Lots of interesting discussion in LegCo this week: Doctor shortage, movies, radioactive food from Japan, control of obscene products, underground space development, Nicholas Yang.
March 9 Monday
Meeting of Bills Committee on Insurance Companies (Amendment) Bill 2014
14th meeting to discuss the establishment of the Independent Insurance Authority and licensing regime. Discussion underway.
Meeting of Panel on Welfare Services
1. Review of the disability allowance. The Government has commissioned HKU to study the practices in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Taiwan, and a working group studying the disability allowance will publish a report by the end of this year. Fernando Cheung (GC- NT East, Labour Party) criticised the low quality of the research done by the HKU scholars and urged CY Leung not to stall his promise in his Policy Address in 2013 to “allow people with loss of one limb to apply for the Disability Allowance.”
2. Discussion on active ageing. The Census and Statistics Department has projected that nearly one-third of Hong Kong’s population will be aged 65 or above by 2041. According to the definition of the World Health Organisation, active ageing is to optimise opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as we age. Labour and Welfare Bureau have implemented programs such as the Opportunities for the Elderly Project as early as in 1998 and the Neighbourhood Active Ageing Project in 2008.
Meeting of Subcommittee on Strategy and Measures to Tackle Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence
18 deputations attended a hearing to voice their views on providing housing assistance for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence. Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres said the current Compassionate Rehousing policy is opaque and inflexible. Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre said that of the 77 victims who approached them last year, 35 have not succeeded in securing the Compassionate Rehousing despite they have left their partners who abused them. Hong Kong Council of Social Service also urged for more transparency in processing the Compassionate Rehousing application.
Meeting of Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting
1. Discussion on Charles Mok’s proposal to invite Nicholas Yang, the new IT advisor to CE, to the Panel to talk about the Innovation and Technology Bureau which is still pending to establish. Wong Yuk-man criticised again the appointment of Mr Yang in the ExCo. However, many members considered Yang was not in the right position to talk about the ITB and the new IT committee which Mr Yang will chair is still in its nascent form. The Panel decided to invite Mr Yang later in the future.
2. Proposal to inject $200 million into the Film Development Fund. This is in line with CY Leung’s efforts to strengthen the film industry. In his latest Policy Address, Mr Leung thrust out a four-pronged strategy: To encourage more local film productions, nurture production talent, promote film appreciation among students and young people, and promote the brand of “Hong Kong Films” in the Mainland, Taiwan and overseas markets. The film industry generated a value of $2.5 billion in 2012, accounting of 0.1% of Hong Kong’s GDP. Wong Yuk-man supported the Government’s initiative and said the Government should support films that are produced locally rather than co-production with mainland or other countries.
3. Proposals to review the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, including increasing the total number of adjudicators of the Obscene Articles Tribunal from 500 to 1,500. Raymond Chan (GC- NT East, People Power) said either the moral conservatives and sex activists will be interested in becoming an adjudicator, rendering the Tribunal to be quite polarised. He urged to introduce the jury system to the Tribunal to make the composition of the Tribunal more diverse. However, the Administration objected to Chan’s suggestion, saying it will completely change the current system and increase the administrative cost.
March 10 Tuesday
Meeting of Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene
1. Discussion on the report on the Food Surveillance Programme for 2014. The report was conducted by the Centre for Food Safety and over 64,100 food samples were tested last year, which amounted to about nine samples per 1,000 persons in Hong Kong. The Government said such a testing rate was relatively high compared with other overseas economies. There were 139 unsatisfactory samples among the test results and the overall satisfaction rate was a staggering 99.8%. The report dedicated a paragraph to the food imported from Japan due to the alleged radiation hazard following the Fukushima incident. More than 61,500 samples of food imported from Japan were tested in 2014 and the test results were satisfactory.
2. Update on the latest development on the supply of public niches and regulation of private columbaria. Interestingly, the Government’s Internet Memorial Service (IMS) has been very popular. Up to December 2014, about 6,400 people have registered for the IMS service and created about 7,000 memorial webpages. The hit rate of the webpages reached over 2,161,000.
3. To increase the service fees of 140 statutory fee items for services provided by provided by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, including the licensing fees, examine fees and fees to remove animals or birds from vessels and aircrafts.
March 11 Wednesday
Meeting of Public Works Subcommittee
1. $70 million for a pilot study on underground space development in Tsim Sha Tsui West, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley and Admiralty/ Wan Chai. Cyd Ho (GC- HK Island, Labour Party) worried the underground space development will impact the redevelopment of some old buildings in those areas and whether the Government has devised transportation plans for the development. The proposal was approved with 16 members voting in favour, 2 against and 1 abstaining.
2. $72.7 million to build a Public Transport Interchange at Container Port Road and for junction improvement works along Kwai Chung Road in Kwai Chung. Proposal was approved without a member objecting to it.
Meeting of Establishment Subcommittee
1. Proposed creation of a temporary AO post in the Transport Branch of the Transport and Housing Bureau for two years and six months from 1 April 2015 to oversee and steer the Roles and Positioning Review of the Public Transport Strategy Study. Albert Chan (GC- NT West, People Power) said if the Government were to review the transport strategy, it has to include MTR in the review. The staffing proposal was approved with 19 to 4.
2. Proposed creation of a permanent post of Chief Superintendent of Police in the Crime Wing of the Hong Kong Police Force to head the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau for preventing and combating technology crime and responding to cyber security incidents. The monthly salary of the new head will be between $125,450 and $137,400. Lee Cheuk-yan (GC- NT West, Labour Party) and Cyd Ho worried the Police has stepped up in monitoring the internet will impede the freedom of speech. Lee said the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau has hired 74 senior officers last year, he asked if the additional manpower was for monitoring the protests. The Government replied that cyber crime has increased four times and the Police needs the manpower to tackle the crime. Discussion underway.
Public hearing of the Public Accounts Committee
The Public Accounts Committee holds the 5th public hearing on the comptroller’s report over the “administration of the air traffic control and related services.” The Audit Department found out that the new Air Traffic Control system which the Civil Aviation Department has obtained funding in 2007 and targeted to launch the new system in 2012 was still not yet in operation as at October 2014 and the latest estimate was that the new system would only be ready for operation in 2015. Wong Yuk-man (GC- Kowloon West) said that the Civil Aviation Department has promoted several officials in the past who are responsible of the problem this time, he questioned if the accountability system has failed. The Government only replied that it respect the Committee and will handle the problem seriously.
Meeting of Subcommittee on Health Protection Scheme
1. Discussion on the consultation document on Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme. The public consultation was launched on 15 December 2014 for three months and included proposals such as requiring all individual hospital insurance products to comply with the Minimum Requirement set by the Government.
2. Manpower projection for doctors, nurses and dentists. The Government has commissioned HKU for the projection and the report showed that there will be 360 doctors and 150 nurses falling short of the demand this year; 400 and 100 in 2016; and 330 doctors but no nurse shortage in 2017.
March 12 Thursday
Meeting of Bills Committee on Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2015
The Bill will remove some legal uncertainties relating to the opt-in mechanism provided for domestic arbitration and will update the Arbitration Ordinance with the New York Convention. 4 deputations, including Law Society and Bar Association, joined the meeting to discuss the Bill. Both of the legal groups welcomed the amendment bill.