The population by-census to be conducted next year will study the situation of people living in subdivided flats, the government has told the Legislative Council on Monday. The purpose will be to better understand their backgrounds, education levels, occupations and income levels.

During the Subcommittee on Census and Statistics meeting, the Commissioner for Census and Statistics Leslie Tang Wai-kong said that his department will randomly interview people living in 300,000 households – around one tenth of the total number in Hong Kong.

It will be the first time that a census by the Census and Statistics Department will study subdivided flat occupants, Oriental Daily reported.

A subdivied flat.
A subdivided flat. Photo: SoCo/Stand News.

“We will conduct more interviews in old areas such as Sham Shui Po and Yau Ma Tei,” Leslie Tang said. “We will pay attention as to whether several electric meters are installed in one flat.”

The by-census will also study the living conditions of subdivided flats, such as the saleable area.

At the meeting, lawmakers were concerned about how the Census and Statistics Department would deal with illegal subdivided flats inside industrial buildings, if discovered by census staff.

The department responded by saying that the data collected would only be used for the census, and that – based on the principle of privacy and confidentiality – the department would not give the data to law enforcement agencies.

A subdivied flat.
A subdivied flat. Photo: SoCo/Apple Daily.

In documents sent to LegCo, the department also confirmed that the by-census will not be collecting information on transgender and transsexual persons, nor those in same-sex cohabitation relationships.

The department wrote that it has the responsibility to provide reliable statistics: “It is anticipated that figures on sexual minorities would be grossly under-estimated. C&SD would not release statistics with uncertain margin of errors, or else the credibility of C&SD in compiling social and economic statistics would be undermined.”

“[The by-census] is a mandatory large-scale survey requiring respondents to provide truthful information. However, it is envisaged that the mandatory requirement will cause difficulties to a considerable number of respondents who are unwilling to answer or provide true responses on related questions and hence may attract legal liability.”

The by-census will be conducted between June 30 and August 2, 2016.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.