LegCo round up March 23 – 26

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Talks on the Third Runway and delay of the GZ-SZ-HK Express Rail link; CY Leung Q&A in LegCo; Debates on parallel good traders and Liberal Studies; On ITB, the Government will move a motion to refute a resolution passed last year.

 

March 23 Monday

 

Meeting of Panel on Economic Development

  1. Discussion on the Government’s plan to grant the Peak Tramways Company Limited a 10-year contract commencing on 1 January 2016. The old contract is expiring by the end of this year. Wong Kwok-hing (FC- HK Island, FTU) worried if the Company has too much liberty to set the ticket price. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung said the Government will not regulate the ticket price for non-public transport. He believed the market will do the job.
  1. Discussion on the Third Runway. Members approved Dennis Kwok’s (FC- Legal, Civil Party) motion to form a LegCo’s committee to monitor the construction project. Anthony Cheung also said the Government is considering forming an Advisory Board to oversee the project. Pro-establishment members didn’t side with the Government on Third Runway. Andrew Leung (FC- Industrial 1st, BPA) worried if the project will become a ‘white elephant’ and Lam Tai-fai (FC- Industrial 2nd) considered the GZ-SZ-HK Express Rail Link incident has tainted the authority’s trackrecord. Tang Ka-piu (FC- Labour, FTU) criticised the authorities seeking to circumvent the LegCo.

 

Meeting of Panel on Environmental Affairs

  1. Initiatives set out in the latest Budget. For one, the Government talks about promotion electric vehicles (EVs). First Registration Tax for EVs has been waived since 1994 and the exemption has been extended in 2014 for another three years up to 31 March 2017. There are currently 1,804 EVs as of February and the Government has worked with the private sector to install 100 EV medium chargers for public use at 16 government car parks in August 2014. There are now around 1,100 EV chargers including over 150 medium and 30 quick chargers in Hong Kong.
  1. Implementation of low emission zones. Chief Executive CY Leung announced in his Policy Address this year that “We will set up low emission zones in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok at the end of this year where franchised bus companies can only deploy low-emission buses.” The idea was first raised by Donald Tsang in his Policy Address in 2010 and the Government plans to implement it this year. Currently, franchised buses account for up to 40% of the traffic in the three districts, contributing 80% and 40% of vehicular nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions respectively.
  1. Proposed funding to upgrade the Yuen Long and Kam Tin sewage treatment facilities at a price of around $2.46 billion. Members approved to send the proposal to the Public Works Subcommittee.

 

Meeting of Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services

  1. An overview of the legal aid services. In 2013, personal injury and matrimonial cases accounted for 82.3% of all civil legal aid applications and 92.1% of all civil legal aid certificates granted. The financial eligibility limit for legal aid in Hong Kong is higher than UK, New Zealand, New South Wales in Australia and Ontario in Canada.
  1. Discussion on the subsidiary legislation relating to privileges and immunities conferred on consular posts. Diplomatic agreements between the Central Government and foreign nations are applicable to Hong Kong under Article 18 of the Basic Law. In 2000, Hong Kong has legislated for the Consular Relations Ordinance and there are three remaining countries, which have signed bilateral agreements with China, that are yet included in the Ordinance. They are Japan, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Japan signed an agreement with China in 2010 and the subsidiary legislation proposed by the Government will include Japan to the Ordinance. The Government is preparing documents to include Cambodia and the Philippines (the two have signed agreements with China in 2011 and 2013 respectively) to the Ordinance and will table the subsidiary legislation to LegCo when the documents are ready.


March 24 Tuesday

 

Meeting of Subcommittee on Proposed Resolution Relating to the Establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau

Lo Wai-kwok (FC- Engineering, BPA) was elected as Chairman. Regarding the legal problems raised by the LegCo Secretariat, the Government decided to propose a resolution to refute the resolution passed last year in LegCo to create the Innovation and Technology Bureau, and a new resolution for the same purpose as last year will be proposed again in April The Government reiterated that it is not trying to create a slippery slope by refuting an approved resolution. Relevant funding proposals of ITB will be submitted to the Finance Committee after the Council approves the Appropriation Bill.

 

Hearing of Select Committee to Inquire into the Background of and Reasons for the Delay of the Construction of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link

First public hearing of the Select Committee. Director of Highways Peter Lau admitted to a public relations failure and apologise to the people. He also said that delay of construction projects is common due to the weather and geological conditions but admitted that Highways Department can do a better job in monitoring the projects.

 

Meeting of Panel on Home Affairs

  1. Outcome of the public consultation on the Administration’s proposals to amend the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance. Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said the Government plans to step up the deterrent effect to clamp down guesthouses and hotels which are operating without proper licenses.
  1. Discussion on the Signature Projects proposed by the Central and Western District Council, Islands District Council and North District Council. A one-off allocation of $100 million has been given to each of the 18 districts for development. Central and Western District Council has a proposal for harbourfront enhancement and revitalisation of the Western Wholesale Food Market; Islands District Council proposes to build a Yung Shue Wan Library cum Heritage and Cultural Showroom at Lamma Island; and North District Council wants to improve the trails and ancillary facilities at Wu Tip Shan and Wa Mei Shan in Fanling, and also Sha Tau Kok.
  1. Review of Chinese Temples Ordinance. An ongoing public consultation which will end on May 12 seeks to require all Chinese temples to be registered and has all the revenues and properties of the Chinese temples under the absolute control of the Chinese Temples Committee.

 

Meeting of Panel on Development

  1. Proposal to relocate the existing New Territories West Regional Office and Water Resources Education Centre of Water Supplies Department in Mong Kok to Tin Shui Wai at a cost of $823.4 million. Members approved to send the proposal to the Public Works Subcommittee.
  1. Proposal for the investigation study review, design and site investigation of the proposed desalination plant in Tseung Kwan O at a cost of $154.6 million. The Government explained the desalination plant is necessary due to the increasing competition of water source from neighbouring cities. Moreover, “the total quantity of water abstracted from Dongjiang for water supply is increasing every year and has nearly reached the amount that can be extracted from the river for consumption under a drought with return period of 1 in 20 years. In a more severe drought with return period of 1 in 100 years, the water resources available in Dongjiang as well as the yield collected from the local water gathering ground will be affected and may not be able to meet the water demand of Hong Kong after 2020,” the Government’s papers wrote.

James Tien (GC- NT East, Liberal Party) questioned the Government’s figure suggesting the consumption of water in Hong Kong will rise for 10% in the future amid an aging population. Mr Tien also considered water from Dongjiang is enough. Director of Water Supplies Mr Enoch Lam replied that prosperous economic activities in Hong Kong can lead to an increase in water consumption. Mr Lam also said that the Dongjiang water will not be able to meet demands when a drought strikes. Members approved to send the proposal to the Public Works Subcommittee. (Read HT’s report on the water problem in Hong Kong)

  1. Proposed revision of 46 fee items concerning the registration of building professionals and contractors under the purview of the Buildings Department. The Government is expected to gain an extra $2 million each year with this fee change.
  1. Discussion on the assessment of the value of resumed properties and resolution of disputes arising from land resumption. Currently, there is no formal arbitration mechanism to solve the land disputes between the Government and land owners though there are independent experts providing assistance to solve the disputes. The Government is collecting views and says they are open to setting up an arbitration system.


March 25 Wednesday

 

Special meeting of Public Works Subcommittee

5th meeting to discuss the late membership application of a dozen pro-establishment members. Paul Tse’s (GC- Kowloon East) and Christopher Cheung’s (FC- Financial Services, BPA) application were approved earlier. Steven Ho (FC- Agriculture and Fisheries, DAB) were accepted with a narrow result of 6 to 5. Wong Ting-kwong (FC- Import and Export, DAB), Andrew Leung (FC- Industrial 1st, BPA) and Jeffrey Lam (FC- Commercial 1st, BPA) were rejected.

The list of members who are still waiting to join PWSC includes: Ng Leung-sing, Yiu Si-wing, Starry Lee (DAB), Steven Ho (DAB), Wong Kwok-kin (FTU), Tang Ka-piu (FTU) and Kwok Wai-keung (FTU).

 

Council meeting

 

Bills resume 2nd/3rd reading:

District Cooling Services Bill

To legislate the charges to private non-domestic projects on the use of the district cooling services at the Kai Tak Development.

  • 2nd and 3rd reading approved.

 

Members’ motions:

Liberal Party Leader Vincent Fang (FC- Wholesale and Retail) moved a motion to urge the Government to “increase tourism, transport and retail facilities for diverting Mainland tourists from local people, so as to safeguard their safety when shopping in Hong Kong, and deal with those persons who have caused disorder in public places and harassed tourists and local people in accordance with the law.”

Kwok Ka-ki (GC- NT West, Civic Party) linked the Police action against the anti-parallel good trader protests to the scandal concerning CY Leung and his daughter, saying both are trying to clamp down on things they don’t want to see. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So criticised Kwok’s speech and asked him to think on what he said.

Tang Ka-piu (FC- Labour, FTU) lambasted the protests and considered it to be promoting extremism. Debate underway.

 

March 26 Thursday

 

Council meeting

Chief Executive CY Leung attended the Question and Answer Session, which was the first in more than six months after he cancelled it in last October due to the Umbrella Movement. Helena Wong (GC- Kowloon West, DP) ridiculed Mr Leung’s words when he urged electorates to vote the pan-dems out of LegCo at a forum on Wednesday. She also asked Mr Leung if North Korea, Myanmar, and CCP are enjoying genuine democracy. In response, Mr Leung said: “All democracy implemented according to its laws are genuine.”

Gary Fan (GC- NT East, Neo Democrats) said Mr Leung’s performance was even worst than Donald Tsang. Citing reports from Yazhou Zhoukan (亞洲週刊), Mr Fan said Mr Leung was responsible for the implementation of the Individual Visit Scheme and Beijing has warned that once the Scheme is implemented, there will be no turning back. Mr Fan questioned if the Scheme was Mr Leung’s plan to integrate Hong Kong with Shenzhen. Mr Leung replied that the Scheme has contributed significantly to the city’s economy and any plan to alter the Scheme should be considered comprehensively. He also urged Mr Fan to stop saying things that will impact the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland.

Liberal Party’s Chair Felix Chung (FC- Textiles and Garment) urged the Government to open doors to moderate voices on political reform. Liberal Party and several more political organisations have submitted some moderate proposals previously but the Government didn’t think they are feasible.

 

Continuation of Council meeting

Members’ motions:

  1. Debate continued on Vincent Fang’s motion on parallel good trade. Emily Lau (GC- NT East, DP) said the Individual Visit Scheme has contributed to Hong Kong’s economy but tourist last year has amounted to 60 million, which is beyond the capacity of Hong Kong. She urged the Government to review the Scheme.
  • Eleven amendments from pan-dems and pro-establishment members were all voted down. Mr Fang’s motion was voted down by the pan-dems.
  1. BPA lawmaker Priscilla Leung (GC- Kowloon West) moved a motion to urge the Government to review the subject of Liberal Studies under the New Senior Secondary curriculum. Leung said she has received over 1,000 complaints on the teaching of Liberal Studies and blamed the teaching has resulted in young people joining the Umbrella Movement last year and the recent protests against parallel good traders. Corresponding to Leung’s views, Christopher Chung (GC- HK Island, DAB) worried the teaching of Liberal Studies has brainwashed the students.
  • Seven amendments from pan-dems and pro-establishment members were all voted down, and the motion was voted down by pan-dems.