Following is the opening statement delivered by the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, today (Saturday) at a meeting of the Legislative Council Panel for Security on the 1999 Policy Address:
Distributed in front of Members are a booklet and a leaflet. The booklet, titled "A Secure and Safe City", sets out the achievements we have made in the past year and the new initiatives and targets we pledge for the coming year. The leaflet on the Scheme on Admission of Outstanding Talents outlines the scope of the scheme, the eligibility criteria and the entry and conditions of stay arrangements. I would take this opportunity to explain the key features of the Scheme on the Admission of Outstanding Talents to you before I highlight the major achievements and new pledges in the Policy Objective Booklet.
SCHEME ON THE ADMISSION OF OUTSTANDING TALENTS
Since March this year, I have chaired an inter-departmental Task Force to review our immigration policy on entry for employment with a view to removing existing hurdles to the admission of outstanding talents, in particular those from the Mainland. These talents must be able to contribute to enhancing the competitiveness of our economy as a manufacturing or service centre, particularly in knowledge-intensive, high value-added activities. Following consultation with the Mainland authorities, we have now finalized the scheme. The key features are outlined below.
Scope of the scheme
The scheme brings about major relaxation on entry for employment to residents in the Mainland; other Mainland residents who are living overseas; Macau residents; and nationals of certain Soviet Bloc countries (Bulgaria, Romania and Mongolia) currently subject to restrictions on entry for employment, provided that they possess outstanding abilities or expertise and are able to contribute to Hong Kong's development as a knowledge-intensive, high value-added economy. Outstanding Mainland research postgraduate students in Hong Kong are also eligible to apply under the scheme.
The scheme will be quota-free and non-sector specific. We leave it to companies to decide whether they wish to bring in talents to drive growth in technology or knowledge-intensive activities and if so, the number of talents they need. Examples of the broad technology areas highlighted by the Commission of Innovation and Technology as especially relevant to Hong Kong include:
(a) where improved technology will help enhance Hong Kong's existing strengths, e.g. information and communications technologies, electronics, advanced manufacturing technologies, product design, packaging design and supply-chain management;
(b) where Hong Kong's position relative to the Mainland offers distinct competitive advantages, for example, health food and pharmaceuticals based on Chinese medicine and Chinese language based software;
(c) where Hong Kong may exploit emerging or new technologies to create synergy with existing industrial clusters, e.g. multimedia technology for information and entertainment industries, materials technology for textile and garment, plastics, as well as metal and construction industries; and
(d) where Hong Kong already has considerable expertise in the application of high or new technology, or where it may develop technical competence to solve its problems, e.g. civil engineering, telecommunications, and environmental technology.
The above are examples, not an exhaustive list, for Hong Kong's requirements for outstanding talents would evolve with time.
Eligible talents must possess outstanding qualifications and expertise or skills not readily available in Hong Kong. They should not be for conventional technical, managerial/executive or professional posts, which can be readily filled by the indigenous workforce. In terms of academic qualifications, an applicant should have a good education background, normally a PhD in a relevant field from reputable institutes, or be able to produce documentary evidence of his extraordinary abilities or achievements, e.g. publications, research studies or experience. On working experience, an applicant should have proven relevant research experience with reputable institutes, or proven relevant working experience with reputable firms. An applicant's admission shall be contingent on a confirmed offer of employment. The applicant should be employed in a job relevant to his academic qualifications or abilities. On remuneration, prospective employers should provide a reasonable package including salary, accommodation and other fringe benefits commensurate with market rate.
Entry arrangements and conditions of stay
The talents admitted will be allowed to bring in their spouses and unmarried children aged below 21. This is in line with the existing policy on entry for employment for foreign nationals. Initial admission will be for one year, extendable for 2, 2, and 3 years in line with the pattern of extension of stay applicable to foreign nationals admitted for employment. After completing ordinary residence for a continuous period of seven years, they will be eligible for right of abode.
The talents will normally not be allowed to change jobs within the first year of admission. This restriction will be lifted afterwards as long as they remain employed or self-employed in a field commensurate with their outstanding abilities or expertise/experience.
Selection Committee and application procedures
A Selection Committee comprising official and non-official members will be set up to advise the Director of Immigration the merits of the applications in the light of the eligibility criteria and comments from relevant government departments.
The sponsoring companies will be required to submit applications to the Immigration Department on behalf of the talents. The companies will recruit the talents direct rather than through any designated agents in the Mainland. This streamlined application procedure will shorten the time required for bringing in talents. Mainland talents, including eligible research postgraduate students, should submit applications together with letters of consent from their existing employers agreeing to release them to work for the prospective employers in Hong Kong. Successful applications will be issued with an entry permit by the Immigration Department. With the entry permit, the talents may apply for an exit approval from the Public Security Bureau in the Mainland.
1998 PROGRESS REPORT
In the past year, we have worked on the 67 pledges made in the 1998 and previous Policy Addresses, covering improvements in maintaining law and order, controlling immigration and safeguarding public safety. I am happy to report that we have already completed in full the implementation of 28 commitments. We are on schedule in implementing 37 commitments. The two remaining commitments are under review.
1999 POLICY OBJECTIVE BOOKLET
Maintaining Law and Order
Hong Kong is one of the safest metropolitan cities in the world. The crime rate in 1998 was the second lowest in the past 25 years, although the overall crime rate (1,076 per 100,000 population) and the violent crime rate (220 per 100,000 population) had slightly increased by 3.9% and 3.8% respectively when compared with 1997. The overall and violent crime rates in the first eight months of 1999 showed a modest increase of 6.5% and 5% respectively when compared with the same period last year. A few categories of serious crimes had decreased, e.g. robbery with genuine firearms by 33.3%, goldsmith/watch shop robbery by 10%, homicide by 7.7% and serious narcotics offences by 19%. There were increases in other crimes such as robberies, blackmail, thefts, criminal damage, wounding and serious assault and missing motor vehicles. Our reported drug abuse rate (at 3 per 1,000 population) was very low compared with the European and American countries and the trend has been decreasing since 1994.
We will take vigorous actions to maintain law and order in Hong Kong. We will continue to deploy additional Police officers to front-line operational duties. We have deployed over 1900 Police officers to such duties since 1993/94. We will so deploy another 54 Police officers in 1999/2000.
We will ensure that our law enforcement agencies have adequate legislative backing to combat crime. In the past year, we have introduced into LegCo the Witness Protection Bill to put the existing witness protection programmes on a statutory basis and facilitate the change of identity of high-risk witness; the Prevention of Child Pornography Bill and the Crimes (Amendment) Bill to protect children from child pornography and child sex tourism; the Dangerous Drugs, ICAC, and Police Force (Amendment) Bill to provide for the taking of intimate and non-intimate samples in tackling serious crimes such as sexual offences; the Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill to strengthen the control and safety requirements for the possession and use of firearms for recreational and sporting purposes; and the Organized and Serious Crime (Amendment) Bill to regulate money changers and remittance agents in the prevention of money laundering. In the coming year, we will introduce amendments to the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of proceeds) Ordinance and the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance to make the anti-money laundering provisions therein more effective; and introduce a new legislation on registration of drug treatment and rehabilitation centres to improve facilities and services to drug abusers.
We will continue to upgrade the equipment of the Police Force to enable them to better meet the challenging operational needs of the millenium. We will formulate plans for the adoption of modern information technology according to the findings of a consultancy study and develop a comprehensive strategy for the development of the Police's computer crime investigation capability by 2000. We are upgrading the surveillance and navigational aids equipment on Divisional Patrol Launches, and commissioning six new inshore patrol vessels and a new command and control and communications system for the Marine Police. We will commission a consultancy study to examine the replacement of the command and control system of the Operations Wing.
We are making good progress in projects to increase prison capacity. We have recently commissioned 424 new penal places in Pak Sha Wan Correctional Institution in September 1999. Redevelopment works of the Tai Lam Correctional Institution is on schedule and will provide 260 penal places in 2001. We are planning the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre expansion project with a view to providing 400 additional penal places starting 2003/04. As a long term measure, we are also identifying suitable sites for developing new penal facilities.
We will continue to improve our rehabilitative and aftercare services for young offenders by introducing new legislation to provide for a new short-term residential rehabilitative programme and upgrading and modernizing the education and vocational training programmes for inmates in young offenders institutions to gain external accreditation. We will improve our welfare and psychological counseling services to inmates and will step up our publicity programme to enhance community acceptance of and support for rehabilitated offenders.
We have set up special working groups to conduct a comprehensive review on the Methadone treatment programme with a view to improving its effectiveness. We will establish a Drug Information Resource Centre to provide a focal point from which various preventive education and publicity against drug abuse partnership programmes will emanate. We will also expand the scope the volunteer scheme to enhance participation from the community.
Maintaining Immigration Control
Facilitating freedom of movement in and out of Hong Kong is crucial both to maintaining Hong Kong as an international trading, financial and business centre. In the past year, we have significantly shortened the time required for clearance at control points; reduced the processing time for entry visas and permits and extended the operation hours in the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau control points. In the coming year, we aim to further reduce the processing time for entry visas. We will review the current visa requirement on nationals of Eastern European countries and conduct a feasibility study on the issue of electronic visit permits to visitors from Taiwan with a view to enhancing travel convenience.
To further improve our performance, we have commissioned a consultancy study to review the existing computer systems and to explore options to achieve optimum use of information technology to better meet the Immigration Department's present and future operational needs. The issue of a new generation of identity cards is one of the many areas being looked into.
Safeguarding Public Safety
It is the common goal of the Government and the community to improve fire safety in Hong Kong. More and more building owners and occupants actively participated in the fire drills, seminars and exhibitions organized by the Fire Services Department and at the district level. We will continue to increase community awareness of and involvement in fire safety and step up enforcement to ensure that the fire safety measures in buildings are properly maintained.
The business community responded positively to the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance which provides for better fire safety protection for prescribed commercial premises and old commercial buildings; the overall compliance rate with fire hazard abatement notices in 1998 was 99.25%. We will continue to improve fire safety in other types of private buildings by phases, starting with old composite (commercial/residential) buildings, where the fire services condition is most unsatisfactory. We aim to introduce the new legislation into LegCo in the coming year. We have reviewed the Fire Services Ordinance with a view to strengthening the enforcement power, and updating and preserving the deterrent effect of the penalty provisions. We aim to introduce the amendment legislation into LegCo within the coming legislative session. We are also working on legislation for the licensing of karaoke establishments and hope to bring the licensing scheme into effect next year.
We are committed to protecting the public from the risks involving dangerous goods and chemicals. We have completed a comprehensive review of the existing legislative framework and will introduce amendments to the Dangerous Goods Ordinance later this year to improve the control of dangerous goods and ensure that our safety requirements are in line with international standards.
We have been able to achieve the new performance target of responding to 92.5% of emergency ambulance calls within 12 minutes. To further improve the quality of our emergency ambulance service, we will undertake a feasibility study on the provision of paramedic service on all ambulances with a view to enhancing pre-hospital care for patients.
We have generally lived up to our commitments last year, and we seek to do more in the coming year. I believe our objectives and strategies are in the right direction. We have a professional and competent corps of disciplined services committed to do their best for the community. We are determined to improve our performance, but we can only do so with the support of the community and the legislature.
End/Saturday, October 16, 1999