LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2045/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/HA
LegCo Panel on Home Affairs
Minutes of Meeting held on
Friday, 28 June 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon HO Chun-yan (Chairman)
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Members Absent :
Hon LO Suk-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
Public Officers Attending :
- Item III (b)
- Mr Michael SUEN, CBE, JP
- Secretary for Home Affairs
- Ms CHANG King-yiu
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Item IV
- Mr Michael SUEN, CBE, JP
- Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mrs Shelley LAU, JP
- Director of Home Affairs
- Mr Dominic LAW, JP
- Deputy Director of Home Affairs
- Mr David PUN
- Assistant Director of Education (Services)
- Mrs Y Y TANG
- Senior Social Work Officer
- Dr Constance CHAN
- Principal Medical Officer
- Mr HO Kwok-cho
- Senior Housing Manager/Application
- Item V
- Mr LEE Lap-sun, JP
- Deputy Director of Home Affairs
Home Affairs Department
- Mr Victor NG, JP
- Assistant Director of Home Affairs
- Mr Carlson CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Attendance by Invitation :
- Item III (a)
- Equal Opportunities Commission
- Dr Fanny CHEUNG, JP
Staff in Attendance :
- Mrs Anna LO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
- Mr Raymond LAM
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6
I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings and matters arising
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1477, 1698 & 1699/95-96)
The minutes of the meetings held on 24 May, 25 May and 6 June 1996 were confirmed.
II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1692/95-96)
2. Members agreed that the next regular meeting would be held on Friday, 26 July 1996 at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the following:
Meeting with the Administration on the Third Periodic Report in respect of Hong Kong under Articles 2 to 16 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(Post-meeting note : It was subsequently agreed at the special meeting on 6 July 1996 to include the "Equal Opportunities (Race) Bill", to be introduced by Mrs Elizabeth WONG, for discussion at the meeting on 26 July 1996.)
3. Members agreed that the item on "Building management and maintenance", which was referred from a meeting of LegCo Members with Yau Tsim Mong District Board members, would be added to the list of outstanding issues for future discussion.
4. The Chairman reminded members that the special meeting to gauge the views of non-government organisations (NGOs) on the Third Periodic Report in respect of Hong Kong under Articles 2 to 16 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) would be held on 6 July 1996.
III. (a) Work plans of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)
(Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1692/95-96)
5. At the invitation of the Chairman, Dr Fanny CHEUNG highlighted the salient points of the paper provided by the EOC.
Preparation of code of practice on employment
6. In response to Miss Christine LOH, Dr Fanny CHEUNG explained that informal consultation on the draft code of practice on employment would be conducted in July 1996. It was hoped that the draft codes would be publicised in late September 1996 for a one-month public consultation. After considering the views received in the consultation exercise, further revisions to the draft codes would be considered in late October and November 1996 before the codes were presented to LegCo. At the request of Miss Christine LOH, she undertook to provide a written reply on the detailed preparation time-table for the codes of practice as stated in Section 69 of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) and Section 65 of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO).
7. Miss Christine LOH hoped that the public would be informed that in the event of dispute over the codes of practice, the interpretation of the court would be final. She added that LegCo should also be included in EOCs informal consultation exercise in July 1996.
Commencement date for code of practice on employment
8. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan stated that as the SDO required two public consultations, he doubted whether the preparation of code of practice on employment could be completed by the end of 1996. He suggested the EOC to provide a concrete time-table in writing and consider a retroactive commencement date for the codes of practice. Dr Fanny CHEUNG agreed to look into the suggestion. The Chairman commented that the introduction of a retroactive commencement date for criminal cases was against the general principle of legal justice.
Relationship between EOC and the Administration
9. In reply to Dr John TSEs question on the relationship between the EOC and the Administration, Dr Fanny CHEUNG explained that while the EOC would maintain close communication with the Administration, the views of LegCo and other organisations would also be carefully considered, as the EOC was an independent statutory body.
Position of EOC on recent discrimination incidents
10. Dr John TSE commented that the EOC had a very low profile since its establishment in May 1996. He was disappointed that the EOC had not made any statement on the recent discrimination incidents. Miss Emily LAU added that the EOC should take every opportunity to educate the public on discrimination issues. Keeping silent on the recent discrimination incidents would only have a negative effect on public education.
11. Dr Fanny CHEUNG responded that the EOC had no statutory power to carry out any investigation before the commencement of SDO and DDO. The EOC had discussed the issues and considered it inappropriate to comment, until investigation had been completed, on whether an incident amounted to discrimination. She added that fairness had to be maintained in investigations and mediations. Overseas experience had indicated that premature comment on an incident would affect the result of the legal proceeding. Subject to privacy considerations, reference would be made to precedents in educating the public.
Financial surplus resulting from the late establishment of the EOC
12. In response to Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, Dr Fanny CHEUNG stated that the accumulated surplus resulting from the postponed establishment of EOC was in the region of $16 million. After deducting the cost for staff seconded from the Home Affairs Branch (HAB) and the cost for a local area network, the remaining surplus would be used on acquiring public educational facilities.
Openness of EOC Meetings
13. Miss Christine LOH suggested the EOC to make reference to the standing orders of the Arts Development Council and consider opening its meetings to the public. In response, Dr Fanny CHEUNG stated that the issue had been considered at the first meeting of the EOC, with reference to meetings of similar bodies like the Housing Authority and Consumer Council. The EOC considered it more appropriate to publicise the agenda before meetings and hold press briefings afterwards.
14. Dr John TSE suggested the EOC to use international covenants on human rights as yardsticks for discrimination issues.
(b) Equal Opportunities : Policy Implications
(Appendix III to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1692/95-96)
15. Mr Michael SUEN presented the salient points of the paper provided by the Administration. With the setting up of the EOC, HAB now assumed a new role as the main point of contact between this independent statutory authority and the government.
Preparatory work of HAB for the establishment of EOC
16. In response to Miss Emily LAU, Mr Michael SUEN stated that a lot of preparatory work for EOC had been carried out by the HAB. The Administration had arranged office accommodation and fitting out work for the EOC. Terms and conditions of service for EOC staff had also been drawn up. Draft codes of practice had been prepared for EOCs consideration.
Draft code of practice on employment
17. Members were generally dissatisfied with the slow progress on the draft codes of practice. In response to Miss Christine LOH, Mr Michael SUEN stated that the draft codes, covering a wide scope, were about to be provided to EOC for finalisation.
Implementation time-table for DDO and SDO
18. In response to members, Mr Michael SUEN stated that the SDO and DDO should take full effect by the end of 1996. He added that the employment related provisions had to commence three months later than other provisions because of the need to prepare the codes of practice. At the request of Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, he undertook to bring into effect the full commencement of SDO and DDO by December 1996.
19. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan reserved his position on the phased implementation of SDO and DDO. He stated that it would be difficult for the public to understand the difference between employment and non-employment related provisions.
IV. Integration of new immigrants from China into the community
(Appendices IV and V to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1692/95-96)
20. Mrs Shelley LAU introduced the paper provided by the Administration.
21. Mr LAW Chi-kwong suggested the Administration to formulate comprehensive policy on new immigrants from China. He added that the HAB should consider setting up a section solely on service provision for new immigrants. In response, Mr Michael SUEN stated that as new immigrants were expected to integrate into the community within a short period, there was no need to set up a new section specifically for service provision to new immigrants. From a survey on new immigrants conducted by the Administration, it was noted that they were mainly found in four districts. Additional resources required for these districts were currently met by internal redeployment. The Administration was formulating proposals within 3 months to further strengthen service in these districts. Endorsement from the ExCo of its proposals would be sought before reporting to the LegCo. Additional funds, if required, would be sought through the annual Resource Allocation Exercise. Mrs Shelley LAU added that the subject of new immigrants was a standing agenda item of her bi-weekly meeting with all District Officers. The subject was also discussed within the Home Affairs Department (HAD) on a weekly basis.
22. As regards complaints that some new arrival children had returned to China because they could not find a school in Hong Kong, Mr David PUN stated that the Education Department (ED) had not received such complaints. The Central Placement Unit and District Education Offices would assist new arrival children in their school placement. Recent discussion with the Education Offices of the four districts where most of these children lived, i.e. Eastern District, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong and Shamshuipo, had not revealed any problem in finding school places for these children. He guessed the complaints arose probably due to some parents could not have their children admitted to schools of their choice.
23. In response to Dr John TSE, Mr PUN explained that the Induction Programmes and the Extension Programmes were introduced in April and October 1995 respectively. Information on these courses were disseminated through various immigration checkpoints, the District Education Offices and the handbook for new immigrants. A total of 6,000 places were offered in the last year and 4,829 children had taken the courses.
24. As regards the problem of children having to attend lower classes as a result of their poor English standard, Mr David PUN stated that about 75% of new arrival children were attending lower classes. The ED had urged the school principals to allow these children to revert to their normal classes once their English standard had improved. The ED had also set up a Review Committee to look into methods and measures to improve education services for new arrival children.
25. Mr Zachary WONG pointed out that there were insufficient secondary school places in Yuen Long, particularly for new arrival children over the age of 15. Mr PUN replied that as a whole, there were adequate secondary school places in Yuen Long District. To assist new arrival children in finding school places, a list of schools in the district could be obtained from the District Education Office. Arrangements could be made by District Education Officers for children to attend interviews at relevant schools if necessary. In Hong Kong, free and compulsory education were provided up to Secondary III. For children over 15 years old, they could request to attend a lower class in secondary schools, evening courses run by Adult Education Section of ED or craft courses offered by the technical institutes of the Vocational Training Council. He undertook to follow-up the matter and urge the schools to be more flexible in admitting students of this age range.
Provision of information
26. As regards the provision of information to new immigrants, Mrs Shelley LAU explained that handbooks were distributed through the Public Enquiry Service Centres located in the 18 districts. District Officers were meeting with other relevant departments on a bi-monthly basis to determine the areas that had to be strengthened. It was identified that more publicity was needed and the Administration was working on it.
27. Mr LEE Wing-tat commented that the HAD staffs knowledge about the work of other departments should be strengthened to facilitate their referral work. Ideally, one-stop enquiry service should be provided. He added that Putonghua training should be arranged for these staff. Mrs Shelley LAU undertook to strengthen staff training.
28. Mr LEE Wing-tat commented that the Administration should strengthen its services in the temporary housing estates, where many new immigrants lived. Mrs Shelley LAU agreed to convey the suggestion to the District Offices.
29. Mr LAW Chi-kwong stated that many new immigrants were finding it difficult to comprehend the handbook for new arrivals. He suggested that the Social Welfare Department (SWD) should play a more important role in providing service to new immigrants. In response, Mrs Shelley LAU stated that the Steering Committee was looking into Mr LAW Chi-kwongs proposals in his Green Paper. To her knowledge, the International Social Service was providing information service to new immigrants at Lo Wu. Mrs Y Y TANG added that at the Immigration Offices where new immigrants collected their identity cards, new immigrants were informed of the services offered by social workers. In addition to a SWD 24-hour service hotline, 65 family service centres were also providing service to new immigrants.
30. In response to the Chairman, Dr Constance CHAN stated that health education on general health issues was provided to the public through the Central Health Education Unit of the Department of Health. The staff of DH obtained information on new immigrant children at the Immigration Office at Lo Wu for dissemination to its maternal and child health centres. Vaccination to new immigrants was provided through the maternal and child health centres and the Regional Health Offices. The handbook for new immigrants also listed out the addresses and telephone numbers of all general out-patient clinics and maternal and child health centres.
V. Implementation of the new rules for rural elections
(Appendix V to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1692/95-96)
31. Mr LEE Lap-sun highlighted the salient points of the paper provided by the Administration. He informed members that more than 90% of the villages had implemented the new rules for rural elections. Full implementation of the new election rules in all rural villages was a matter of priority for all District Offices of HAD.
32. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked the Administration to provide the full list of villages which had not implemented the new election rules, and the time-frame for the villages to implement the new rules. Mr LEE Lap-sun agreed to provide a written reply before the next Panel meeting on 26 July 1996. As regards the time for full implementation of the new election rules in all villages, he stated that as the villages had their own history and tradition, it was practically difficult to set a full completion date. Nevertheless, the Administration would try its best to seek full implementation of the new rules. Mr Zachary Wong stated that he would resort to legal action against the villages, if they did not implement the new election rules by September 1996.
(Post-meeting note : The written reply from HAD was issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1931/95-96).
33. In reply to Mr LEE Wing-tats question on the correspondences regarding the rural election of Cheung Chau Island tabled at the meeting (Appendix A to these minutes), Mr Victor NG explained that the rural committee of Cheung Chau Island had agreed in early 1995 to implement the new election rules. An election committee was also formed with the assistance of the District Office to co-ordinate arrangements. However, the rural committee suddenly changed its attitude at the end of 1995. In response to this, the Administration had sternly advised the rural committee that Government would refuse to recognise the status of the kaifong representatives who were not elected in accordance with the Heung Yee Kuks model rules. An ultimatum was also served on the rural committee in March 1996. Through the joint efforts of the Administration and Heung Yee Kuk, the Cheung Chau Rural Committee had finally accepted the new election rules in April 1996. Registration of voters on the basis of one-person-one-vote had since been in progress. Mr LEE Wing-tat commented that the Administration should issue an ultimatum in such cases at an earlier time in the future.
VI. Any other business
Submissions of the Panel on the Initial Report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in respect of Hong Kong under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Supplementary Report by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in respect of Hong Kong under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (the Submissions)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1723/95-96)
34. Members considered the draft submissions and agreed on the amendments to be incorporated into the final versions of the submissions (issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB (2)1742/95-96). The final versions of the submissions were endorsed by members and would be submitted to the House Committee on 5 July 1996. Members also agreed that delegations of LegCo Members should attend the United Nations hearings under CRC and ICCPR respectively.
35. The meeting ended at 1:15 p.m.
3 September 1996
Last Updated on 19 Aug, 1998