LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1344/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/IP
LegCo Panel on Information Policy
Minutes of Meeting
on Friday, 3 May 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing (Chairman)
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP
Members Absent :
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Members Attending :
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, OBE, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Public Officers Attending :
- Item III
- Mr Trevor Keen
- Principal Assistant Security for Planning, Environment and Lands
- Item IV
- Mr Jeremy Croft
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mr Peter Bourton
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Recreation & Culture
- Mr Andrew Kluth
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
Staff in Attendance :
- Mrs Anna LO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
- Mr Raymond LAM
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6
I. Confirmation of minutes of last meeting and matters arising
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1187/95-96)
The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 11 April 1996 were confirmed.
2. Members noted a reply letter (Appendix A) from the Administration on the case of Mr XI Yang. As regards approaching Mr XIs lawyer or family for a copy of the judgment on Mr XIs case, it was agreed to seek his familys views on whether they agreed to disclose the written judgment.
II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
3. Members agreed that the next meeting would be held on Friday, 7 June 1996 at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the following :
- Display of publicity materials in public places
- Reorganisation of the Information Wing
- Implementation of Phase II of the Records Management Strategy
4. It was also agreed that the item on "review of legislation having an impact on press freedom" would be discussed again at the July meeting.
III. Display of publicity materials in public places
(Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1172/95-96)
5. Mr Trevor Keen presented the salient points of the paper provided by the Administration. He pointed out that the new scheme for the display of publicity materials in public places involved the cooperated effort of the Lands Department, Transport Department, Highways Department, District Offices (DO), Urban Services Department and Regional Services Department. The scheme was designed to be as simple and user friendly as possible so as to minimise inconvenience and administrative resource requirement.
6. On the question of eligibility, Mr Keen stated that everyone was eligible for submitting an application as long as the material to be displayed was not of commercial, obscene, objectionable, or frivolous nature. Preference would be given to materials of district nature and public interest. Applications had to be submitted at least 28 days before the display period.
Determination of designated display spots
7. Mr Keen informed Members that the District Management Committee (DMC) of District Boards would be consulted on the designated spots for display of publicity materials. Display spots were pre-determined so as to expedite the process and avoid the complication of having to assess the safety and hygiene factors every time. Mrs Selina CHOW called for flexibility in the processing of applications and added that some people might need to determine their own display spots. Mr Keen agreed to consider the suggestion but added that applications for self-determined spots would inevitably require longer processing time.
Allocation of display spots
8. Mr Keen informed Members that display spots would be allocated through balloting. To ensure fairness, applicants would be allowed to witness the balloting process. If a District Land Officer (DLO) formed the view that an application did not comply with legislation, advice would be sought from the DO or the DMC.
9. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung commented that balloting might present difficulty for some groups wishing to publicise events within a certain time. As applications would be balloted in batches, applicants would have to wait for the next balloting exercise, by which time the event might have taken place.
10. Mrs Elizabeth WONG suggested the Administration to provide the Panel with a list of criteria for assessing applications. She opined that balloting should only be allowed for applications which satisfied a certain set of criteria.
11. Mrs Selina CHOW expressed concern over the bureaucracy of some officials in processing applications. She commented that some information that were useful only for a period of less than one month might be granted a shorter display period. Materials displayed should be promptly removed at the end of a display period so as to avoid wasting resources. She suggested the Administration to examine in greater detail the interpretation of contents, the criteria and priority for the assessment of applications.
12. Mr YUM Sin-ling suggested that a licensing system might be considered. In reply, Mr Keen stated that a licensing system might be unfair to smaller groups. He added that in case of any doubt with an application, the DLO would consult the DO and seek legal advice, if necessary. Mr Andrew CHENG cautioned that licensing should be studied carefully as it might restrict freedom of information.
13. In cases of urgent events, Mr Keen explained that the District Land Offices might exercise their discretion to approve applications, taking into account safety, hygiene and amenity considerations. Applicants were however encouraged to plan forward and submit applications early. Members suggested the Administration to set out the mechanism for processing urgent applications.
Display period and penalty for exceeding display period
14. In response to Members, Mr Keen explained that the display period was proposed to be one month. While the Administration planned to avoid introducing penalty for exceeding the display period, repeated offenders would be prosecuted.
Display of materials on a territory-wide basis
15. As regards the displaying of materials on a territory-wide basis, Mr Keen stated that there was no plan to separate the processing of applications on a territory-wide basis from those on a district basis.
16. Members were generally of the view that separate treatment for applications on a territory-wide basis should be considered as, for example, the constituents of LegCo Members belonging to the functional constituencies were scattered in different districts.
Display materials to be prohibited
17. Mr Andrew CHENG opined that as the terms "objectionable" and "frivolous" might involve subjective judgement, they should be removed from the list of excluded materials. He added that the definition of commercial firms should be carefully determined and quoted for example that the Democratic Party was also registered as a limited company. In reply, Mr Keen stated that in determining whether materials were "obscene" or "objectionable", reference would be made to the relevant legislation. Legal advice would be sought in case of doubt. The issue of whether "frivolous" materials should be removed from the exclusion list would be reviewed after the pilot test. As regards displaying the names of companies sponsoring charitable events, some flexibility might be allowed. He undertook to take Members views and suggestion into consideration.
District for pilot test
18. As regards the Administrations plan to introduce a pilot test in Wanchai in July 1996 to map out some of the implementation details, Mr Andrew CHENG opined that Wanchai was not an appropriate district for conducting the pilot test as there was no public housing in the proximity. He stated that Kwun Tong might be a more appropriate choice.
Government department in charge of the new scheme
19. In response to Members, Mr Keen pointed out that the department in charge of the new system was the Lands Department. Some Members were dissatisfied with the service provided by the DLO and suggested that the Home Affairs Department should be responsible for collection and processing of applications while the DLO should be responsible for enforcement.
20. Mr Keen undertook to reflect Members views and suggestions to the Administration.
IV. Review of legislation having an impact on press freedom
(Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1172/95-96)
Section 13C of the Telecommunication Ordinance (TO)
21. In response to Members, Mr Peter Bourton stated that the Administration hoped to present the proposed amendments to section 13C of the TO, subject to approval by ExCo, to LegCo in the last two weeks of May. Mr Andrew CHENG informed Members that his Members Bill on section 13C of the TO was awaiting the Presidents ruling on charging effect.
Section 33 of the Telecommunications Ordinance
22. In reply to the Chairman, Mr Jeremy Croft stated that the final report of the Law Reform Commission was expected in September or October 1996. While he was not in a position to provide a time frame, the legislative proposals would be presented to LegCo at the earliest opportunity when the final report was completed.
Proposals relating to official secrets, treason and sedition
23. In response to Members, Mr Andrew Kluth advised that proposals relating to official secrets, treason and sedition were under active discussion with the Chinese side at the Joint Liaison Group (JLG). The Administration would continue to push for an early decision on the proposals. He stated that both sides of the JLG were cooperating for progress in the discussions.
24. Members were generally concerned about the JLGs slow progress on proposals relating to official secrets, treason and sedition. Mr CHENG was also very concerned that the legislative process on these proposals might be delayed and eventually left to the provisional legislature. In response, Mr Kluth said that the Administration was working hard on this and was committed to bringing suitable proposals forward at the earliest opportunity. Nevertheless, he undertook to reflect Members views and concern to the Administration.
25. As regards the content of discussions, Mr Kluth stated that the Administration was not in a position to disclose as it was subject to JLG confidentiality. Regular discussions had started in July 1995 and the basis of the proposals were as stated in paragraph 6 of the paper provided by the Administration.
26. Members discussed and agreed to submit a report to the House Committee suggesting it to write to the Chief Secretary to :
- convey Members disappointment and frustration over the lack of progress on the legislative proposals relating to the Official Secrets Act and the Crimes Ordinance; and
- request at least the release of details of the proposals forwarded to the JLG, if other relevant information cannot be disclosed, at the July meeting of the Panel.
(Post-meeting note : The Report to the House Committee was issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1238/95-96)
27. Mrs Elizabeth WONG suggested that the Administration should be asked to cease discussion at the JLG and present the legislative amendments to LegCo, if little or no progress was reported by the Administration at the July meeting.
28. The meeting ended at 12:40 p.m.
29 May 1996
Last Updated on 20 Aug, 1998