LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1457/96-97
(The minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/SE/1

LegCo Panel on Security

Minutes of meeting held on Monday,
2 December 1996 at 8:30 am in
Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon LO Suk-ching
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members absent :

    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming*
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo*
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan*
    Hon IP Kwok-him*

Public Officers attending:

    Agenda Item III

    Mrs Carrie YAU, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Security
    Mrs Nancy TSE
    Assistant Director (Family and Child Welfare)

    Social Welfare Department

    Chief Superintendent, Crimes Headquarters
    Royal Hong Kong Police Force
    Dr K K LAI
    Senior Executive Manager Hospital Authority

    Agenda Item IV

    Mrs Sarah KWOK
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
    Mr Joseph FUNG Kwok-him
    Deputy Commissioner (Operations) and Chief Staff Officer Civil Aid Services
    Mr LUK Wai-hung
    Acting Chief Staff Officer
    Auxiliary Medical Services

    Agenda Item V

    Mrs Sarah KWOK
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
Attendance by invitation:
    Agenda Item III

    Harmony House

    Ms Edith CHEUNG
    Agency Director
    Ms Irene NG
    Social Worker

    Kwan Fook Women's Concern Group

    Ms FUNG Yuk-sim
    Ms WONG Dan-ping
    Ms CHUI Yuet-wan
Clerk in attendance :
    Mrs Sharon TONG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1
Staff in attendance :
    Miss Salumi CHAN
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 30 September 1996 and matters arising

1. The minutes of meeting held on 30 September 1996 were confirmed without amendment.

2. The Chairman informed the meeting that a joint meeting with the LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works on the recent Garley Building fire tragedy would be held shortly when the Administration had completed its report for submission to the Governor. A meeting would also be held on 3 December 1996 to hear the views of the following deputations on the draft "Garrison Law" :

  1. the Hong Kong Bar Association;

  2. the Law Society of Hong Kong; and

  3. the Frontier

II. Agenda for the special meeting to be held on 16 December 1996

3. Members present agreed to discuss the following items at the special meeting to be held on 16 December 1996 :

  1. Follow-up on repatriation of Vietnamese migrants;

  2. Proposed amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance; and

  3. New Policy on the entry of immigrants from China

In connection with item (c), Mr Howard YOUNG said that the three candidates running for the post of the Chief Executive for the future Hong Kong Special Administrative Region had expressed their views on the issue last week. He requested that the relevant press cuttings on the views expressed be circulated to members for reference. The Chairman asked the Clerk to co-ordinate.Clerk

III. Problem of wife battering

Joint submission by the Harmony House and the Kwan Fook Women's Concern Group

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 560/96-97)

4. The Chairman welcomed the representatives of Harmony House and Kwan Fook Women's Concern Group to the meeting. He invited the representatives to present their views on the issue.

5. Ms Edith CHEUNG said that the views of the Harmony House were set out in the submission. Ms FUNG Yuk-sim said that Kwan Fook Women's Concern Group, comprising a group of women who were victims of wife battering, was concerned about the problem of wife battering in Hong Kong. Ms WONG Dan-ping and Ms CHUI Yuet-wan then quoted their personal experience of being molested by their ex-husbands. They made the following points :

  1. the Police should properly explain to the offenders that they were prosecuted by the Police because of their wrong doing so that the offenders would not be misdirected to retaliate on their wives who agreed to testify;

  2. the issue of "Domestic Violence Injunction Order" should be reviewed for the best protection of the victims;

  3. frontline police officers should adhere to the "Force Procedures in Handling Domestic Violence Incidents" when handling wife battering case and should serve "Domestic Incident Notice" on offenders where appropriate; and

  4. the Administration should set up appropriate monitoring mechanism to ensure that resources were used effectively to handle the wife battering cases.

Briefing by the Administration

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 533/96-97(02))

6. Deputy Secretary for Security (DS for S) briefed members on the Administration's paper. DS for S highlighted that it required concerted efforts from various professions, viz. social workers, medical staff and the Police, to protect and assist victims of wife battering. Three-pronged approach was adopted to tackle the problem, which included -

  1. to protect and assist victims through counselling and provision of welfare services;

  2. to arrest the offenders; and

  3. to prevent the occurrence of wife battering through family life education and publicity

On the training issue, the Police had strengthened its training for frontline officers through close liaison with relevant government departments, non-governmental organizations and women concern's groups. A training video on guidelines on handling of battered spouse cases was prepared by the Police Training School for new recruits. Regular training sessions for police officers had been conducted jointly by the Police and the Harmony House.


Assistance from the Police

7. In reply to Mrs Selina CHOW, Ms FUNG Yuk-sim said that the Police failed to provide adequate and proper assistance to victims. Some frontline police officers appeared to take side with the offenders and dissuaded the victims from prosecuting the offenders. In cases where the victims were Chinese immigrants, the police officers even threatened that they would be repatriated to China if they agreed to prosecute their husbands. When the police officers asked for the victims' consent for testimony in front of the offenders and the victims' children, it would intensify the offenders' hatred and the children's misunderstanding towards the victims, thereby adding undue pressure on the victims.

8. Chief Superintendent, Crime Headquarters (CS/CH) responded that it was necessary for the police officers to obtain the victims' consent before the offenders could be prosecuted. As victims' evidence was crucial, it would be difficult to bring about any prosecution if the victims were unwilling to testify in court. Victims would be provided with the Domestic Violence Advice Card which set out the possible assistance they could obtain. Where necessary and with the victims' consent, the Police would make referrals to the government departments involved for appropriate service.

Domestic Incident Notice and Domestic Violence Injunction Order

9. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong pointed that, according to the statistics provided by the Harmony House, about 40% of the wife battering cases had been prolonged for more than five years. He expressed concerned about the effectiveness of serving on an offender a Domestic Incident Notice and issuing a Domestic Violence Injunction Order. He was also concerned about the co-ordination between the relevant government departments in following up the case once a Notice was issued. CS/CH explained that a Domestic Incident Notice was not a legal document nor a warning notice. It was a Police administrative document which recorded that a domestic incident had happened. It notified the offender that allegation had been made and that the victim did not wish the allegation to be investigated with a view to bringing about a prosecution. It might assist the victim to seek an injunction order from the court in future. A Domestic Incident Notice will be served on the offender if the victim consented to such course of action. It was the duty of the Police to prevent any further violence to the victims and children involved. Where an injunction order was issued, to which a warrant of arrest was attached, the Police would execute it should there be a breach of the injunction order by an offender. CS/CH pointed out while victims' consent was necessary in serving on the Domestic Incident Notice, a lot of victims were reluctant to give their consent. CS/CH emphasized that every case would be referred to the appropriate departments for the necessary actions if the victim agreed to it. At the request of the Chairman, CS/CH agreed to provide after the meeting the number of cases in which the victims refused to consent to the Police's referrals.

(Post-meeting note : The Police has confirmed that the number of victims who refused to consent to police referrals is not available. However, the number of victims who did not consent to having a Domestic Incident Notice served on the offender are : 59 males, 127 females (April 1996 to January 1997.)

Assistance from the Social Welfare Department

10. AD/SWD informed members that the Social Welfare Department would immediately follow up the referrals made by the Police. Regular visit, usually on a weekly basis, would be made to the victim to provide counselling and to ensure adequate assistance was given. As a long term measure, publicity efforts on the problem of wife battering would be stepped up. The Social Welfare Department would allocate $500,000 to introduce television and radio announcements, posters and leaflets early next year to give wider coverage of the problem. Family life education programmes would continue to be launched to promote public awareness of the problem.

Training for frontline police officers

11. On the point that some police officers were not sensitive enough in attending to wife battering cases, DS for S admitted that some cases might not had been dealt with properly. CS/CH said that guidelines setting out detailed procedures in handling incidents of domestic violence were in place. Frontline officers were brought up-to-date with the procedures during their monthly training day. Actual cases were brought up for indepth analysis. A review on the procedures would be conducted shortly to identify the necessary improvements. A training video on the new procedures was produced and it was shown to all frontline officers who would come into contact with those cases. To address members concerns, CS/CH agreed to strengthen its training on the frontline officers' attitude and, where necessary, to include in its coming procedural review, the specific wordings used in explaining to victims the necessary steps in prosecuting an offender.

(Post-meeting note : The Police has confirmed that the procedural review is underway. All front-line officers have been reminded of the correct attitude and current procedures when dealing with victims of wife battering cases.)

Refuge for victims

12. In response to Ms Margaret NG's question on admission to refuge centres, CS/CH said that since the Harmony House did not accept admissions between midnight and 07:00 hours, the Police would provide transport and an escort for the victim to go to her friend or relative's home. In case the victim did not have any friends or relatives, special arrangement would be made for her to stay in the police station until the Harmony House opened. Assistant Director (Family and Child Welfare), Social Welfare Department (AD/SWD) supplemented that the Police could also liaise with Wai On Home for Women, which was operated by Social Welfare Department on a 24-hour basis, to arrange for the victim's admission.

13. In reply to Ms Margaret NG on the same issue, Ms Edith CHEUNG said that due to limited resources, the Harmony House only accepted admission until midnight. However, victims could call the Harmony House for appropriate advice. The Chairman remarked that publicity efforts should be strengthened on the services provided by the Wai On Home for Women.

(Post-meeting note : The Social Welfare Department has confirmed that leaflet on services of Wai On Home will be more widely distributed. In addition, the new Information Pamphlet on Spouse Battering to be published soon will include among others, information on the 3 Refuges for Women i.e. Harmony House, Wai On Home & Serene Court.)

Female police officers to handle wife battering cases

14. Responding to members' questions, CS/CH explained that wife battering incidents were generally reported to the Police via the 999 system and the police officers in the vicinity would immediately respond to it. It was difficult to guarantee that the responding officers would be female. However, the Police would try to ensure, as far as possible, that female officers would be responsible for interviewing the victims.

The Police's attitude towards wife battering cases

15. Mrs Selina CHOW and Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin opined that the crux of the issue was that the Police considered wife battering cases as a family problem rather than as crime. CS/CH assured members that the Police took a serious view of wife battering cases. Domestic violence was classified as violent crime which fell on the top priority of the Police Force. Steps would be taken to ensure that the procedures were adhered to. Police officers, if found in breach of procedures, would be subject to disciplinary actions. A supervisory system was in place to monitor all investigations undertaken by the Police, including investigation into domestic violent cases. The Police also launched public opinion survey to ensure that better service could be provided to the public.

The centralised information system of the Working Group on Battered Spouse

16. AD/SWD advised that the Working Group on Battered Spouse (the Working Group) had launched a pilot project in April 1996 to assess the feasibility of establishing a centralised information system to help gauge the size of the problem. At present, the Working Group was collecting information from the government departments concerned. The confidentiality rule would be observed in handling the victims' personal data. Subject to the outcome of the pilot project, the aim was to establish the system in April 1997.

17. After considerable discussion, the meeting agreed that the Working Group should :Adm
  1. consider the submissions made by the Harmony House and Kwan Fook Women's Concern Group to identify the areas of improvement on the services to be provided to the victims; and

  2. analyse the cause of wife battering with a view to suggesting preventive measures.

18. Mrs Selina CHOW requested and the Administration agreed to provide after the meeting the following information for members' reference :Adm
  1. since the setting up of the Working Group, the number of spouse battering cases reported to the Police, the Hospital Authority and the Social Welfare Department; and

  2. the number of spouse battering cases in which prosecution was instituted by the Police.

IV. Proposed legislation related to the establishment and regulation of the Civil Aid Services and Auxiliary Medical Services

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 533/96-97(03))

19. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (PAS(S)) briefed the meeting on the Administration's paper. She said that the Essential Services Corps Ordinance (ESCO), which was enacted in 1949, provided for, inter alia, the establishment and operation of the Civil Aid Services (CAS) and the Auxiliary Medical Services (AMS). It was too generalised for modern day applications. With the passage of time and in deeping with the changing needs of the community, the roles and services of CAS and AMS had expanded. The Administration intended to introduce separate and updated legislation for CAS and AMS to reflect their current services and operations.

20. In response to members' questions, the Administration made the following points :

  1. The spirit of the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force Ordinance, the Government Flying Service Ordinance and two proposed legislation on CAS and AMS was the same though they might differ in technical details. The proposed legislation aimed at updating the existing legislative provisions relating to CAS and AMS and would cover all the provisions in ESCO. When the proposed legislation for CAS and AMS were enacted, ESCO would become obsolete and could be repealed.

  2. The Administration did not intend to bring about any change to the establishment, role and operation of CAS and AMS in the proposed legislation.

  3. Applicants had to be Hong Kong permanent residents before they could be enrolled as members of CAS or AMS. The Administration did not intend to propose changes on the existing entry requirements for CAS and AMS in the proposed legislation.

21. To conclude, the Chairman said that the meeting generally agreed to the Administration's proposal to introduce separate legislation for CAS and AMS. Pending the drafting of the detailed provisions was available, members would consider further whether it would support the proposed legislation.

V. Disciplined Services Welfare Funds

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 533/96-97(04))

22. Mrs Sarah KWOK briefly took members through the Administration's paper.

23. In reply to Mr Zachary WONG, PAS(S) said that following a review made by an inter-departmental working group, which consisted of representatives from Civil Services Branch, the Security Branch and the Finance Branch, the Administration intended to introduce legislative amendments to regularise and formalise current practices in relation to the financial arrangements of the Disciplined Services Welfare Funds. Upon the Chairman's request, PAS(S) undertook to advise in writing as to why, in the past, the source of income as set out in paragraph 5 of the paper had been credited to the disciplined services welfare funds instead of the general revenue, and the amount of such income collected each year.Adm

24. The Chairman concluded that members would support the proposed legislative amendments.

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

LegCo Secretariat
7 March 1997

*.. other commitments

Last Updated on 21 August 1998