Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2) 194/98-99

Ref : CB2/PL/SE/1

LegCo Panel on Security

Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 30 July 1998 at 2:30 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present:

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 CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP

Members attending :

Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo

Public Officers attending :

Item III

Mrs Sarah KWOK
Acting Deputy Secretary for Security

Mr HSU King-ping
Acting Deputy Director of Fire Services

Mr HO Cham
Assistant Director of Buildings

Mr Stephen H C CHAN
Acting Chief Electrical and Mechanical Engineer

Mr Francis LO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Mr LO Kwai-chuen
Acting Senior Liaison Officer

Miss Ophelia TSANG
Acting Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing

Mr CHEUNG Koon-nam
Chief Housing Manager

Item IV

Mrs Sarah KWOK
Acting Deputy Secretary for Security

Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (Special Duties)

Assistant Director (Airport Standards)

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations)

Mr James WONG
District Commander (Airport District)

Mr Sidney CHAU
General Manager
Aviation Security Company Limited

Mr Joseph WONG
Deputy General Manager
Aviation Security Company Limited

Item V

Mr Tony KWOK Man-wai
Head of Operations/ICAC

Mr Thomas CHAN Chi-sun
Director/Corruption Prevention

Mrs Rosanna URE LUI Hang-sai
Director/Community Relations

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 held on 14 July 1998
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 114/98-99)

1. The minutes were confirmed.

II.Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 121/98-99(01))

2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting to be held on 3 September 1998 -

  1. Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill;

  2. Immigration (Amendment) Bill - illegal workers on construction sites; and

  3. Child pornography.

3. Members also agreed that the following subjects should be added to the list of outstanding items to be discussed at future meetings of the Panel -

  1. Admission of children who had the right of abode under the Basic Law from the Mainland for settlement in Hong Kong;

  2. Travel convenience for visitors to come to Hong Kong; and

  3. Visa-free access to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport holders.

4. The Chairman suggested that the Administration should be requested to provide advance information on the subjects at 3(a) and 3(b) above for members'; consideration. Clerk

5. The Chairman said that the recent arrest of a cross-border gang who were alleged to have carried out a number of serious crimes had caused public concern. He would liasie with the Commissioner of Police to explore the feasibility of giving a closed door briefing on the issue. Chairman

6. As the first Thursday in October 1998 would be a public holiday, members agreed that the regular meeting in October would be rescheduled to 8 October 1998 at 2:30 pm.

III.Proposals to improve fire safety in private buildings
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 121/98-99(02))

7. The Chairman recapped briefly the discussion on the subject at the special briefing held on 9 July 1998.

8. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that the occurrence of several tragic fires in the past years had aroused public concern on the practicability of external rescue given there were so many private housing estates constructed on podiums. Members expressed serious concern about the accessibility of fire engines and the use of aerial ladders during an outbreak of fire in such buildings. In response, Acting Deputy Director of Fire Services (DDFS) advised that fire rescue operations were mainly carried out internally, i.e. using the staircases in the premises to gain access to units on fire and also as escape routes for evacuating residents. The coronors'; reports in respect of the several tragic fires revealed that despite there were effective escape routes inside the buildings in question, the tragics occured as a result of inadequate provision and maintenance of fire service installations (FSIs). As regards external rescue, he pointed out that aerial ladders were mainly used as supporting fire engines for providing fire checks and rescue of people within a certain height. The current maximum height of aerial ladders in use was 50 metres. Under the existing legislation, provided that at least one principle face of a building was accessible by fire engines, the building site was acceptable by the Fire Services Department (FSD) from the fire safety angle.

9. In response to members'; follow-up questions, DDFS said that some old buildings in the Central and Western districts were not accessible by fire engines due to inherent site constraint. In order to ensure these buildings were adequately protected in the event of fire, the operational units had carried out regular inspections and drawn up suitable contingency plans for emergencies. When these old buildings undergone redevelopment, the FSI requirements of the new buildings would be enhanced, for instance, the installation of sprinkler systems, extension of FSI inlets, etc. DDFS added that the Buildings Department (BD) was considering the introduction of relevant legislation on the requirements of emergency vehicular accesses by requiring accessibility of fire engines to more than one principle face of a building. In this connection, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide the information when it was ready. Adm

10. Mrs Selina CHOW pointed out that the ownership of pre-1973 composite buildings were very complicated. She doubted whether the Administration had under-estimated the real problems in the event that the owners concerned were required by the enforcement departments to carry out fire safety improvement works. Acting Deputy Secretary for Security (DS for S) advised that the enforcement departments, FSD and BD, had adopted a pragmatic and flexible approach in enforcing the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance (FS(CP)O). The enforcement departments would communicate with the building owners or the authorized persons appointed by the owners of the premise on the requirements of safety improvement works having regard to the circumstances of the case. When there were practical difficulties to carry out the required improvement works, the Administration would adopt the fire engineering approach. The approach allowed for compensatory measures for improving fire safety which would equally achieve the fire safety objectives in the relevant codes of practice.

11. As regards the problem of multi-owners in a composite building, DS for S said that the Home Affairs Department (HAD) was actively promoting the formation of owners'; corporations (OC) in private buildings. FSD';s recent survey revealed that the presence of building management bodies, in the form of an OC or a property management company, helped to enable better management of fire safety measures. As some were expected to need technical advice on FSIs and fire safety improvement works, the enforcement departments would offer assistance whenever needed. The Building Management Resources Centre operated by the HAD would also provide relevant information to the owners concerned.

12. DDFS illustrated the concept of compensatory measures with an example where a sprinkler system was required to be installed in a premise to improve the fire safety condition therein. In normal circumstance, a water tank should be installed at the rooftop of the building. If no sufficient space was available at the rooftop or that its loading did not permit such installation, two alternatives could be considered. Firstly, the building owners might have to explore whether there were other available fire services water tanks available inside the building, if so, whether these water tanks could be used. The other alternative would be to use direct town main to feed the installations. If the volume of the existing fire services water tank was smaller than the standard requirement for a sprinkler water tank, a direct telephone line connecting to the control room of FSD might be required so that an emergency case could be reported as soon as possible. DDFS said that compensatory measures had been used in 12 cases since its introduction.

13. In response to a follow-up question from Mrs Selina CHOW, DDFS said that the Administration was able to use alternative means to make way for the provision of FSIs in buildings without infringing personal property of individual owners. DS for S pointed out that since the FS(CP)O came into force in 1997, by adopting the fire engineering approach, the Administration was able to solve the fire safety problems encountered so far.

14. DS for S added that the Administration would step up its publicity efforts and enhance its educational work in promoting fire safety awareness.

15. In response to Miss HO Sau-lan, Chief Housing Manager/ Housing Department said that BD would liaise with the Housing Department on the arrangements for providing alternative accommodation to those who would be displaced as a result of the demolition of unauthorized rooftop structures so as to carry out the fire safety improvement works. Eligible persons would be allocated with public rental housing units or interim housing units in accordance with the established policy. To facilitate members'; consideration, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide further information on the re-housing policy in this regard. Adm

16. Noting that the Administration was pursuing the concept of mandatory management of buildings, Miss HO Sau-lan wondered how the expenses incurred from engaging building management bodies would be apportioned amongst the building owners. Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs responded that if there was a Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC) for the building in question, the building management expenses would be apportioned in accordance with the terms and conditions of the DMC. If there was no DMC, or if the DMC did not provide for the fixing of contribution, the expenses would be apportioned by the owners'; respective shares of the building in accordance with the provisions stipulated in the Building Management Ordinance. Miss HO Sau-lan commented that certain commercial activities such as restaurants were exposed to higher fire risks than other activities. She suggested the Administration to take into account this factor in determining the criteria for apportioning building management related expenses amongst building owners.

17. The Chairman reminded members that the public consultation on the proposals set out in the consultation paper would end on 24 August 1998. Members were requested to forward additional views, if any, to the Administration directly.

IV.Issues relating to security of the Airport at Chek Lap Kok
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 121/98-99(03))

18. At the invitation of the Chairman, DS for S briefed members on the content of the information paper, which set out the arrangements on permits for the disciplined forces and their vehicles for access to a restricted area at the Airport at Chek Lap Kok (the Airport), the processing of permits and exemptions and the communication system used by the Police at the Airport. DS for S said that disciplined forces personnel who worked at the Airport and required regular access to the Airport Restricted Area (ARA) for performing duties had been issued with the requisite permits in accordance with the Aviation Security Regulation (ASR). The permit requirement was waived under section 22 of ASR if the disciplined forces were to perform emergency duties. To implement section 22 of ASR, the Aviation Security Company Limited (AVSECO) had promulgated a set of operational procedures. Regarding the traffic incident occurred at the Airport on 10 July 1998, the two ambulances in question were granted immediate access. In respect of the entry of the Police, there were misunderstanding between the parties concerned because the siren and blue flash light of the motorcycles were not turned on. In the light of the experience of the incident, the operational procedures had been further reviewed between AVSECO and the disciplined forces. With reference to the processing of permits, DS for S advised that it would normally take four days to complete the processing of a permanent permit. Since the operation of the Airport, the average processing time taken was ten days. It was because many applicants did not meet the deadline for applications. However, those requiring access to ARA urgently could apply for a temporary permit which could be processed within an hour. As regards exemptions, the Aviation Security Authority (ASA) might grant exemption to any person under section 21 of ASR. Under section 5 of the ASR, bona-fide passengers and air-crew were not required of a valid permit. Lastly, DS for S said that the Police on patrol at the Airport were currently using two radio systems provided by the Airport Authority (AA) and the Police. The AA';s system was designed to have a coverage of 95% of the Airport. Two blind spots had been found since the introduction of the system. Additional antennae would be installed to enhance the coverage levels. She stressed that the operation of the Police had not been jeopardized.

19. Members expressed serious concern about the security of the Airport and worried that major security breaches could encourage international terrorists to target at the Airport if there were loopholes in the existing security procedures. They referred to the following incidents and enquired whether any improvement measures had been put in place -

  1. a KLM flight took off carrying passengers'; luggage without the passengers on board;

  2. unauthorized entries into ARA; and

  3. a group of passengers in transit were allowed to board a China Airline flight without going through security checks.

20. In response, Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (PAS/S) made the following points -

  1. The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) had already started the investigation in respect of the KLM incident. The result would be submitted to ASA next week. The Administration would make no further comments on the incident while awaiting the investigation result. PAS/S stressed that all the luggage had undergone security check. Notwithstanding the incident, the luggage on the plane should be safe and there was no breach of international requirement;

  2. The AVSECO had close contact with the Police to tackle unauthorized entry into ARA and the former had put in place measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. Most of the reported cases were due to the fact that the trespassers were holding expired permits or they were given permission to enter certain restricted areas but trespassed into other restricted areas. Since the operation of the Airport, such unauthorized entry incidents had been on the decrease. In the first week of its operation, there were 13 cases of unauthorized entry into ARA, whereas the figures recorded in the second and third week had been decreased to ten and six respectively. The Police would investigate each of these cases to see if any person should be prosecuted; and

  3. The CAD was conducting an investigation into the China Airline incident and no conclusion had been drawn.

21. PAS/S reiterated that the security measures of the Airport met international standards. Adequate training had been provided to the Airport security personnel. General Manager/ Aviation Security Company Limited (GM/AVSECO) added that the Airport was equipped with an enhanced security system. The new system included entry-exit control and an Enhanced Security Restricted Area (ESRA). All authorized persons must have their documents and luggage checked before entering the ESRA. Even staff members with permits had to go through x-ray screening at the ESRA. Such arrangements represented a higher degree of security than those previously adopted in the Kai Tak Airport. The AVSECO had held meetings with the Police every week in order to enhance their mutual understanding in enforcing the security of the Airport and to prevent the recurrence of unauthorized entries. The authority concerned had already put up additional signages in the Airport warning the public that any unauthorized entry into the Restricted Area would be liable to prosecution. GM/AVSECO pointed out that the several unauthorized entry cases occurred during the first few weeks of operation were mainly due to the fact that the size of new airport was a few times larger than the Kai Tak Airport. For instance, there were over 100 gates/doors leading to ARA. Not to mention the passengers, even the staff members of the Airport needed some time to get themselves acquainted with the new environment as well as the new security procedures. The security of the Airport was on the right track.

22. The Chairman requested the Administration to provide a brief report on each of the unauthorized entry incidents since the operation of the Airport and the respective improvement measures adopted. Adm

(Post-meeting note : The subsequent report provided by the Secretary for Security was issued to members vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 191/98-99 on 26 August 1998.)

23. In response to Mrs Selina CHOW, GM/AVSECO said that there were about 2 300 security staff at the Airport. More than 1 400 of them came from the Kai Tak Airport and about 800 were new recruits. All the security staff were required to undergo the training provided by AVSECO.

24. Responding to another question from Mrs Selina CHOW, GM/AVSECO advised that the issuance of temporary permits were not confined to emergency cases. Temporary permits would also be issued to those who had applied for permanent permits but were waiting for the processing.

25. Miss CHOY So-yuk and Mr Howard YOUNG were concerned about the outdoor blind spots in the vicinity of the Airport. Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations) responded that the locations of the two blind spots in question were at the north east and south east of the Airport. The blind spots had not jeopardized the operation of the Police. In the meantime, the Police were using the interim Police radio system (which was used by officers policing the area when the new Airport was still under construction), as a backup. He said that the Police were working closely with the communication section of AA to improve the transmission of signal in the Airport. The temporary backup system would be suspended once the current communication system provided by AA was improved.

V.Corruption reports in the first six months of 1998
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 121/98-99(05))

26. Head of Operations/ICAC (Head/Ops) highlighted the salient points of the information paper. He said that an increase of 24% in corruption reports received in the first half of 1998 as compared with the same period in 1997 did not necessarily imply a corresponding increase in corrupt activities. According to ICAC';s analysis, publicity associated with a few high profile cases had attracted more reports in related areas. The economic downturn and the closure of companies had resulted in more suspected corruption and fraud cases. Moreover, the stepping up of collection and analysis of intelligence also encouraged the referral of suspected cases. An increase of public confidence in ICAC, the current state of the economy as well as the proactive approach adopted by ICAC accounted for the increase in corruption reports. He added that ICAC had adopted a three-pronged approach to combat corruption, i.e. through investigation, prevention and education. Following its review conducted last year, the Operations Department had an extra 48 front-line investigators to cope with the increased workload. Over 1 500 cases were being investigated by the Operations Department which accounted for a 40% increase in caseload over last year. As regards the civil service, ICAC intelligence suggested no resurgence of corruption syndicates in government departments despite an increase in corruption reports. The ICAC had confidence in the Administration';s determination to maintain a clean and corruption free civil service.

27. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed concern about the possible leaking of subscribers'; personal data such as credit card numbers, sample signatures, identity card numbers and so on by telecommunications companies or other companies providing subscription service. Head/Ops said that when staff of a company leaked customers'; information to others, ICAC would take action if there were elements of corruption. If the suspect involved just used the information to commit crime, the case would be referred to the Commercial Crime Bureau of the Police Force for follow-up action. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data would also look into complaints against unauthorized disclosure of subscribers'; information. Head/Ops further said that ICAC was considering classifying telecommunications companies as public bodies within the meaning of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance so as to tighten regulations in respect of prevention of corruption among providers in the telecommunications industry. At present, Hong Kong Telephone Co Ltd was the only service provider in the telecommunications industry defined as a public body.

28. In response to a follow-up question from Mr Howard YOUNG, Head/Ops said that ICAC had been in close contact with the Police as well as security personnel of the telecommunications companies on unauthorized disclosure of subscribers'; information. Thus, the latter were fully capable of determining whether an alleged case of unauthorized disclosure of subscribers'; information should be referred to the Police or ICAC for action. Intelligence would be exchanged among parties concerned, if needed.

29. The Chairman suggested that - Clerk

  1. the Police be requested to provide information on whether there was a corresponding rise in the crimes committed by the telecommunications industry involving illegal use of subscribers'; information and fraud cases; and

  2. the Office of Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data be requested to provide information on whether there was a rise in the number of complaints against unauthorized disclosure of subscribers'; information and whether joint efforts would be taken by the Privacy Commissioner and ICAC on safeguarding against unauthorized disclosure of personal information.

(Post-meeting note : The Police and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data had been requested to provide the above information vide letters issued on 3 August 1998)

30. In response to Mr LEE Kai-ming, Head/Ops said that corrupt activities in Hong Kong were now carried out in a very covert manner. Overseas experience indicated that anti-corruption agencies had to be very competent in order to discover such activities. ICAC had worked very hard to discover those major cases which attracted media publicity. Given no mechanism was available to accurately measure the scale of corrupt activities, ICAC would enhance its intelligence network, in an attempt to better assess the overall position.

31. Mrs Sophie LEUNG opined that ICAC should not place undue emphasis on high profile cases at the expense of minor and trivial cases. Head/Ops assured members that every corruption report received the same treatment. Whenever a corruption report was received from an identifiable source, ICAC would normally take up the case.

32. The Chairman thanked the representatives of ICAC for attending the meeting. He suggested that a briefing on ICAC';s corruption prevention efforts be arranged to facilitate members'; understanding. He also suggested and members agreed to visit ICAC in future. ICAC/ Clerk

33. The meeting ended at 4:50 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
27 August 1998