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Opening statement by Deputy Secretary for Labour and Welfare at United Nations hearing on UNCRPD (English only)

     Following is the opening statement by the Deputy Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Ms Doris Cheung, at the hearing of the Initial Report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva yesterday (September 18, Geneva time):

Mr Chairman (Mr Ronald McCallum) and distinguished members,

     As the Deputy Secretary for Labour and Welfare of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, it gives me great honour to address you on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the HKSAR.

     I would like to begin by assuring you that the HKSAR is fully committed to promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities in accordance with the law and to promoting respect for their inherent dignity. It has all along been the policy objective of the HKSAR Government to help persons with disabilities develop their potential, as well as to build a barrier-free living environment with a view to enabling them to participate in full and enjoy equal opportunities both in terms of their social life and personal growth. These are also the spirit and core values enshrined in the Convention. Promotion and implementation of the Convention is an ongoing initiative of the HKSAR Government. It is also the direction of continued development of rehabilitation services in Hong Kong.

     I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the latest developments since the submission of the Initial Report in August 2010 which I believe would be of interest to you.

Resources devoted to rehabilitation services

     Since the application of the Convention to the HKSAR in August 2008, the HKSAR Government has been allocating substantial additional resources to strengthen the rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities. The overall recurrent expenditure of these services has increased from US$2.13 billion (HK$16.6 billion) to US$2.98 billion (HK$23.2 billion) in this year, representing a substantial increase of 40 per cent. This also amounts to about 9 per cent of the HKSAR Government's annual recurrent expenditure. Meanwhile, to promote public awareness of the spirit and core values enshrined in the Convention, the HKSAR Government has from 2009 onwards substantially increased the annual allocation for relevant public education activities by over five times from US$0.28 million (HK$2 million) to US$1.67 million (HK$13 million).

Building a barrier-free society

     Furthermore, we strive to build a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities. We regularly review the Design Manual: Barrier Free Access, which prescribes mandatory design requirements and best practices for the provision of barrier-free access and facilities. The departments responsible for the design and construction of government buildings and public housing have also put in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure that all newly constructed buildings or existing buildings undergoing renovation meet the requirements in the latest version of the Design Manual published in 2008, and wherever practicable achieve standards beyond the statutory requirements.

     To further step up our efforts, the HKSAR Government has taken forward a comprehensive retrofitting programme costing US$167 million (HK$1.3 billion) to upgrade the barrier-free facilities in about 3 500 existing government premises and facilities, as well as about 240 public housing estates. In other words, all government venues which have a frequent public interface have been included in the programme. I am delighted to report that retrofitting works for around 90 per cent of these venues were completed in June this year and the remainder will be completed by mid-2014.

     Barrier-free facilities have also been installed at our elevated walkways for years. To make barrier-free access even more user-friendly, the HKSAR Government will take forward a programme to expedite the installation of lifts at walkways.

Encouraging the participation of persons with
disabilities in social activities and employment

     We believe that one of the keys to building a caring and inclusive society is to encourage persons with disabilities to participate more in community activities. Apart from providing a monthly transport supplement and subsidising the wheelchair-accessible Rehabus service, the HKSAR Government has further launched in June this year the Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities. This Scheme enables these two groups of beneficiaries to travel anytime on the railway, ferries and buses at a concessionary fare of only US$0.26 (HK$2) for each journey. The Scheme not only helps the integration of persons with disabilities into the community, but also lessens their financial burden on transport.

     We will also continue to enhance employment support and vocational training services for persons with disabilities. For example, since 2001 we have been providing funding support to non-governmental organisations for the setting up of small enterprises to directly create jobs for persons with disabilities. Each funded business is required to fulfil the condition that the number of employees with disabilities should not be less than half of the total number of employees under its payroll. To sustain the momentum, the HKSAR Government has injected another US$13 million (HK$100 million) into the project this year. Furthermore, we will subsidise employers of persons with disabilities for procuring assistive devices and carrying out workplace modification, thereby enabling persons with disabilities to work more efficiently and facilitating them to secure open employment.


     In conclusion, Mr Chairman and members, I wish to re-affirm the HKSAR Government's strong commitment to honouring our obligations under the Convention. We will continue to collaborate fully with the stakeholders, the rehabilitation sector and various sectors of the community to promote the spirit and core values of the Convention and step up efforts to fulfil the requirements under the Convention. Thank you very much.

Ends/Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:45


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