3 meetings to be held this week for the Finance Committee and pan-dems have already been in fierce fight with the Chairman Tommy Cheung.
Another visit to Beijing
Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Ms Chang King-yiu led a delegation of the Government to Beijing yesterday for the annual reciprocal visit that has been held since 1999. They will meet with senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and be briefed on the foreign policies of China and the MFA’s latest projects, including the planning and development of “One Belt and One Road”. They will also visit the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
The delegation will then head to Yunnan Province from February 3 to 7 and meet with provincial and municipal leaders to learn about the latest developments in the region, as well as local initiatives in support of “One Belt and One Road”.
Briefings at the Panel on Financial Affairs
LegCo members were briefed on the ffinancialpolicies in the latest Policy Address. The Government highlighted the fact that Hong Kong is the world’s largest offshore Renminbi (RMB) business hub where the RMB deposits and outstanding RMB certificates of deposit exceeded RMB1.1 trillion by the end of November last year.
New initiatives in the Policy Address include the implementation of a risk-based capital regime for insurance companies to align Hong Kong’s regulatory regime with international standards, and to amend the Bankruptcy rules to discourage people who are bankrupt from leaving Hong Kong.
Members were also briefed by Norman Chan, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority on the local and global economy. The Authority estimates Hong Kong’s real GDP growth in 2014 to be 2.2% and 2.7% this year.
Policy briefings on housing and economic development
Another round of policy briefings by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development and Secretary for the Environment on the Policy Address.
Papers from the Government show that the number of non-Mainland visitors to Hong Kong during the three months (from October to December) of the Occupy Movement had decreased by 3.5%, 7.4% and 6.7% respectively as compared with the figures in 2013. However, recent data shows that a record high of 60 million tourists entered Hong Kong last year, a 12% increase compared to 2013.
Government to push back fishery funding proposal
The Finance Committee normally meets on Friday but additional meetings are scheduled to discuss the staffing proposals for the new Innovation and Technology Bureau before the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year on the coming February 14.
However, discussion is still lingering on the proposed funding to increase the Fisheries Loans from $290 million to $1,100 million and whether to set aside of around $400 million in the loan capital for providing loans to inshore trawlers.
Disputes last week landed on the rules of procedure where the Chairman of the Finance Committee Tommy Cheung plans to ban members from asking further questions on the funding to the fishery industry.
Pan-dems will likely propose another motion to adjourn the meeting (previous motions from Raymond Chan, Lee Cheuk-yan and Alan Leong were voted down) but it is uncertain that Mr Cheung will allow the motion to be tabled. Still, pan-dems can proceed to filing numerous amendments to filibuster the fishery funding if they are prohibited to ask further questions, as a gesture to protest against the Government arbitrarily re-arranging of the funding proposals at the Finance Committee.
While the major warfare is anticipated to be on the new Innovation and Technology Bureau, the early fight on the fishery proposal means the chance for the ITB to kick off on time is almost zero and therefore, the Government abruptly announced on Monday afternoon that the fishery proposal was pushed back and now the ITB proposals are on stage.
Late membership to PWSC
The Public Works Subcommittee will hold the 4th meeting to handle the late membership of a dozen pro-establishment members. So far, only Paul Tse’s application was approved by pan-dems.
The list of members seeking to join PWSC includes: Ng Leung-sing, Yiu Si-wing, Andrew Leung (BPA), Christopher Cheung (BPA), Jeffrey Lam (BPA), Wong Ting-kwong (DAB), Starry Lee (DAB), Steven Ho (DAB), Wong Kwok-kin (FTU), Tang Ka-piu (FTU) and Kwok Wai-keung (FTU).
LegCo’s Panel on Security
Cyd Ho, James To and Kenneth Leung propose to appoint a subcommittee under the Panel to review the Police’s guidelines and procedures on the use of force as well as facilitating media reporting work at public assemblies. The motion has a slim chance getting past pro-establishment members.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok will brief members on the Policy Address. Some highlights include the pilot scheme to attract the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents who have emigrated overseas to return to Hong Kong and to relax the stay arrangements of the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals.
ICAC to focus on election
Also at the Panel on Security, ICAC chief Simon Peh will brief members on the anti-corruption performance last year and their focus this year. In 2014, ICAC received 2,362 corruption complaints (excluding election-related complaints), which were 11% less than the 2,653 complaints received in 2013. Pursuable complaints dropped 10% from 1,737 to 1,556. 63% of the corruption complaints were targeted at the private sector, 30% related to government departments and 7% involved the public bodies.
One of the focus of the ICAC this year is to launch the “Support Clean Elections” programme. The campaign will last for 3 years and targets the Rural Representative Election and District Council Election in 2015, the Legislative Council Election in 2016 and the Chief Executive Election in 2017.
Foreign guest in town
Parliamentary Liaison Subcommittee will meet with Senator Hon Penny Wong, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment (Federal) of Australia.
Field trip for LegCo members
Members of the Panel on Transport will visit the worksites of the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to observe the reclamation works.
Temporary peace in the Public Works Subcommittee
Members will discuss the construction proposals to build two Special Schools at Sung On Street, To Kwa Wan; an annex to Baptist Lui Ming Choi Secondary School, Shatin; and a school for social development for girls at Choi Hing Road, Kwun Tong. These proposals will likely pass to the Finance Committee as they are not controversial.
Bills for 1st reading:
- Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2015
To remove some legal uncertainties relating to the opt-in mechanism provided for domestic arbitration and update the list of parties to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (the New York Convention).
- Clearing and Settlement Systems (Amendment) Bill 2015
To establish a regulatory regime for stored value facilities and retail payment systems in Hong Kong.
Bills to resume 2nd and 3rd reading:
- Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 2014
To exempt the transfer of shares or units of all exchange traded funds from the paying the stamp duty.
Cyd Ho’s (GC- HK Island, Labour Party) motion for Chief Executive CY Leung to request the Central Government to seek the “invalidation of the decision of NPCSC, and to reactivate the statutory process for constitutional reform, with a view to expeditiously implementing the selection of the Chief Executive and the election of all LegCo members by universal suffrage.“ The motion has no hope of passing as the pro-establishment memebers will vote it down.
Finance Committee to meet again
Following the extra meeting on Tuesday, the Finance Committee is scheduled to meet the second time this week. With the fishery proposal pushed back on Monday afternoon by the Government, the staffing proposals of the new Innovation and Technology Bureau were discussed on Tuesday.
Pan-dems (except Charles Mok) objected to the creation of the ITB last year and were provoked by the Government’s recent move for the Bureau’s staffing proposals to jump the queue. They are expected to filibuster the proposals and challenge the Chairman Tommy Cheung, again.
The proposals seek to:
- Create three non-civil service positions of one Director of Bureau, one Deputy Director of Bureau and one Political Assistant to Director of Bureau and four permanent posts of one Administrative Officer Staff Grade A1 (D8), one Administrative Officer Staff Grade B (D3) and two Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2).
- Provide funds for three politically-appointed officials – the Director of Bureau, the Deputy Director of Bureau and the Political Assistant to the Director of Bureau – and a Permanent Secretary of the Bureau.
The establishment of the Bureau is estimated to be around $22 million from 1 August 2014 to 31 March 2015 with $1.8 million transferred from other Government departments.
Policy breifings at the Panel on Home Affairs
Some highlights on youth development in this years Policy Address include more funding for the Youth Exchange in the Mainland and the Funding Scheme for Youth Internship in the Mainland. The Government believes such efforts will “deepen young people’s understanding of the country.”
Another initiative sees the Government help 3 local volunteer bodies – Agency for Volunteer Service, Hong
Kong Volunteers Association and The Peace and Development and the United Nations Volunteers – to launch a new HK-United Nations (UN) Youth Volunteers Programme in 2015 to support 10 local university students annually to work in various UN agencies in the South East Asian region for about 6 months.
Finance Committee to meet the third time this week
At the regular Friday meeting of the Finance Committee, we will be seeing pan-dems to filibuster Government’s funding proposals to the new Innovation and Technology Bureau.