LCQ10: Language used in demand notes issued by the Government

    Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Professor K C Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 21):

Question :

     Recently, I have received complaints from members of the public that the names and addresses of the payers on the demand notes issued by some government departments (e.g. the Water Supplies Department) are in English only.  Some members of the public who do not understand English could not verify, upon receipt of such notes, whether the payers' names and addresses were correct and made the payments, but found out subsequently that the names and addresses printed on the notes were not theirs, which caused them great inconvenience.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  among the demand notes issued by the Government in the past three years, of the percentage of those with payers' names and addresses printed in English only, as well as the names of the government departments involved; and

(b)  whether it will consider issuing demand notes printed only in Chinese to all recipients, except for a minority of the recipients who do not understand Chinese; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply :

Madam President,

(a)  Currently, the names and addresses of the payers on the demand notes issued by most government departments can be printed out in either English or Chinese.  However, there are a few government departments that can only issue demand notes to payers with English names and addresses due to constraints of their computer systems.  These departments include Water Supplies Department, Student Financial Assistance Agency (payers' names can be printed in Chinese on the demand notes but addresses in English only), Immigration Department, Hongkong Post, Marine Department, Office of the Telecommunications Authority, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and Land Registry.

     In the past three years, the number of demand notes with the names or addresses of the payers printed in English only constitutes about 38% of the total number of demand notes issued by government departments. Most of them are issued by the Water Supplies Department.  The Department is enhancing its computer system to enable the printing of Chinese names and addresses on their demand notes.  It is expected that the project will take about 18 months to complete.  

(b)  Other than the government departments mentioned in part (a) above, members of the public in general can select the language of names and addresses to be printed on the demand notes.  There are practical difficulties in ascertaining whether a payer can understand Chinese or not.  We will remind all government departments to use both languages or the language selected by the payers on the demand notes issued by them.

Ends/Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Issued at HKT 11:11