LC Paper No. CB(2) 2805/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/SE/1
LegCo Panel on Security
Minutes of meeting held on Wednesday, 21 July 1999
at 4:30 pm in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Public Officers attending:
Clerk in attendance:
- Item III
- Mr Philip CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E
- Mr YAM Tat-wing
- Acting Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police
Director of Personnel & Training
Hong Kong Police Force
- Mr LEUNG Lau-on
- Chief Superintendent of Police Staff Relations & Conditions of
Hong Kong Police Force
- Ms CHANG Mo-see
- Senior Superintendent of Police
Hong Kong Police Force
- Item IV
- Mr Philip CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E
- Mr Thomas CHAN Wai-ki
- Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime)
Hong Kong Police Force
- Item V
- Mr David WONG Fuk-loi
- Acting Deputy Secretary for Security 2
- Mr George LEUNG
- Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Information Systems)
Hong Kong Police Force
- Mr CHOW Kwok-chuen
- Assistant Director of Immigration (Information Systems)
- Mr LAM Chun-man
- Chief Fire Officer (HQ)
Fire Services Department
- Mr William HUI Chi-wai
- Civil Secretary for Correction Services
Correctional Services Department
- Mr John LAM Yuen-sang
- Senior Aircraft Engineer (Quality Assurance)
Government Flying Service
Staff in attendance:
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1
I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 13.5.1999 and matters arising
- Miss Betty MA
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 2538/98-99)
The minutes of meeting held on 13 May 1999 were confirmed.
List of follow-up actions by the Administration
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 2537/98-99(01))
2. Members agreed that the Administration should be urged to provide response to the Panel as early as practicable.
(Post-meeting note : The Administration was requested to furnish members with the response vide the letter dated 22 July 1999.)
Proposed visit to the People's Liberation Army Garrison in Hong Kong
3. The Chairman suggested and members agreed with the proposal to visit the People's Liberation Army Garrison in Hong Kong. The Chairman further said that the Panel had earlier forwarded its request to the Administration for arranging a visit to the Public Security Bureau Office in the Mainland. Members agreed to urge the Administration to follow up the issue.
(Post-meeting note : The Secretariat had issued a letter on 27 July 1999 to relay members' requests to the Administration.)
II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 2537/98-99(02))
4. Members agreed that no Panel meeting would be held in August 1999. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting to be held on 16 September 1999 at 2:30 pm -(a) Follow-up on progress of Year 2000 contingency planning in departments and related-organizations under the purview of the Security Bureau;(b) Follow-up on problem of Hong Kong residents detained in the Mainland and assistance provided by the Administration to Hong Kong residents encountering problems in Taiwan; and(c) Follow-up on application and verification procedures for a Certificate of Entitlement and related issues.
III. Indebtedness of police officers
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 2537/98-99(03))
Briefing by the Administration
5. Director of Personnel and Training, HKPF (Ag) (Dir of Per & Trg) (Ag)) briefed members on the current situation of Police officers with unmanageable debts. He pointed out that the latest six-monthly survey for the second half of 1998 indicated that the number of Police officers with unmanageable debts had increased by 21.5% from 107 to 130 as compared with the first six months of 1998. The economic downturn in 1998 had an obvious impact on the Force members. Of the 130 officers, 53 were indebted due to problems of their family members or relatives.
Compilation of the half-yearly survey
6. The Chairman enquired about the reasons for not being able to provide the findings of the first six-monthly survey in 1999. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E (PAS(S)E) said that the latest statistics would be available to members upon the completion of the compilation of the data collected. The Chairman urged that the Administration should provide the Panel with the up-to-date statistics as far as practicable.
Definition of unmanageable debts
7. Responding to Mr Howard YOUNG, Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that an officer was regarded as having unmanageable debts if he had difficulties in repaying his debts. It was not determined by the loan amount or the repayment period. Instead, the household income of the officer concerned and his asset, etc. would be taken into consideration.
Reasons of indebtedness
8. The Chairman asked why problems of family members and relatives attributed to the reasons of indebtedness. In response, Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that the 53 Police officers were indebted in the second half of 1998 due to family reasons when they assisted in repaying debts incurred by family members for various reasons, e.g. investment failure.
9. Mr Howard YOUNG noted that one of the major reasons for incurring debts, apart from overspending and gambling, was business and investment failure. He asked whether the Police officers concerned had obtained the necessary approval for doing business and investment. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that the Force had issued guidelines on the declaration of investment. New recruits were required to disclose details of their business and investment. Basically, Police officers should not invest or engage in activities which would have conflict of interests with their daily duties. Police officers were required to declare their business or investment when they considered that the activities concerned would have conflict of interests with their duties. Failure to make such declarations would be subject to disciplinary action.
10. The Chairman pointed out that the problem of indebtedness of Police officers was raised by the Director of Audit in his 1993 report and that the Public Accounts Committee in 1994 had directed that the Force should report to the Security Panel on this subject once every six months. Hence, it was expected that the Force management should have noted the public's concern about the problem of Police officers with unmanageable debts and it should have demonstrated its capability to combat the problem. In response, PAS(S)E emphasized that the Force management, in particular the Commissioner of Police, took a very serious view of the subject and had developed a comprehensive strategy for preventing, identifying and dealing with the indebtedness of Police officers.
11. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed disappointment with the Force management's attitude in handling the problem of Police indebtedness. As indicated from the latest survey, about 40% of the Police officers with unmanageable debts were due to gambling or overspending. Having regard to the deep rooted problem, Mr CHEUNG questioned how common was the culture in the Force that Police officers might spend money on luxuries or gambling. He wondered if such a phenomenon was considered tolerant by the Force management.
12. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that under no circumstances would overspending or gambling be tolerated in the Force. However, given that the Force had an establishment of some 28 500 Police officers, 130 Police officers with unmanageable debts accounting for less than 0.5% of the establishment was not an alarming situation.
13. Responding to Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong's enquiry on the number of criminal proceedings or disciplinary actions taken against Police officers who became indebted under the circumstances laid down in para. 12(a) to (c) of the information paper, Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) provided the following figures -
|No. of Police officers
(as at 31.5.99)
|borrow from illegitimate sources||1||3||12||3
|borrow from friends or colleagues||2||2||6||2
|having their efficiency impaired by serious pecuniary embarrassment||2||3||5||3
Of these officers, 13 of them were dismissed or ordered to resign and ten of them were punished by compulsory retirement. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) stressed that the Force management took a very serious view of the matter and there was no sympathy for officers who borrowed simply for indulgence in overspending or gambling.
(Post-meeting note : The Administration advised that 23 officers were dismissed or ordered to resign, instead of 13.)
14. Noting that the number of Police officers with unmanageable debts due to gambling or overspending had dropped in the second half of 1998 as compared with that in the first half of 1998, Mrs Selina CHOW asked whether the Force management was aware of the reasons accounted for the decrease. She considered that the crux of the matter was on how a Police officer with unmanageable debts was able to repay his debts. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that a special case file would be open in respect of each officer who had reported indebtedness. The respective Formation Commanders would interview Police officers with unmanageable debts on a monthly basis with a view to assessing their progress on repaying their debts. Counselling services and advice would be provided to these officers as necessary.
15. The Chairman shared Mrs Selina CHOW's view that having an in-depth understanding of how a Police officer could repay his debts would be useful for finding solutions to the problem.
16. Dr LUI Ming-wah opined that the Force's strategy to tackle the problem could only be regarded as effective if it specified in the conditions of service that they would be dismissed if they ran into debts through gambling or overspending. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) responded that of the preventive measures adopted by the Force management, new recruits would be educated on prudent personal financial management. In addition, the Force management would introduce new improvement measures shortly. Firstly, the Force management would issue warning letters to all Police officers with unmanageable debts requiring them to improve their financial positions. Should they incur new debts, they must inform their respective Formation Commanders. Secondly, as an employment criterion, all new recruits as well as re-employed Police officers would be required to declare their outstanding financial obligations.
17. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong noted that Police officers who were dismissed because their efficiency had been impaired by serious pecuniary embarrassment represented only a very small fraction of Police officers with unmanageable debts. He enquired about the criteria adopted for determining whether the efficiency of an indebted Police officer was impaired by his financial matters. Whilst there would be sympathy for officers who were indebted because of unforeseen or compassionate circumstances, he questioned whether disciplinary actions would be taken immediately against Police officers who were indebted because of overspending or gambling. He also wondered whether there was any mechanism in place to dismiss those indebted Police officers whose names appeared continuously in the six-monthly watchlist as they were prone to crimes and corruption. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that according to legal advice, Police officers having their efficiency impaired by serious pecuniary embarrassment could be subject to disciplinary action if it was substantiated that they were not suitable for performing certain duties like carrying firearms. Should any Police officers be found to be involved in illegal gambling, they would be subject to dismissal after the completion of the criminal proceedings.
18. The Chairman expressed reservation about the effectiveness of the measures adopted by the Force management in tackling the problem. The Chairman and Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong considered that the problem could be solved effectively only if the Force management adopted a firm attitude in instituting disciplinary actions against Police officers with unmanageable debts, including dismissal of officers who incurred debts through gambling or overspending.
19. In response, Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that the Force management could not dismiss a Police officer simply because he ran into debts through gambling bearing in mind that Article 14 of the Hong Kong Bills of Right Ordinance protected an individual from arbitrary interference with his privacy. In a recent judicial review which quashed the punishment of dismissal awarded to the defaulter, it was established that both elements of serious pecuniary embarrassment and efficiency impairment had to be substantiated. Hence, the Force management had to establish that a Police officer was having unmanageable debts and that his indebtedness had direct impact on his efficiency in carrying out his duties before instituting disciplinary actions in accordance with chapter 6 of the Police General Order.
Situation of Police officers with unmanageable debts
20. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong wondered if the Force management had underestimated the situation of Police officers with unmanageable debts. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that the number of Police officers with unmanageable debts due to gambling or overspending had dropped from 24% and 28% in first half of 1998 to 12% and 22% in the second half of 1998 respectively because of the sustained efforts and resources devoted by the Force management.
|21. Responding to the Chairman's enquiry on whether the six-monthly survey indicated accumulative figures or new cases, Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that the findings of the six-monthly survey were the number of Police officers with unmanageable debts recorded in the survey period. Mrs Selina CHOW requested the Administration to provide a breakdown of indebted Police officers due to gambling and overspending in the second half of 1998 by new cases and cases being brought forward from the first half of 1998. Mr CHENG Kai-nam echoed Mrs CHOW's request in order that the effectiveness of the measures adopted by the Force management in tackling the problem could be assessed. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) agreed.||Adm
|22. Mr CHENG Kai-nam wondered how the situation of Police officers with unmanageable debts in the Force compared with other disciplined forces. PAS(S)E said that the Administration did not have such statistics available. The Chairman requested the Administration to consider compiling statistics on the subject. The Panel might follow up the issue should the findings be alarming.||Adm|
23. Responding to Dr LUI Ming-wah's enquiry about the profile of Police officers with unmanageable debts, Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that of the 130 Police officers with unmanageable debts recorded in the second half of 1998, their average age was 35.11 and their average years of service was 14.99. There were 125 male officers and five female officers. 128 of them were junior officers and two were at the inspectorate rank.
24. Noting that the average years of service in respect of Police officers with unmanageable debt was some 14 years, Dr LUI Ming-wah said that it was worthwhile for the Force management to carry out studies on the phenomenon, in particular whether it was due to the culture in the Force. He expressed concern that Police officers having unmanageable debts might abuse their power. Dir of Per & Trg (Ag) said that the Force management would consider Dr LUI's suggestion. He added that the Force had recently conducted a survey on junior Police officers with two to three years' service with a view to obtaining more information on their spending pattern and other matters. The findings were being studied by the Force management and had yet to be publicized. He stressed that the Force management took a very serious view of the problem.
25. Mr Howard YOUNG asked how the number of Police officers who advanced salary under CSR 618 compared with the general situation in the civil service. PAS(S)E said that 1 753 and 1 788 Force officers including civilians were approved for advance of salary under CSR 618 in the first half and second half of 1998 respectively. He pointed out that an advance of salary under CSR 618 was not for repaying outstanding loans of an applicant.
(Post-meeting note : The Administration advised that 1585 and 1590 Police officers were approved for advance of salary under CSR 618 in the first half and second half of 1998 respectively.)
26. In response to the Chairman's enquiry about the situation of Police officers had their names listed on the notices of recovery of tax by payroll reduction, PAS(S)E said that 515 Police officers were listed on the notices of recovery of tax by payroll reduction in the first half of 1998. The figure in the second half of 1998 was 130, representing a decrease of 75%.
27. Having regard to members' grave concern on the subject, the Chairman suggested and members agreed to form a subcommittee to study in detail the problem of indebtedness of Police officers.
(Post-meeting note : The first meeting of the Subcommittee on indebtedness of Police officers would be held on 5 October 1999.)
IV. Provision of video-interview rooms in police stations
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 2537/98-99(04))
28. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that it was learnt that the Court had questioned the admissibility of confession statements in some 115 cases, of which 40 were acquitted. He further cited that of the investigations endorsed by the Independent Police Complaints Council, 73%, 64% and 58% of complaints against Police officers were classified as "withdrawn" or "not pursuable", "unsubstantiated" or "not fully substantiated" in 1996, 1997 and 1998 respectively. The substantial amount of unsubstantiated cases were mainly due to a lack of witnesses. Mr CHEUNG considered that the provision of video-interview rooms (VIRs) in all Police stations and a wider use of VIR interviews would enhance the transparency of the statement taking process. As an alternative, suspects should be given the discretion on whether the taking of their statements would be recorded on videotape.
29. The Chairman and Mr Howard YOUNG echoed Mr CHEUNG's view on the wider use of VIRs. Members considered that the use of videotaped interviews, apart from using as exhibits for cases tried in the District Court and the Court of First Instance, might be used simply for reference purpose in the event of allegations against abuse of power by the Force members. Thus, no verbatim transcription of videotaped interview record was required as the primary use of videotaped interviews was for reference purpose.
30. In response, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) (Ag) (ACP(Crime)(Ag)) said that Police stations were provided with VIRs facilities as a result of implementing the proposals of the Interdepartmental Working Group on the Law Reform Commission Report on Arrest. The primary purpose was to enhance the admissibility of confession statements by courts. The Police Force began the use of VIRs in 1993 with only one VIR. The number of VIRs was expanded in phases. The number of completed and fully operational VIRs had reached 60 in 1998 with each major divisional Police station housed at least one VIR. He added that VIR facilities in a particular Police station was not for the exclusive use of Police officers in the station in question.
31. PAS(S)E added that it was the policy intent for using VIR facilities with a view to enhancing the transparency of the statement taking process. In expanding the provision of VIRs, the Administration had to take into account the financial implications. Having regard to the fact that some 45 000 cases were tried in the District Court, the Court of First Instance and the Magistrate in a year, the financial implications were estimated and laid down in para.7 of the information paper. As regards the need for verbatim transcription of videotaped interview record, he said that according to the advice of the Department of Justice, it was not uncommon that the defendants and their legal representatives would request for the transcript of their statements.
32. The Chairman said that the Administration might consider, when expanding the use of VIRs to all criminal cases, confining only to offences of serious nature. PAS(S)E said that as explained in para.5 of the information paper, video interview of all suspects arrested in connection with serious criminal offences where the trial was reasonably expected to be in either the District Court or the Court of First Instance were mandatory. Criteria for exercising the discretion on whether VIRs should be used were laid down in para. 5(a) to (c) of the information paper. Hence, for cases which were likely to attract significant public interest, VIRs might be used when taking statements from suspects regardless of whether the cases were to be tried in the Magistrate.
33. Mrs Selina CHOW enquired about the acceptance of the use of VIRs by the Force members and whether there was any monitoring mechanism for applying discretion on the use of VIRs. ACP(Crime)(Ag) said that a Headquarter Order was issued in early 1999 on the mandatory requirement for the use of VIRs if the cases were expected to be tried in either the District Court or the Court of First Instance. Disciplinary actions would be taken should a Police officer fail to follow the Order. VIRs were used when taking statements from suspects in 322 cases from January to March in 1999.
|34. Referring to the 322 cases where VIRs were used, Mrs Selina CHOW asked for a breakdown of the cases by the criteria laid down in para. 5(a) to (c) of the information paper. ACP(Crime)(Ag) said that as far as he was aware, the majority of the use of VIRs was related to offences involving a penalty of five years imprisonment or more. Nevertheless, ACP(Crime)(Ag) agreed to provide further information.||Adm
35. Members were of the view that the use of VIRs was mutually beneficial to Police officers and suspects arrested in the course of taking statements. The Chairman requested the Administration to consider members' views on the wider use of VIRs. PAS(S)E said that in planning the further expansion of video interview facilities, the Administration would need to consider the views of the Judiciary, Department of Justice, the Law Society and the Bar Association as the wider use of VIR interviews would have an impact on their work. The Administration would also need to take into account the resource implications for the Police Force.
|36. The Chairman requested the Administration to revert back to the Panel after the completion of the review of the VIR scheme.||Adm
V. Follow-up on the progress of Year 2000 compliance in Government, Government-funded and Government-regulated organizations within the purview of the Security Bureau
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 2537/98-99(05))
37. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 (Ag) (DS(S)2(Ag)) said that the information paper reported the progress of Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance work and contingency planning within the five departments under the purview of the Security Bureau. He pointed out that the rectification work of all the computer systems in these departments had been completed.
38. Mr Howard YOUNG enquired about the criteria for determining the manpower requirements in respective departments on the Y2K critical dates. He expressed concern that an over-estimate of manpower requirements might result in a waste of resources. The Chairman asked about the contingency planning put in place in the respective departments. The Administration's responses were summarized as follows -
- Hong Kong Police Force
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Information Systems)(Ag) said that to prepare for the Y2K rollover the strength level of the operational formations would be maintained at 95% between mid-December 1999 and mid-January 2000. As regards the Y2K contingency planning in the Force, the master plan had been completed in June 1999. The Y2K contingency plan for each specific critical system would be completed by mid-August 1999.
- Immigration Department
Assistant Director of Immigration (Information Systems) said that it was the usual practice that the Department would be in full strength to cope with the upsurge requirement for immigration service during the New Year period. The Y2K contingency plan would be ready for internal promulgation in mid-July 1999. Attempts would be made to arouse the staff awareness of the contingency plan and the support from the command centre during the Y2K critical dates and period. It was expected that desk-top tests would be completed before September 1999. He pointed out that front-line officers were familiar with the contingency procedures to be adopted in the event of a breakdown of computer systems, having regard to the fact that passenger clearance at control points had been computerized for many years.
- Fire Services Department
Chief Fire officer (Headquarters) (CFO(HQ)) said that the preparation of Y2K contingency plan was completed. An exercise had been organized on 12 July 1999 with a view to assessing the effectiveness of the manual deployment of fire and ambulance personnel as well as the application of the Trunked Radio System. The result of the exercise was considered satisfactory. Three more exercises would be conducted in August 1999 in conjunction with other government departments, public organizations and utilities which would involve the deployment of fire engines and ambulances. The contingency plan would be revised as and when necessary to take account of the feedback from the testing and exercises. As regards leave arrangement on the Y2K critical dates, CFO(HQ) said that no more than five percent of the Fire Services members would be granted leave in order to meet any unforeseeable circumstances.
- Correctional Services Department
Civil Secretary for Correctional Services said that all personnel involved in handling the Y2K issue, in particular the computer staff, would be on duty during the rollover to Y2K critical dates. An Y2K emergency coordinating team would be set up and the Y2K contingency plan would be tested in early August 1999. He assured members that the Correctional Services Department would be able to cope with the crisis, if any, during the period.
- Government Flying Service
Senior Aircraft Engineer (Quality Assurance) said that arrangement would be made to place additional crew on stand-by on Y2K critical dates and advance the periodic inspection and maintenance of the departmental aircrafts so that resources would be made available to meet any urgent needs.
|39. The Chairman requested the Administration to provide a consolidated report on the result of the test and exercise of each department's contingency plan as early as practicable.||Adm
40. The meeting ended at 6:50 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
20 August 1999