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LCQ11: Cross-boundary students

     Following is a question by the Hon James Tien and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):


     It has been reported that there are currently as many as 28 000 students crossing the boundary from the Mainland to Hong Kong to attend school each day, which represents a 1.2-fold increase in five years, and the number is projected to continue to rise in the coming few years. There are comments that the large number of students crossing the boundary to attend school has put pressure on cross-boundary traffic. Moreover, students have to spend considerable time travelling a long distance to and from schools and have to face safety problems. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the average daily number of students crossing the boundary to attend school in Hong Kong in each of the past five school years and the current school year, and set out a breakdown in the table of Annex 1:

(2) of the estimated average daily number of students crossing the boundary to attend school in Hong Kong in each of the next three years, and set out a breakdown in a table of the same format as the table of Annex 1;

(3) as some parents have relayed that there are not enough immigration clearance channels at the boundary control points for use by cross-boundary students (CBS) and obstruction is often caused by parallel trading activities, which has resulted in serious traffic congestion in the North District particularly when school finishes in the afternoon, whether the authorities are aware of the situation concerned and whether they have taken measures to tackle the problems;

(4) whether it has assessed if the CBS-related immigration clearance facilities and support services (e.g. cross-boundary school bus service) have reached their capacity; if it has assessed, of the details; if it has not assessed, the reasons for that;

(5) of the authorities' new measures to cope with the problem of increase in the number of CBS year after year; and

(6) whether it will co-operate with the Mainland authorities to assist local school sponsoring bodies in establishing schools on the Mainland so as to provide a choice for Hong Kong students; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The number of cross-boundary students (CBS) has been on the rise in the past few years. However, following the implementation of the ¡§zero delivery quota¡¨ policy for expectant Mainland mothers whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents from 2013, the number of CBS is expected to peak in two to three years, which will be followed by a progressive decline thereafter. Hence, the surge of CBS is only a transient phenomenon. The Education Bureau (EDB) has been liaising closely with relevant departments and Mainland authorities to implement various measures for CBS.

     My reply to the questions raised by the Hon James Tien is as follows:

(1) and (2) The EDB collects information on the number of CBS from schools in the districts concerned in September each year, after the commencement of a new school year. The number of CBS attending kindergartens (including kindergarten-cum-child care centres), primary schools and secondary schools in Hong Kong from the 2010/11 to 2015/16 school years is set out at Annex 2.

     We cannot provide an accurate projection of the number of CBS in the next three school years because it is subject to significant year-on-year changes depending on family factors and adjustment of related policies, etc.

(3) To cope with the increasing demand for immigration service for CBS, additional designated CBS counters are made available at land-based boundary control points (BCP) during CBS peak hours before and after school in order to expedite the processing of CBS immigration clearance. Besides, the Immigration Department and other relevant departments have also put in place various facilitating measures for CBS, which include:

* providing CBS e-Channel services at Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Points;

* implementing "Simplified Clearance Procedure" at Shenzhen Bay, Man Kam To, Sha Tau Kok, Lok Ma Chau (Huanggang), Lok Ma Chau Spur Line and Lo Wu Control Points to shorten the time for immigration clearance for CBS; and

* providing "On-board Clearance" services for CBS taking cross-boundary school coaches under special quotas at Man Kam To, Sha Tau Kok and Lok Ma Chau (Huanggang) Control Points, where officers from the Immigration Department, the Customs and Excise Department and the Department of Health will provide clearance services for CBS on board of such coaches.

     In recent years, the problem of parallel trading in Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point has been a matter of public concern.  After conducting a series of joint-operations by law enforcement agencies to combat parallel trading activities, the situation has improved significantly. To protect the safety of CBS and maintain good order during immigration and customs clearance, a "CBS dedicated channel" has been set up during after-school peak hours to segregate CBS from other departing passengers. Law enforcement agencies have also deployed additional manpower to maintain the order and exercise crowd control in the area, thereby providing convenient and safe clearance to CBS. Moreover, in view of the congested traffic in the vicinity of Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point during after-school hours, the police have made special transportation arrangements to shorten the travelling time of school coaches to and from the control point.

(4) The number of CBS has been increasing continuously in recent years, soaring from 5 859 in the 2007/08 school year to 28 106 in the 2015/16 school year. As mentioned in (3) above, the land-based BCP have put in place various immigration facilitation measures for CBS to ensure their safety. In recent years, the disciplined services have been coping with the workload arising from CBS by increasing their manpower or working overtime.

     The Government will continue to take corresponding measures at various land-based BCP for enhancing their capacity in handling CBS. Moreover, we will continue to work closely with the Mainland authorities for working out a proper clearance arrangement for CBS.

     Regarding cross-boundary school coaches, the Guangdong Provincial Government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government have issued special quotas since 2008 for cross-boundary school coaches to pick up CBS at the four land-based BCP, namely Shenzhen Bay, Lok Ma Chau (Huanggang), Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok. The Government conducts an annual service demand survey to collect data from schools within districts served by cross-boundary school coaches, the outcome of which will be used to project the demand for special quotas in the coming year. We will then work out the appropriate number of quotas as well as the relevant arrangements with the Guangdong Provincial Government and the Shenzhen Municipal Government. For instance, the special quotas for cross-boundary school coaches have been increased from 170 in the 2014/15 school year to 220 in the 2015/16 school year, representing an increase of about 30%.

 (5) The EDB has announced that the anticipated demand for public sector Primary One (P1) school places will surge temporarily to reach its peak in the 2018/19 school year. In view of the demand for P1 school places from CBS, the EDB has, starting from the 2014/15 school year, implemented the revised arrangements for the Central Allocation under the Primary One Admission (POA) system to provide applicant children residing in the Mainland (i.e. CBS) with a separate Choice of Schools List for Central Allocation under the POA.  The list consists of all schools in the eight school nets close to the BCP (i.e. Tuen Mun: 70 (Tuen Mun West), 71 (Tuen Mun East); Yuen Long: 72 (Tin Shui Wai), 74 (Yuen Long East); the North District: 80 (Sheung Shui), 81 (Fanling), 83 (Sha Tau Kok); and Tai Po: 84) and individual schools in other districts having CBS and are ready and willing to support CBS. The revised arrangements are similar to providing a "dedicated school net" for the CBS with a view to diverting them to other districts, hence alleviating the excessive demand for P1 school places in districts close to BCP, such as the North District. It also helps meet the demand from local children while ensuring the right of cross-boundary applicant children for allocating a public sector P1 school place.

     In view of the anticipated changes in the demand for P1 school places mentioned above, the EDB has reached a consensus with the school sector, after balancing the concerns of different stakeholders, that it is more secure to adopt flexible arrangements to temporarily increase the supply of school places to meet the transient increase in demand. Apart from borrowing school places from other districts, making use of remaining classrooms and converting other rooms into additional classrooms, the EDB will temporarily allocate more students to each P1 class as a contingency measure out of absolute necessity and provide schools with additional resources to safeguard the quality of teaching. The EDB also will proactively explore recycling vacant school premises as well as the feasibility of expanding the classrooms of individual schools. Flexible arrangements would help relieve any impact on the stable development of schools when the demand for school places subsides in the long term.

     Besides, to help CBS of tender age travel safely to Hong Kong for schooling, the HKSAR Government has put in place various facilitating transportation measures for CBS as far as practicable. Apart from issuing Closed Area Permits to CBS for taking local school coaches at Lo Wu Station Road or Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point, with the co-operation of the Guangdong Provincial Government and the HKSAR Government, special quotas have been granted to cross-boundary coach operators for providing school coach services for CBS crossing the boundary through Shenzhen Bay, Lok Ma Chau (Huanggang), Man Kam To or Sha Tau Kok Control Points to schools. In addition, the HKSAR Government also provides safe and convenient clearance services to CBS by simplifying clearance procedures. For details, please refer to (3) above.

     The HKSAR Government will continue to monitor closely the transportation and clearance needs of CBS, and will provide necessary support measures to cater for their needs and ensure their safety.

(6) The EDB has maintained close liaison with the Shenzhen Municipal Education Bureau (Shenzhen EDB) in exchanging views and making arrangements on education issues of Hong Kong students residing in Shenzhen, including children born in Hong Kong but whose parents are non-Hong Kong permanent residents. In 2013, the EDB and the Shenzhen EDB signed the "Co-operation Agreement on Operating Classes for Hong Kong Students in Shenzhen Schools" under which the admission eligibility of the "Scheme of Classes for Hong Kong Students" was extended to cover children born in Hong Kong but whose parents are non-Hong Kong permanent residents. This arrangement provides more Hong Kong children residing in Shenzhen with the option of pursuing their studies in Shenzhen instead of travelling across the boundary for schooling. The number of schools offering Hong Kong curriculum to Hong Kong students residing in Shenzhen has increased from 9 in the 2014/15 school year to 11 in the 2015/16 school year, including two schools for Hong Kong children.

     Moreover, many Hong Kong educational institutions or organisations have experiences in running schools/classes in the Mainland, including the Classes for Hong Kong Students that provide education services to Hong Kong children. Organisations which are interested in running schools/classes in the Mainland may apply to the authorities concerned in accordance with relevant local regulations and requirements. If necessary, the EDB will provide support for the schools concerned, including briefing school teachers on the Hong Kong curriculum and the latest curriculum resource packages produced by us, etc.

Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:55


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