invite Mr Albert LAM, the independent consultant, and representatives of the PMCs to attend the special meetings.

(Post-meeting note : Advertisements had been placed in South China Morning Post and Ming Pao on 1 April 1999 to invite public submissions on the Consultant's Report.)

28. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG suggested that the Panel might put forward its own proposal on the new structure for culture, arts, sports and recreation after meeting deputations. Nevertheless, Ms HO Sau-lan expressed concern that the Panel might have difficulties to agree on a proposal as different members and political parties would have different opinions. The Chairman acknowledged that there would be difficulties to reach consensus among members on a proposal, and advised the Panel to further consider the suggestion after meeting deputations.

29. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 6:45 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
21 September 1999