Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2) 749/98-99
(These minutes have been seen by
the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/SE/1
LegCo Panel on Security

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 9 October 1998 at 11:30 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present:

Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo

Members attending:

Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP

Members absent:

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP

Public Officers attending:
Item I

Mrs Regina IP
Secretary for Security

Mr Raymond WONG
Deputy Secretary for Security (1)

Ms CHANG King-yiu
Deputy Secretary for Security 2

Mr SO Kam-shing
Deputy Secretary for Security 3 (Acting)

Mrs Clarie LO
Commissioner for Narcotics

Item II

Mrs Lily YAM
Commissioner, ICAC

Mr Tony KWOK
Head of Operations, ICAC

Mr Thomas CHAN
Director of Corruption Prevention, ICAC

Mrs Rosanna URE
Director of Community Relations, ICAC
Clerk in attendance:
Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1
Staff in attendance:
Mrs Justina LAM
Assistant Secretary General 2

Miss Betty MA
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1
I. Briefing by the Secretary for Security on the Chief Executive's Policy Address

Secretary for Security (S for S) said that the policy objective of the Security Bureau was to ensure that Hong Kong remained a secure and safe city by maintaining law and order, safeguarding public safety, maintaining effective immigration and customs control, rehabilitating offenders and drug abusers, and providing effective emergency services. S for S then briefed members on the key features of the Bureau's programme areas. A copy of her opening statement was tabled at the meeting.

(Post-meeting note : The Secretary for Security's opening statement was issued to absent members after the meeting vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 400/98-99.)

2. Responding to Mrs Selina CHOW, S for S explained that the daily quota of 150 under the One-Way Permit (OWP) System were allocated to five categories of applicants under the Points System, namely, reunion of spouses, unsupported children coming to Hong Kong to seek dependence on their relatives, persons coming to Hong Kong to take care of their unsupported parents, unsupported elderly people coming to Hong Kong to seek dependence on their relatives and inheritance of property. Of the daily quota of 150, approximately 70 were allocated to eligible children (under the age of 20) who had the right of abode in Hong Kong under the Basic Law. About 40 of the daily quota were allocated to spouses who had been separated for over 10 years. The remaining quota were allocated to spouses who had been separated for less than 10 years and other categories. She pointed out that over 95% of the daily admission belonged to the family members categories.

3. Mrs Selina CHOW said that eligible children who had the right of abode in Hong Kong under the Basic Law should be admitted at a faster pace. To achieve this and to ensure new arrivals of other categories could be able to be self-reliant, applications for OWPs ought to be screened and approved by the Immigration Department (ID), instead of by the Mainland authorities. She urged the Administration to fight for the authority to approve applications for OWPs. In response, S for S advised that OWPs were issued to the Mainland residents mainly for family reunion purpose. The issue of the permits was administered by the Mainland authorities in accordance with the Points System. Regarding the admission of eligible children from the Mainland for settlement in Hong Kong, ID had a role to play in the vetting procedure through the verification of the status of eligible children and their parents in Hong Kong to make sure that they had the right of abode under the Basic Law before issuing a Certificate of Entitlement. S for S added that the Administration could consider Mrs CHOW's suggestion of allowing other categories of persons, e.g. professionals, to settle in Hong Kong, and could raise this with the Central People's Government if it had the community's support. She, however, pointed out that there was also a voice in the community that more Mainland residents should be admitted on the grounds of family reunion. The Chairman said that there was a general consensus in the legislature that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government should have a much greater role in approving the applications for OWPs. At the Chairman's request, S for S agreed to look into this point.

4. Referring to several unresolved cases where journalists and media personalities were assaulted, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed concern about the capability of the Police to combat such crimes. Otherwise, those media persons would be reluctant to make known their views openly. S for S said that the Administration was fully aware that the several incidents referred to by Mr CHEUNG had attracted wide public concern. As far as she was aware, there was no evidence to suggest that the three assault cases were directly related to the freedom of speech. One of the cases had been resolved and it involved private disputes. The other two cases were still under investigation and good progress had been made on the most recent one. Nevertheless, she pointed out that such cases were difficult to investigate. A number of factors would affect the success of the investigations, such as whether the witnesses could identify the alleged culprits. S for S assured members that the Administration attached great importance to each and every such assault case. She had confidence that the Police had the capability to safeguard the freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

5. The Chairman expressed concern about whether there were professional killers from the Mainland engaged to assault or even kill people in Hong Kong. He enquired whether the Police would step up its intelligence operation and whether there were any syndicates operating such activities. S for S responded that the Police had been collecting intelligence in this regard. As to whether prosecutions could be taken, it would depend very much on whether the alleged culprits could be arrested and whether there were sufficient evidence. To combat such crimes, the Police would strengthen co-operation with the relevant enforcement agencies in the Mainland in the exchange of intelligence.

6. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan expressed concern about the rise in the number of wife battering and child abuse cases as well as commercial fraud cases due to the economic downturn. He asked whether the Administration had any plans to address these problems. S for S advised that there was no evidence indicating that there was a significant upsurge in the number of reported cases of wife battering, child abuse and commercial crimes. However, there was an increase in the number of reported cases of burglary, pick-pocketing and criminal damage. At the request of Mr LEE, the Administration agreed to provide information on the number of reported cases regarding fraudulent and deception activities in relation to trading on LOCO London Gold.Adm

7. In response to members' concerns about the measures in place to combat the possible social disorder arising from the poor economic situation, S for S made the following points:
  1. the Administration kept a close eye on events which might give rise to disorder. For instance, the Police was concerned about a recent concert in which foul language was reportedly used, and was looking into what particular precautions might be taken in similar events in future;

  2. senior police officers would review the law and order situation and discuss appropriate measures everyday; and

  3. as to whether the Police would enhance their vigilance against mass assemblies or activities, it would depend very much on their nature. For such activities held in a venue managed by the Municipal Councils, the Police could arrive the scene promptly when notified. For activities such as the concert mentioned in (a) above, the Police would step up their enforcement actions and consider instituting prosecutions if necessary.
8. Responding to Mr Andrew CHENG, S for S advised that the Security Bureau had the overall responsibility for tackling the problem of illegal employment. Under the existing legislation, construction site controllers were liable for illegal immigrants found on their sites. When an illegal immigrant was arrested on a construction site, he could be prosecuted on the ground that he entered and remained in Hong Kong illegally, regardless of whether he had taken up employment on the construction site or not. However, the existing legislation did not cover other types of illegal workers, such as Two-way Permit holders and visitors, taking up illegal employment on construction sites. She agreed that illegal employment was not confined to the construction industry. Under the Immigration Ordinance (section 17I), it was an offence to employ a person who was not lawfully employable. The Ordinance also imposed a duty on an employer to inspect identification documents of new employees. However, it was difficult to identify employers of illegal workers on construction sites for prosecution under section 17I, as that being done in other places such as cafes or restaurants, taken into account the different layers of sub-contractors involved. To remove this loophole, the Administration intended to introduce a bill into the Legislative Council shortly to amend the Immigration Ordinance with a view to holding construction site controllers liable if persons not lawfully employable took up employment on their sites. S for S pointed out that the proposed legislative amendments aimed at addressing the difficulties encountered in identifying the employer of an illegal worker on a construction site having regard to the sub-contracting system adopted by the construction industry.

9. Responding to Dr LUI Ming-wah, S for S said that the crime detection rate for the first eight months in 1998 was 45.3% which was at about similar level with the corresponding figure in the last year. Dr LUI suggested and the Administration agreed to make public the crime detection rate at regular intervals.Adm

10. Noting that the number of reported drug abusers was on the downward trend, Dr LUI Ming-wah enquired about the combating measures and their effectiveness. Commissioner for Narcotics (C for N) responded that the number of reported drug abusers in the first six months in 1998 had dropped as compared with the figures in the corresponding period in 1997. The decline was a result of the efforts made in preventive education, publicity work and enforcement actions. The Administration adopted a multi-modal approach in providing drug treatment and rehabilitation services to meet the needs of drug abusers from varying background. Each type of drug treatment was subject to annual review in order to ensure its effectiveness.

11. Regarding the rehabilitation rate, C for N pointed out that it varied amongst different drug treatment and rehabilitation services. For instance, under the drug addiction treatment programme in Shek Kwu Chau, 40% of drug addicts were able to wean off from drugs. Such success rate compared favourably with the figures achieved by other overseas counterparts. At the request of members, C for N undertook to provide information on the rehabilitation rate in respect of different drug treatment and rehabilitation services provided for drug abusers in Hong Kong and their respective comparison with programmes in overseas countries.Adm

12. The Chairman noted that the Police would conduct a consultancy study with a view to adopting modern information technology (IT) to improve the effectiveness of front-line Police work. He enquired about the scope of the study and the methodology to be adopted in working out the information technology strategy for the Police Force. S for S undertook to provide the information in writing.

(Post-meeting note : The Administration would brief the Panel on the Police information technology strategy at the meeting on 5 November 1998.)

13. Mr Andrew CHENG said that the Administration had failed to incorporate a timetable for the review of regulation of interception of communications in its policy objectives. Members would not be able to assess the Administration's performance in this aspect in the forthcoming year. S for S said that given the complexity and sensitivity of the issue as well as the impact on the law enforcement agencies, the Administration was unable to promulgate a specific timetable for the review at this stage. Nevertheless, S for S assured members that the Administration was actively pressing ahead with a thorough review.

14. In response to Mrs Selina CHOW's concern, S for S undertook to provide information on the recent trend of tobacco smuggling activities in Hong Kong.

(Post meeting note : The Secretary for Security's response to issues raised at paras. 6,11 and 14 was issued to members vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 598/98-99 on 11 November 1998.)

II. Briefing by the Commissioner, ICAC on the Chief Executive's Policy Address

15. Commissioner, ICAC briefed members on the three key programme areas of ICAC - operations; preventive education and corruption prevention. She made the following points -
  1. To enhance its professional capability to detect and investigate corrupt activities, the operations Department had through redeployment, added an extra 40 front-line investigators to cope with the workload. To develop further the Commission's ability in dealing with growing complexity and sophistication in hiding corrupt assets and the increasing use of rapidly developing information technology (IT) in corruption and related crime, two new sections, namely, Financial Investigation Section and Computer Forensic and IT Research Section would be set up in the coming year.

  2. In preventive education, priority would be given to young people, new arrivals from the Mainland and office-bearers of owners corporations. The ICAC believed that it was of paramount importance that the message about corruption should reach young people. To achieve this, it would launch educational programmes for young people at school, introduce a range of new initiatives using new technology and the mass media, and strengthen its co-operation with youth groups and organizations to instill positive values at an earlier stage.

  3. The ICAC would continue to promote awareness of corruption prevention in the civil service. It would direct particular attention to tendering and works procedures in public works in view of the implementation of major infrastructure projects in the coming year. A corruption prevention guide for public bodies would also be issued.
16. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed concern about the indebtedness of civil servants as this might give rise to opportunities for corruption. He enquired about the measures in place to combat the problem. Commissioner, ICAC advised that arising from completed ICAC investigations, 68 civil servants borrowed money through improper means from January to September 1997 whereas the corresponding figure in 1998 was 12. She agreed that the life style of civil servants and how they managed their financial affairs, particularly in the current state of the economy would have an impact on the ICAC's prevention effort. ICAC would discuss with the Civil Service Bureau on appropriate measures for dealing with the problem, e.g. increasing the alertness of heads of departments and the need to provide counselling service to the officers concerned. She added that ICAC would refer completed investigations to the relevant departments so that they could consider if disciplinary action should be taken, even if no prosecutions would be instituted.

17. Responding to follow-up questions from Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong, Commissioner, ICAC said that at its next anti-corruption strategy meeting with the Police, the ICAC would put forward members' proposal to Force management of conducting a comprehensive review to assess the extent of the problem of indebtedness amongst Police officers. As to whether such Police officers should be restricted from performing certain types of duties which were considered to be corruption-prone, Force management would have to take into account the deployment difficulties given that most duties performed by law enforcement officers were open to corruption opportunities.

18. In response to the Chairman, Head of Operations, ICAC (Head/Ops) advised that civil servants would commit offences under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance if they borrowed money from loan sharks. Several cases involving civil servants borrowing money from improper means were subject of prosecution. Disciplinary action could also be taken against civil servants committing such acts contrary to civil service regulations. ICAC would be on the alert to heavy indebtedness of civil servants, as this might lead to corruption.

19. Mrs Selina CHOW enquired about the measures to be adopted to counter the growing tolerance of corruption evident in the younger generation. In response, Commissioner, ICAC said that the ICAC had recently reviewed its strategy with regard to young people. The conclusion was that the ICAC should start such work at an early stage of young people's development. The means of disseminating the anti-corruption message should reflect changing tastes and preference. There was also a need for the ICAC to work more closely with parents, schools and other organisations concerned with young people.

20. Mr LI Wah-ming asked whether the economic downturn had given rise to an increasing number of corruption reports. Commissioner, ICAC advised that 2,753 corruption reports had been received in the first nine months in 1998, which represented an increase of 25% compared with the corresponding period in 1997. As for the private sector, there was an increase of 28% in the number of corruption reports. There was an increase of 20% of corruption reports in the civil service, including the Police Force. The increase in the number of corruption reports was most significant between May and July this year, a 50% increase compared with the corresponding months of 1997. She pointed out that the increase in the number of reports did not necessarily imply a corresponding increase in corrupt activities. In the private sector, management would be less tolerant of suspected corruption by their staff in the economic downturn. Increased confidence in and knowledge of the work of ICAC might also have prompted more members of the public to make reports. The ICAC would continue to monitor closely corruption trends.

21. Responding to another question from Mr LI Wah-ming, Commissioner, ICAC said that ICAC had been in discussion with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKSE) to make it a public body under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. She noted from media reports that HKSE had agreed in principle to the proposal. However, in its recent reply to a letter from the ICAC, HKSE sought further clarifications on some legal points arising from the proposal and further questioned the rationale for the proposal. It was suggested that by raising these queries HKSE might be adopting delaying tactics. She hoped that this was not the case. The ICAC would follow up the issue with HKSE. She said that the ICAC, the Securities and Futures Commission and the Financial Services Bureau were all of the view that the HKSE should be a public body. The Administration planned to introduce proposed amendments to the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance into the Legislative Council within this legislative session.

As regards the proposals to make the two clearing houses public bodies, Commissioner, ICAC advised that the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company Limited had agreed in principle to the proposal but said that it was awaiting a firm decision from the HKSE on the matter.

22. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong remarked that the Democratic Party fully supported the proposals to amend the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance to make HKSE, Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company Limited and the Hong Kong Futures Exchange Clearing Corporation public bodies. He urged ICAC to expedite its discussion with the relevant bodies and introduce the legislative amendments as early as possible.

23. At the request of the Chairman, Head/Ops briefed members on the details regarding the proposal to set up two new sections, viz. Financial Investigation Section and Computer Forensic and IT Research Section. He said that ICAC had already possessed good general capability to investigate corruption-related fraud cases and tracing of corrupt assets. However, the ever growing complexity and sophistication in financial business as well as the increasing use of rapidly developing IT in corruption and related crime had rendered investigation of financial aspects of corruption, and corruption involving advanced IT and related crime increasingly difficult. Hence there was a need to build up more professional expertise in these two areas by setting up two dedicated sections. He stressed that out of the 20 posts proposed to be established in the two Sections, only six new posts would be created. The remaining 14 posts would be met by internal redeployment.

24. Responding to Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong, Commissioner, ICAC said that the corruption complaints against hospitals and tertiary institutions were high compared with the figures last year. However, corruption was not serious in these areas. In selecting target areas for launching corruption prevention publicity and education in the coming year, ICAC took into account the trend of corruption complaints. Director of Community Relations, ICAC (DCR) added that the nature of complaints received against tertiary institutions included reports relating to administrative matters such as housing allowance claim by universities staff. In providing corruption prevention service to public bodies, apart from according priority to the Hospital Authority and tertiary institutions, the ICAC had also identified the telecommunications industry as a target for promoting best practices to safeguard against corruption and malpractice. At the request of Mr CHEUNG, DCR agreed to provide further information on the number and nature of corruption complaints in relation to the Hospital Authority and tertiary institutions.

(Post meeting note : The information subsequently provided by the Commissioner, Independent Commission Against Corruption was issued to members vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 597/98-99 on 9 November 1998.)

25. The meeting ended at 1:15 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat11
November 1998