LegCo Round Up July 13 to 17

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July 13 Monday

Continuation of Council meeting of 8 July 2015

Electoral Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2015:
The bill was passed in LegCo, and will introduce technical amendments concerning the lists of persons comprising certain functional constituencies, the name of the Architectural, surveying and planning functional constituency” to “Architectural, surveying, planning and landscaping” and a subsector, the list of constituents of a subsector, the registration of voters for a subsector and the counting procedure for a functional constituency; and to make other minor amendments.

The amendments were supported by the pro-establishment, but pandems believe the amendments were to too minor. Emily Lau (GC-New Territories East, Democratic Party), said the minor amendments did not adhere to the principle of “gradual and orderly progress” towards universal suffrage, as enacted in the Basic Law.

Electronic Health Record Sharing System Bill:
The bill was passed in the the Council Meeting, and will establish the Electronic Health Record Sharing System, which will enable the sharing of health records between public and private hospitals after getting the patient’s consent.

The system will be completely voluntary for health providers and patients. The Government will appoint civil servants who will be responsible for the establishment, running, and development of the system. Legislators mostly supported the bill but some expressed concerns about whether patients’ privacy will be ensured.

Report on the Visit of the Delegation of the Legislative Council to Germany:
The report was passed. Emily Lau, who proposed the motion, expressed her admiration of the parliamentary demeanor in the Germany parliament, unlike LegCo’s pro-establishment, who have pledged to seize the chair and deputy chairs of all panels next legislative year. She described it as vicious and relentless.

Tommy Cheung (FC – Catering, Liberal Party) said, the Germans emphasise communication, consensus, and checks and balances, which would be valuable for Hong Kong’s LegCo. He also said politics is an art of compromise, but the current state of affairs will only lead to Hong Kong losing out in the end.

Undersecretary for constitutional and mainland affairs Lau Kong-wah stated, Hong Kong’s political system must be established within the Basic Law, so implementing Germany’s institutions may not be appropriate.

Not forgetting the 4 June incident:
Sin Chung-kai (GC – Hong Kong Island, Democratic party) proposed the motion (which is not legally binding) as a pandemocrats’ tradition. The motion was voted down by the functional constituencies under the split voting system.

During the three hour debate, Sin Chung-kai expressed his disappointment that the motion was only passed the first time Szeto Wah proposed it out of the 16 times in the past 17 years. He also pointed out the recent arrests of human rights advocates and lawyers, only show the decline in the mainland’s democratic progress.

Ronny Tong, in his last speech in LegCo, said the Tiananmen massacre awoke his concern for democracy and issue on the nation’s future. He stated that history will never forget the event, and deeply believes the the redress of the June 4th incident.

July 7 Tuesday

Meeting of Finance Committee

On the first day of the extended 28 hours of meetings in five days, the Finance committee only passed three of the remain items.

District Cooling System at the Kai Tak development:
The funding application was passed after more than two hours of discussion. The Government applied to raise the budgeting fees for the project from HKD 660 million to HKD 3.75 billion

Albert Chan (GC – New Territories West, People’s Power), was concerned whether the construction might involve China State Construction International Ltd., who was the main contractor in the public housing estate where dangerous amounts of lead was found in the drinking water. He requested the administration reveal whether any mainland produced parts were used, and provide information on how they would monitor the project to avoid a similar scandal.

Multiple Signature Project Schemes:
All eight district signature project schemes were passed by the second session of the FC meeting. Wong Kwok-hing (GC – Hong Kong Island, Federation of Trade Unions) said the schemes had been discussed on many times, and accused some legislators of filibustering to stall the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau. Raymond Wong (GC – Kowloon West, Independent) replied that the Chief Executive was to blame for requesting extra sessions, accusing CY Leung of starting a war with LegCo.

Yuen Long effluent polishing plant:
Several legislators questioned the water quality of Deep Bay. ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok Hung expressed his concern whether Deep Bay oysters might be polluted by heavy metals. The Environment Protection Department replied saying oysters are usually cooked before eaten.

The application was passed after more than two hours of discussion.

Chan Ka-lok (GC – Hong Kong Island,  Civic Party) requested FC chair Tommy Cheung to invite Innovation and Technology consultant Nicholas Yang to attend discussions regarding the ITB.

House Committee end-of-session press conference

The LegCo House Committee held its end of session press conference, reporting that the Government tabled 20 bills to LegCo in the 2014-2015 session, 9 items less than the year before. The Housing Committee held 31 regular meetings and 1 special meeting, establishing 15 bill committees.

Ronny Tong, who will leave his position as deputy chair in the house committee, believes, as a tradition, a pan-democrat should take his place to minimise conflict in the council

Chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen (FC – Industrial (First), Business and Professionals Alliance), agreed that the tradition should be respected. Ip Kwok-him (FC – District Council (First), Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and progress of Hong Kong) suggested many basic agreements from the past do not exist anymore, and the appointment depends on who the pro-establishment and agree on and accept.

Meeting of Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene

Food and Health Bureau head Ko Wing-man announced on the meeting that the FHB will commence a three-month consultation on the proposed regulation of safety of edible oil. Dr Ko stated that the lack of a scientific definition for ‘gutter oil’ made regulation difficult. Michael Tien Puk-sun (GC – New Territories West, New People’s Party) expressed concern that multiple new standards for toxic materials in cooking oil would cause a huge increase in fresh cooking oil prices.

The panel also discussed the nutrition and health claims on infant formula, follow-up formula and pre-packaged foods for infants and young children under the age of 36 months. Chan Chi-chuen (GC – New Territories East, People’s Power) thought there was a need for regulation, but said a complete ban would be inappropriate. Chan Ka-lok expressed concern on whether such health claims would be required to be backed with scientific evidence. The Under Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan replied, even if the producers provided scientific evidence, the Food Safety Centre would still need to approve the claims.

Meeting of Bills Committee on Interception of Communications and Surveillance (Amendment) Bill 2015

Meeting of Panel on Manpower


July 15 Wednesday

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

MTR Corporation CEO Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen attended the hearing and was the first MTR representative to do so. Mr Leong stated, of the two entrustment agreements, one was on the design and site investigation, and the other, signed in January 2012, lined out the MTR Corporation’s role in the construction, opening date, and so on. He emphasised that the cost listed in the second agreement was only an approximation, and to his understanding, the amount could adjust in accordance with the contracts.

He also explained the delays were due to the sheer size and complexity of the project, including the 380,000 square metre West Kowloon Station, which would be located 30 metres below the ground. He admitted the MTR Corporation was overly optimistic in approximating the finish date.

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While Leong apologised for announcing the construction delay only in April last year despite knowing about it long before that, he did not agree the MTR management has committed serious errors of negligence.

Meeting of Panel on Education

Meeting of Subcommittee on Retirement Protection

The subcommittee discussed the “Research Report on Future development of retirement protection in Hong Kong” by a team from the University of Hong Kong.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung stated the public consultation on the matter will be held at the end of the year by the Commission on Poverty. The Government will move forward on the issue according to the results of the consultation beginning next year.

Meeting of Finance Committee (3 sessions)

After 3 sessions, totalling 6 hours, the Finance Committee passed two items, namely the Construction of the East Kowloon Cultural Centre, a project worth more than HKD 4.1 billion, and the Dualling of Hiram’s Highway between Clear Water Bay Road and Marina Cove and Improvement to Local Access to Ho Chung, worth more than 1.7 billion.

A special meeting was planned for Thursday with regards to Chan Ka Lok’s suggestion to invite the Cheif Executive’s Innovation and Technology Consultant Nicholas Yang (who is also expected to head the new bureau) to attend debates regarding the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau.

July 16 Thursday

Special meeting of Panel on Development

A special meeting was held to receive public views on “Facilitating the redevelopment of buildings under the Civil Servants’ Co-operative Building Society (CBC) Scheme”. The Development Bureau proposed the scheme through the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) earlier, which would see the HKHS purchase the units at market price where CBC owners pay the land premium, and only after 100% of owners agreed to the scheme.

Many CBC owners expressed their discontent with the scheme, saying the selling price wouldn’t cover the purchase of a similar sized flat in the same area after deducting the premium, requesting the administration to adjustment the land premium algorithm. Other owners expressed their doubts over the 100% agreement rule, given many owners were too old to deal with the process.

Laurence Pak of the Lion Rock Institute criticised the CBC owners’ requests, pointing out that the house was bought at a favourable price in the first place and it would be unfair if they received another price cut.

Special Meeting of Finance Committee

This meeting was cancelled. The meeting was arranged in addition to the regular FC meeting to discuss Chan Ka Lok’s suggestion to invite Nicholas Yang.

Meeting of Subcommittee on Three Regulations Relating to Control Regime for the Import of Eggs

Meeting of Bills Committee on Peak Tramway (Amendment) Bill 2015

Meeting of Finance Committee (3 sessions)

After four hours of discussion, the FC passed the funding application for a “detailed Feasibility Study for Environmentally Friendly Linkage System for Kowloon East”, which amounts to HKD 92.3 million. An impromptu motion proposal was rejected before entering the voting stage. The application was passed with 27 votes for and 4 against.

In the third session, the FC passed the pay adjustment by an increase of 3% in dollar value for senior civil servants according to the 2013 Pay Level Survey. The results of the vote ended with 26 for versus 9 against.

The FC will next discuss the 2015-16 Civil Service pay adjustment which will mean a 3.96% increase for the upper salary band and 4.62% for the middle and lower salary band.

July 17 Friday

Meeting of Joint Subcommittee to Monitor the Implementation of the West Kowloon Cultural District Project

West Kowloon Cultural District Authority CEO Michael Lynch, who will leave his post in March next year, reiterated the WKCDA’s efforts to develop art talent, and its hopes for more people, especially youngsters, to take on a career in art.

Chung Shu-kan (GC – New Territories West, DAB) expressed his disappointment in the WKCDA’s performance, and criticised them for ignoring the voices of the local art community. Alan Leong (GC – Kowloon East, Civic Party) requested the administration to provide a document detailing the current development difficulties.

Meeting of Panel on Transport

The administration believed a taxi fuel surcharge scheme would not be appropriate. Several legislators criticised the Government for ignoring the needs of taxi drivers. Lee Cheuk-yan (GC – New Territories West, Labour Party) suggested a sudden increase in fuel prices, would  hugely impact the livelihood of the drivers. Wong Kwok-hing (GC – Hong Kong Island, FTU) pointed out that recent fare increases did not benefit frontline drivers, but instead taxi owners and other stakeholders.

Under Secretary for Transport and Housing, Yau Shing-mu, pointed out that other jurisdictions abroad have had to scrap similar schemes after implementing them.

With the bus franchises for the networks of Citybus Limited (Franchise for Hong Kong Island and Cross-Harbour Bus Network) and New Lantao Bus Company (1973) Limited expiring next year and the year after, the Transport and Housing Bureau presented the developments in negotiating new franchises. Mr Yau has stated that negotiations with the two companies have largely been completed, and that the two companies have mostly agreed to the new clauses and obligations, including fare deals for passengers and integrating a real-time bus arrival system.

Finance Committee

The FC still has four more items with regards to the economy before discussing funding applications for the ITB. If the ITB does not go to voting tonight, there will still be two final sessions (4 hours) tomorrow.