LegCo round up April 13 to 16

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

Highlights in LegCo this week: ATV saga, using Putonghua to teach Chinese, reducing sugar and salt in food and debate on the Appropriation Bill.

 

April 13 Monday

 

Meeting of Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting

Members discussed the non-renewal of domestic free tv licence of ATV. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So denied claims suggesting ExCo has delayed its decision on free TV license extension. Charles Mok (FC- IT) questioned on what grounds the Government can surpass the Communications Ordinance and use RTHK to temporarily replace ATV when its license ends next April. Mr So didn’t answer. Mr Mok also asked if there was a contingency plan if a broadcaster fails to get license extension when Communications Authority submitted its recommendation report on free tv license to ExCo last November and though Ambrose Ho, Chairman of the Communications Authority, says there was a contingency plan, he provided nothing concrete.

 

Meeting of Panel on Education

Discussion on teaching the Chinese Language subjects in Putonghua in schools. Currently, schools can choose freely whether to use Cantonese, Putonghua or both as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language subject. The Scheme to Support Schools in using Putonghua to teach the Chinese Language Subject was launched in 2008 and ended last August. Around 40 primary and secondary schools joined the Scheme and received support which included professional support from teaching experts from mainland, exchange activities in mainland to increase teachers’ exposure to different teaching practices, and some seminars and workshops for teachers.

The Government has previously conducted research on using Putonghua to teach Chinese but scholars held different views and there was obviously no consensus among the people consulted. Interestingly, when Chief Executive CY Leung visited Wuhan last week and met with some Hong Kong students studying in Wuhan University, he reminded the students not to diminish the use of Cantonese as the students presented their work to him in Putonghua.

The Government says it is reviewing the evaluation report on the Scheme and will make it available to the public soon. Ip Kin-yuen (FC- Education) says Putonghua learning and using Putonghua to teach Chinese subjects are two different issues and suggests to have a more comprehensive research to find out whether having primary school students to use Putonghua to learn Chinese or using their mother tongue, Cantonese, is more appropriate.


April 14 Tuesday

 

Meeting of Subcommittee on Hawker Policy

116 deputations attended two sessions of public hearing to discuss hawker policy. Paul Zimmerman’s Designing Hong Kong urged the Government to allow the commercial use of public space “to enhance vibrancy, enjoyment and livability – as long as nuisance, obstruction and pollution can be avoided or mitigated.” United Hawkers Development Platform criticised the Assistance Scheme for Hawkers in Fixed-pitch Hawker Areas has reduced the number of license for hawker.

 

Meeting of Panel on Transport

58 deputations attended a public hearing to discuss the Public Transport Strategy Study, specifically on the non-franchised bus (NFB) services. There are currently over 7,000 of such buses in Hong Kong, providing tour service, hotel service, student service, employees’ service, international passenger service, residents’ service and contract hire service. The Government papers show that the demand and supply is generally stable in the NFB market although the provision of school bus services has seen as “slightly tight”.

Albert Chan (GC- NT West, People Power) criticised the current regulation has allowed the NFB to provide multiple services, resulting the NFB owners only choose to do the lucrative businesses but the school bus services.

 

Meeting of Establishment Subcommittee

Establishment Subcommittee met again to discuss the late membership of 12 pro-establishment members. There were 18 applications originally but only Paul Tse (GC- Kowloon East) was approved to join. Pan-dems stuck down the application of Chan Kin-por (FC-Insurance), DAB’s Chan Hak-kan, Elizabeth Quat, Christopher Chung and BPA’s Lo Wai-kwok last time and the remaining 11 this time. DAB’s Ann Chiang withdrew her application.

List of the 12 applicants:

  • DAB’s Chan Kam-lam, Tam Yiu-chung, Chan Hak-kan, Ip Kwok-him, Chan Han-pan, Leung Che-cheung, Elizabeth Quat, Ann Chiang and Christopher Chung
  • BPA’s Andrew Leung, Priscilla Leung and Lo Wai-kwok
  • Liberal Party’s Frankie Yick
  • FTU’s Alice Mak, Wong Kwok-hing
  • Tony Tse

 

Meeting of Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene

Discussion on the reduction of sugar and salt content in food. The Government  announced the establishment of a Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food last month and ExCo’s member Bernard Chan was appointed to lead the Committee.

Globally, the rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries are increasing faster, in younger people, and with worse outcomes than in wealthier countries, according to a report published by the Council on Foreign Relations last year. In 2013 alone, NCDs killed eight million people before their sixtieth birthdays in developing countries.

In Hong Kong, malignant neoplasms (31.3%), diseases of heart (13.4%) and cerebrovascular diseases (7.5%) together accounted for more than half of all registered deaths in 2013. Two-fifths of adults aged 18-64 were classified as overweight and obese (BMI ≥ 23) over the past decades. In 2014, the prevalence was 39.0%. The detection rate of overweight and obesity among primary school students increased from 16.1% in 1995-96 to 22.2% in 2008-09, falling gradually to 20.0% in 2013-14. For secondary school students, the corresponding detection rate increased from 13.2% in 1996-97 to 19.5% in 2013-14.

Wong Yuk-man (GC- Kowloon West) criticised the establishment of the Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food and argued that government units such as the Health Department, the Centre for Food Safety have a lot of experts to study the matter but the Committee consists of amateurs like actors and film directors. He says education is the key and the Government should take a more aggressive role to research on the matter rather than to have a Committee. Mr Wong called the Chairman of the panel, Tommy Cheung (FC- Catering, Liberal Party), a “fat boy” but Mr Cheung didn’t seem to be offended and he agreed to Mr Wong’s comments. DAB’s Steven Ho (GC- Agriculture and Fisheries) also agreed to Wong’s comments and suggested the Government to create a committee on food safety and nutrition and under it, a subcommittee on reduction of salt and sugar in food.

 

April 15 Wednesday

 

Meeting of Public Works Subcommittee

Discussion on the pre-construction works for the Kai Tak Multi-purpose Sports Complex at a cost of $62.7 million. Members were concerned of the sports strategy of Hong Kong to complement the complex, the purpose of the complex and the transport support.

Michael Tien (GC- NT West, NPP) questioned if the complex needs to have 50,000 seats. The Administration replied that South Korea has the venue to hold 50,000 people at one time for events like the Lady Gaga’s concert whereas Hong Kong can only hold it at the Asia World Expo, a much smaller venue by comparison. Jonathan Mckinley, Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs, says Hong Kong lacked a place for mega events but insisted the proposed Sports Complex will be mainly for sports events. Discussion underway.

 

Council meeting

Appropriation Bill resumed second reading. Members talked broadly about the Budget and will only discuss and vote on the over 3,900 amendments later on. DAB’s Tam Yiu-chung (GC- NT West) condemned the filibustering.

Pan-dems criticised Financial Secretary John Tsang for his miscalculation of the surplus and the Budget lacked a long term vision. Kwok Ka-ki (GC- NT West, Civic Party) called Mr Tsang a “liar” and Frederick Fung (FC- DC 2nd, ADPL) says Tsang has failed to deal with the 15-year free education and the long waiting time in public hospitals.


April 16 Thursday

 

Council meeting

Members continued to debate on the Appropriation Bill. DAB’s Ip Kwok-him (FC- DC 1st) urged radical pan-dems to stop the filibuster “madness” and defended the Police’s purchase of three water cannons. Meanwhile, another DAB member, ‘Treegun’ Christopher Chung (GC- HK Island), slammed the authorities’ decision to have the Government-funded RTHK to provide TV programmes, saying that the LegCo is a ‘rubber-stamp’ to approve fundings to the broadcaster.

Democratic Party’s James To (FC- DC 2nd) and Professional Common’s Kenneth Leung (FC- Accountancy) blasted the Government for bundling items which should be debated by the Financial Committee to the Bill (read more here).