Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2) 2538/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/SE/1

LegCo Panel on Security

Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 13 May 1999 at 2:30 pm in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present:

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

Members absent:

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP

Public Officers attending:

Item III

Ms CHANG King-yiu
Deputy Secretary for Security 2

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Information Systems)
Hong Kong Police Force

Mr CHOW Kwok-chuen
Assistant Director of Immigration (Information Systems)
Immigration Department

Mr LAM Chun-man
Chief Fire Officer (Headquarters)
Fire Services Department

Mr William HUI Chi-wai
Civil Secretary of Correctional Services Department

Mr Benny LEE Chung-chee
Senior Aircraft Engineer of Government Flying Service

Item IV

Assistant Director/Administration

Principal Investigator

Item V

Mr Raymond WONG
Deputy Secretary for Security 1

Mrs Carrie WILLIS
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security A

Mr NG Wai-kit
Regional Commander (New Territories North)
Hong Kong Police Force

Mr CHIU Hon-bun
District Commander (Border District)
Hong Kong Police Force
Clerk in attendance:
Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1
Staff in attendance:
Miss Betty MA
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 1
I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper Nos. CB(2) 1798 and 1887/98-99)

The minutes of meetings held on 11 February 1999 and 4 March 1999 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1886/98-99(01))

Items for discussion at the next Panel meeting

2. Members agreed to re-schedule the next meeting for 10 June 1999 at 2:30 pm and to discuss the following items -

  1. Draft Report of the Panel on Security for submission to the Legislative Council;

  2. Review of the Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force;

  3. Preventive measures against illegal immigration; and

  4. Proposal for an Automated Tape Library.
(Post-meeting note : The item at paragraph 2(d) was replaced by "Improvements to Police stations and operational facilities".)

Items for discussion at future Panel meetings

3. The Chairman said that a list of follow-up actions required of the Administration, as requested by members at the previous meetings, was circulated to members under LC Paper No. CB(2) 1937/98-99(01). The Panel might follow up the issues should any members consider necessary.

4. The Chairman informed the meeting that the Government Disciplined Services General Union requested to present to the Panel its views on the proposal of Civil Service Reform. As the Public Service Panel had discussed the issue at its meeting on 29 April 1999 and that members of the Security Panel had been invited to attend the meeting, members considered that the Panel would not follow up the matter at the moment. The Government Disciplined Services General Union might contact individual members for exchanging of views.

5. Referring to LC Paper No. CB(2) 1886/98-99(01), members agreed to delete items A2 and A4 from the list of outstanding items for discussion. Having regard to the fact that the House Committee would hold a special meeting to discuss the problem of Hong Kong residents detained in the Mainland, members considered that item A3 might be incorporated in the discussion. The Chairman suggested to convey the Panel's views to the Chairman of House Committee for his consideration.Clerk

(Post-meeting note : The Chairman of the House Committee advised that the matter be discussed by the Panel.)

6. As 1 July 1999 would be a public holiday, members agreed that the regular Panel meeting in July would be re-scheduled to 8 July 1999.

III. Progress of Year 2000 compliance in Government, Government-funded and Government-regulated organizations within the purview of the Security Bureau
(LC Paper Nos. CB(2) 1886/98-99(02) and CB(2) 1886/98-99(03))

Briefing by the Administration

7. Deputy Secretary for Security 2 (DS(S)2) said that there were seven departments under the policy purview of the Security Bureau. Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance work in the Security Bureau and three departments had been completed. For the remaining four departments, except one department, rectification work had been completed for over 90% of the systems. She assured members that all the outstanding rectification works in these departments would be completed by the end of June 1999. In addition, the departments concerned were preparing contingency plans which would be completed by the end of August 1999 so that drills would be arranged as appropriate. DS(S)2 added that Y2K compliance work were carried out in related organizations including the Independent Police Complaints Council, security and guarding services agents and fire services contractors.

Hong Kong Police Force

8. Referring to the supplementary paper entitled "The Quantities and Functions of Y2K Non-compliant Systems with Rectification Work Outstanding" which was tabled at the meeting, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Information Systems) (ACP(IS)) said that of the 14 computer systems listed in the paper, eight systems had completed the compliance work. These included Modus Operandi Computer System (MOCS), Criminal Intelligence Computer System (CICS), Enhanced Police Operational Nominal Index Computer System (EPONICS), Formation Information Communal System (FICS), Regional Information Communal System (RICS), Radar Surveillance System (RSSMAR) in Marine Headquarters, Border Fence Protection System in Hong Kong/China Border Fence and PABX telephone system in Marine Headquarters.

(Post-meeting note : The supplementary paper was circulated to abesent members under LC Paper No. CB(2) 1987/98-99(01).)

9. For the outstanding systems, ACP(IS) said that rectification work for Enhanced Command and Control System (ECACCS) and Traffic Operations and Management System (TOMS) would be completed by mid-June 1999 and the end of May 1999 respectively. The rectification work in respect of Building Management System in Chek Lap Kok Airport Police Station, Electronic Fuel Management System in Chek Lap Kok Airport Police Station, Fuel Management System in Police Headquarters and Traffic Radio System (TRS) would be completed by the end of June 1999.

(Post-meeting note : ACP(IS) has advised that a contract has now been signed with Motorola to render the TRS Y2K compliant. The work will be completed by October 1999. The Y2K problems are not serious and the TRS will function effectively without Y2K compliance.)

10. ACP(IS) said that notwithstanding TRS and ECACCS were important computer systems with rectification work outstanding, the systems would be compliant by the end of June 1999 and subject to intensive testing in the following months. He pointed out that TOMS was basically a data based system. Should it be broken down, the Force could switch to a manual system which would not affect the Force's service. For ECACCS, it supported the deployment of front-line officers as well as incidents reporting, i.e. maintained an up-to-date log on incidents occurred and their respective progress. To ensure its smooth rollover to Y2K critical dates, the Force had hired a similar system as testing basis before carrying out any rectification work. For the two embedded systems in the Airport, the systems could be switched to manual operation if any disruptions arose. As regards TRS, the Force could resort to point to point radio communication should there be any disruptions.

11. Referring to LC Paper No. CB(2) 1987/98-99(01), DS(S)2 added that the first seven systems were computer systems, the next five were embedded systems and the last one was line communication system.

Fire Services Department

12. Chief Fire Officer (Headquarters) said that except for the Trunked Radio System, the Fire Services Department had completed all of its Y2K compliance work. The function of the Trunked Radio System was for the communication between staff at scene and the control centre. It was expected that the system would achieve full compliance by early June 1999. To ensure the full compliance of the system, tests on the rectification work would be carried out by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department as well as an independent consultant. Should any problems arise, the Department could resort to point to point communication. Besides, the Department was also preparing a contingency plan to this effect which would be ready in July and tested in August 1999.

Immigration Department

13. Assistant Director of Immigration (Information Systems) said that rectification work was continuing on eight computer systems, one embedded system and five line communication systems. The function of these systems were spelt out in LC Paper No. CB(2) 1987/98-99(01). He pointed out that about 98% of the eight non-compliant computer systems had completed the rectification work, thus it was expected that a full compliance could be achieved by the end of June 1999. With reference to the embedded system (MV 1000 CCTV System in Lo Wu Terminal), the rectification work had already been completed and the test on the system would be completed by the end of June 1999. As regards the five line communication systems, the rectification work was progressing to schedule. It was confident that the outstanding work would be completed by the end of June 1999.

Correctional Services Department

14. Civil Secretary of Correctional Services Department said that despite there was one computer system and two embedded systems in the Department which were not yet Y2K compliant, rectification work had been completed and testing was in progress. Thus, it was believed that these systems would be in full compliance by the end of May 1999. The computer system was for managing stock inventory and supply of the correctional services industries and the two embedded systems in question supported the operation of CCTV in the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre.

Government Flying Service

15. Senior Aircraft Engineer of Government Flying Service (Maintenance) (Sr Aircraft Engr (M)) said that there were one computer system and two embedded systems in the Government Flying Service (GFS) not yet confirmed to be Y2K compliant. Rectification work in respect of the Chek Lap Kok Headquarters Building Management System would be completed by the end of May 1999. Whilst for the two embedded systems, which were secondary navigation system in helicopters, compliance testing was satisfactory and there was no non-compliant problem identified. Their Y2K compliance status was being confirmed with the principal supplier whose reply was expected by June 1999. GFS did not anticipate significant impact on the operation of GFS's helicopters as the principal navigation system was not time driven and therefore would not be affected by the Y2K problem.

16. Notwithstanding that the Custom and Excise Department (C&ED) was under the purview of the Trade and Industry Bureau, the Chairman requested and DS(S)2 agreed to provide information on the progress of Y2K compliance work carried out by C&ED in relation to systems used for drug trafficking detection.Adm


Impact of Y2K non-compliant systems on members of the public

17. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan enquired about the impact on the daily life of the public should various systems in the departments concerned breakdown on the first day of Year 2000 and the corresponding contingency plans put in place by the departments. The Chairman was concerned about the leave arrangement during the period. The Administration's responses were summarized below -

  1. Hong Kong Police Force

    The Force had carried out a risk assessment of the Y2K problem as it might affect the community of Hong Kong. There were felt to be 12 worst-case scenarios -

      - complete/partial power failure across Hong Kong
      - power failure in individual buildings
      - runs on banks
      - disruption in payment of wages
      - systems failure in the Airport
      - security systems failure in prisons
      - traffic lights failure
      - chemical spills
      - water failure
      - food chain failure
      - immigration backlog at control points
      - transportation systems failure

    (Post-meeting note : ACP(IS) has advised that "complete/partial telephone failure" has now been added to the list as a separate item.)

    Besides, the Force had also carried out assessment on its internal systems, i.e. the mission-critical systems failure as well as non-mission critical system failure. However, the worst case was unlikely to happen.

    The Force would decide in October or November this year on the degree of curtailment of leave over the new year period. It was likely that there would be some curtailment and current thinking was to restrict leave to of the order of five percent of the Establishment.

  2. Fire Services Department

    In the event of communication systems failure, the Department would use microwave or radio communication systems of which no computer-aid was needed. Similar arrangement had been made with the Hospital Authority. In addition, the Water Supplies Department had assured that there would be sufficient water supplies for fire fighting. Leave for department staff would remain as usual but the Department would seek back-up from administrative staff in case of any emergency.

  3. Immigration Services Department

    The Department was confident that the Immigration Control Automation System would be Y2K compliant by June 1999. In the unlikely event of a system failure, the clearance of passengers at the control points could continue by invoking the contingency procedures. In such circumstances, the immigration staff would conduct watchlist checks manually and take down the identity card number of travellers who were Hong Kong residents or collect the arrival/departure cards in the case of visitors. The movement data so collected would be inputted into the system on resumption of computer service. Whilst the front-line officers were familiar with these procedures, the clearance speed would likely be affected. However, the impact could be minimised through flexible deployment of manpower. As regards the leave arrangement, it would be in line with the usual practice (i.e. in full strength to cope with the upsurge requirement for immigration services during the new year period) except that information technology staff would be required to be on duty to provide technical support should such need arise.

Mission-critical systems

18. Responding to Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, ACP(IS) said that mission-critical systems were those computer and embedded systems whose proper functioning was critical to the operation of the Force, e.g. the 999 Command and Control System. The efficiency of the Force would be hampered seriously without the support of such systems. There were about a dozen of systems in the Force which were considered important to the proper functioning of the Force. ACP(IS) said that he would provide a list of these systems for members' reference. He stressed that the complete breakdown of mission-critical systems was unlikely to happen.Adm

Impact of Y2K compliance work in the Airport Authority

19. Mr Howard YOUNG asked to what extent and under what circumstances would the service provided by GFS be affected if the Airport Authority (AA) faced Y2K non-compliant problem. Sr Aircraft Engr (M) said that any non-compliant problem faced by AA would only have minimal effect on the GFS's systems as AA mainly involved in the supply of fresh and saline water. The communication with the control tower of the Civil Aviation Department, however, had a more direct impact on the service of GFS. He pointed out that the above scenarios were covered in the departmental contingency plan.

Remedial time needed for rectification work

20. Mr CHENG Kai-nam was concerned about the remedial time needed for carrying out rectification work should any computer systems be found to be Y2K non-compliant until Year 2000. ACP(IS) responded that the Steering Committee on Y2K Compliance under the chairmanship of the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau had adopted confident measures and sensible public relation strategy in addressing the Y2K problem. The same approach was adopted in the Force. He pointed out that a great deal of maintenance in respect of computer systems could be carried out remotely. The Chairman opined that consideration should also be given to a possible scenario of losing data permanently as a result of computer breakdown. ACP(IS) said that he would provide further information on the time required to rectify systems which had problems beyond midnight on 31 December 1999.Adm

Educational publicity on Y2K problem

21. Mr CHENG Kai-nam asked whether the Administration had formulated an overall strategy to alert the public of the possible areas in their daily life that would be affected by the Y2K problem and whether consideration would be given to launching educational publicity in this regard. In response, DS(S)2 said that the Administration was of the view that no territory-wide chaos would arise from the Y2K problem in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the Administration was considering launching educational publicity with a view to introducing tips for the public to cope with possible Y2K problem in their daily life.

22. The Chairman asked, on behalf of Mrs Selina CHOW, whether the Administration would advise members of the public on what to do and what ought not to do during the rollover to Y2K critical dates so that the need for emergency services during the period could be reduced to the minimum. DS(S)2 responded that a territory wide publicity co-ordinated by ITBB was under way.

23. The Chairman suggested that the Panel should follow up the progress of the outstanding rectification work in early July 1999 and to study the respective departmental contingency plans. DS(S)2 said that the Administration could update members on the progress of compliance in early July as the rectification work in respect of the outstanding systems was expected to be completed by June 1999. However, the territory wide contingency plan would be formulated and tested in September this year. She proposed to report progress on the compliance work in June, followed by reviewing the contingency plans in the end of August this year. The Chairman, however, considered that having regard to the importance of the systems in ensuring public safety, the issue needed to be followed up by the Panel in July 1999.

IV. Progress of Year 2000 compliance in ICAC
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1886/98-99(04))

24. Referring to the information paper, the Chairman enquired about the details in respect of the two non-compliant systems. Assistant Director (Administraiton)/ICAC (AD(A)) said that the two systems were the Commission Against Corruption Information System and the Operations Department Local Area Network. The former system was used for supporting the investigation. Principal Investigator/ICAC added that the latter system was an internal office automation network.

25. The Chairman was concerned whether investigation related data would be lost as a result of system failure. AD(A) responded that backup microfiches would be used.

V. Policy on Closed Area and Closed Area permit
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1860/98-99(01))

Briefing by the Administration

26. Deputy Secretary for Security 1 (DS(S)1) said that the Closed Area south of the land boundary was established to provide a buffer zone to combat illegal immigration and other cross boundary crimes. Access into the Closed Area was controlled through the issue of Closed Area Permits (CAP) on the basis of need. In the light of public comments calling for improvements to the CAP procedures, the Administration had reviewed the CAP system and procedures. A number of changes to the CAP system and procedures were proposed, namely -

  1. adopting a more flexible approach towards the application of CAP on the basis of "need";

  2. simplifying the system by reducing the current 15 classes of CAP to two;

  3. improving application procedure; and

  4. setting up a review mechanism.
He further said that the Police would shortly consult local residents on the proposals and that the new arrangements could be implemented within two months after consultation.

27. DS(S)1 said that the Administration considered that there remained a need for the Closed Area. The current delineation of the southern boundary of the Closed Area had been determined to a large extent by reference to the topography, road and infrastructure network within the Area and access to Police support facilities. The Administration would review the policy on the Closed Area and its coverage from time to time in response to public views and comments. However, having regard to the recent court decision on the right of abode issue, there was tremendous pressure for vigorous anti-illegal immigration efforts. Any sign of relaxation of Closed Area policy or reduction of the coverage of the Closed Area would give a wrong signal which would be exploited and could trigger off a mass influx of illegal immigrants.


Issue of CAP

28. Referring to paragraph 9 of the information paper, Mr Andrew CHENG enquired about the definition of "legitimate purposes" and the reasons for classifying permits for working in Chung Ying Street under "Visitor" permits. In response, Regional Commander (New Territories North) (RC(NTN) said that residents in the Closed Area of Sha Tau Kok, irrespective of whether they were indigenous or non-indigenous villagers, would be allowed access to Chung Ying Street for legitimate purposes, such as shopping under the proposal. As the Police would adopt a more liberal and flexible approach in assessing the needs for access to Chung Ying Street, it was proposed to simplify the system by reducing the current 15 classes of CAPs to two, i.e. "Resident" and "Visitor" permits. Thus, the "Visitor" permits applied to all types of non-resident permits. District Commander (Border District) added that "legitimate purposes" for access to Chung Ying Street would be assessed having regard to the unique circumstance in Chung Ying Street, e.g. the need to maintain a traditional link with the local community at Chung Ying Street and to liaise with the local Rural Committee as well as shopping. He pointed out that, in fact, a lot of applications for access to Chung Ying Street were for shopping purpose.

29. Mr Andrew CHENG enquired whether there was such need to control access to Chung Ying Street having regard to the adoption of a more liberal and flexible approach to CAP system. RC(NTN) responded that a flexible approach did not necessarily mean a lax in enforcement. As to whether the applicants had genuine needs for access to Chung Ying Street, the burden of proof would be on the applicants. Should an applicant be aggrieved by a decision of the Police, he might seek a review. DS(S)1 added that given the "open boundary" at Chung Ying Street, the access control to Chung Ying Street was considered necessary for an effective control.

30. Mr Howard YOUNG said, on behalf of Mrs Selina CHOW, that consistent and objective criteria for issuing CAPs should be adopted. DS(S)1 said that the flexible and liberal approach to be adopted for issuing CAP was responding to the calls from the local residents. Guidance notes would be published setting out clearly how the application form should be completed and the supporting documents required with a view to explaining the procedure to CAP applicants, enhancing transparency and facilitating processing.

Further relaxing the eligibility of access to Chung Ying Street

31. Mr Howard YOUNG enquired whether the Administration would consider allowing package tours to visit Chung Ying Street so as to boost the tourist industry in Hong Kong. In reply, DS(S)1 said that given the present pressure for vigorous anti-illegal immigration efforts, it was not an appropriate time for opening up Chung Ying Street to tourists which would further increase the burden of the law enforcement agencies. The Administration would review the situation from time to time.

Cross-boundary crimes

32. In response to Mr CHENG Kai-nam's enquiry on the illegal cross-boundary activities engaged in the Closed Area, RC(NTN) said that illegal immigration and smuggling were major illegal activities engaged in Closed Area. He pointed out that of the total illegal immigrants (IIs) arrested in Hong Kong, about 45% were arrested in the New Territories North region. Amongst these IIs, half of them were arrested in the border in which 80% were found in the Closed Area. He added that of the total number of IIs arrested in Hong Kong, about 10% were involved in crime and 60% were land crossers. Thus, it was the Police's policy to intercept IIs once they entered the border area. An abolition or reduction of the size of the Closed Area would seriously negate the effectiveness of the Police's boundary control measures. Regarding smuggling activities, RC(NTN) said that smuggling of cigarettes, dutiable goods, fireworks, meat and poultry were mostly found in the Closed Area. About some 100 cases of confiscating smuggling goods were recorded in Chung Ying Street. The Closed Area did provide a buffer zone for combating illegal immigration, smuggling and other cross-boundary crimes.

33. The meeting ended at 4:35 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
15 July 1999