LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2068/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/IP

LegCo Panel on Information Policy

Minutes of Meeting held on
Friday, 5 July 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing (Chairman)
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP

Members Absent :

    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai

Members Attending :

    Hon TO Kun-sun, James
    Hon SIN Chung-kai

Public Officers Attending :

Item II
Mr Jeremy Croft
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Mrs Grace PUN
Principal Executive Officer (Special Duties), the Efficiency Unit
Mr George YUEN
Acting Deputy Director of Information Services (Overseas & Administration)
Acting Assistant Director of Information Services (Overseas Public Relation)

Item III
Mr Peter LAI
Secretary for Security
Mr Andrew Kluth
Acting Deputy Secretary for Security
Mr Jeremy Croft
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Attendance by Invitation :

Item II
Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre
Mr Mathias WOO
Mr Eric CHOW

Internet Community
Mr Tony AU
Managing Director
ABC Data & Telecom Ltd
Mr Charles MOK
General Manager
HK Net Company Ltd
Mr Daniel NG
Hong Kong Star Internet Ltd
Mr Jeffrey VONG
Managing Director
Internet Access HK Ltd

Staff in Attendance :

Mrs Angela LEE
Prcinipal Assistant Secretary (Administration)
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) 1744/95-96)

The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 7 June 1996 were confirmed. Members noted that the Panel’s views on display of publicity materials in public places had been reported to the House Committee on 28 June 1996 and would be further discussed under “Matters Arising” at the House Committee meeting on 5 July 1996.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. Arising from the recent incidents on the petition of members of the Coalition Against the Provisional Legislature to Beijing and the false report published in a magazine, members agreed that a special meeting would be held on Friday, 12 July 1996 at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the following :

  1. Difficulties faced by local journalists working in China; and
  2. Measures to reinforce public confidence in the media

3. It was agreed that the press/journalist associations and reporters who were temporarily detained in Peking on 1 July 1996 in relation to the incident of the petition of the Coalition Against the Provisional Legislature would be invited to the meeting. Representatives of the Administration would also be invited to attend as observers.

III. Access to government information

(a) Latest development on implementation of the Code on Access to Information (the Code)

(Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1746/95-96)

4. Mr Jeremy Croft presented the salient points of the Administration’s paper. In response to the Chairman, he stated that there were still eight agencies to be brought under the Code’s ambit, hopefully before the end of 1996. They were the Police, Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Secretariat of Independent Police Complaints Council, Audit Department, Constitutional Affairs Branch, Government House, and the Secretariat of Public Service Commission, and the Offices of the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary. He informed Members that the Administration would introduce the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints (Amendment) Bill to LegCo on 10 July 1996. One of the proposals covered in the bill was to bring the Police and ICAC under the ambit of the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints in relation to the Code.

(b) Uploading of government information into Internet

(Appendices II, III and V to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1746/95-96 and 1789/95-96)

Meeting with the Administration

5. Mr Jeremy Croft and Mr George YUEN presented the paper provided by the Administration (Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1746/95-96). They informed the meeting that the Home Affairs Branch (HAB) had become the policy branch for the dissemination of Government information on the Internet. Mr Croft said that guidelines on how to make better use of the Internet to disseminate Government information would be developed and made available to Branches and Departments. Working within the guidelines, individual Branches and Departments would remain responsible for deciding what information relating to their work areas would be put on the Internet. The Administration would also examine the resource requirements arising from the use of Internet to disseminate Government information. Since April 1996, the number of departments and policy branches using Internet had increased from 14 to 27. The number of visitors to Government Home Page had increased from 14,000 in December 1995 to 26,000 in June 1996, while those to the Government Index Page had substantially increased from 66,000 in December 1995 to 1,070,000 in June 1996.

Meeting with deputations

Internet community

6. At the invitation of the Chairman, representatives of the Internet community presented the following points:

  1. The Internet community welcomed the Administration’s provision of information through Internet.
  2. As the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) had ruled that non-profit user groups were exempted from PNET charges, access to Government information through Internet should not be subject to such charges.
  3. The Internet community would render assistance, if requested, to the Administration in providing information through Internet, and in educating children on the ethics of using Internet.
  4. The Internet community suggested the Administration to consider collecting information, such as application forms, through Internet in addition to disseminating information.
  5. The Administration should explore the feasibility of allowing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) transactions through Internet.

Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre (HKDSRC)

7. Mr Mathias WOO presented the submission of HKDSRC (tabled at the meeting and attached at Appendix A to these minutes) and highlighted the following:

  1. HKDSRC welcomed the Administration’s increased openness in providing Government information through Internet. However, the progress since April was comparatively slow.
  2. Among various Government departments, OFTA was doing a better job in rendering information through Internet.
  3. Statutory or public bodies, such as the Municipal Councils and the Housing Authority, were slow in the provision of information through Internet.
  4. The role of libraries should also be examined under the subject.
  5. HKDSRC called for the early installation of Internet terminals like ATM machines at street corners, as mentioned in the Financial Secretary’s speech of 10 June 1996 entitled “We’re on the Internet : Where Are You ?” (Appendix to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1789/95-96).

LegCo homepage

8. Mrs Angela LEE presented the paper provided by the LegCo Secretariat (Appendix V to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1746/95-96) and informed Members that, as a start, the agenda and minutes of committee meetings had been made available on Internet through the Council’s Web Site commencing 10 June 1996. Since that date, over 500 visits to the Web Site had been recorded. Due to inadequate resources, the LegCo Secretariat would adopt a phased implementation approach.

9. The Administration had given blanket consent to the Legislative Council Secretariat for the speeches and papers by public officers at or for sittings of the Council and its committees to be provided on the Internet through the LegCo Web Site. As regards documents produced by other organizations, permission would have to be obtained from authors of such documents before they could be made available on the Internet.

Members’ views

10. Mrs Elizabeth WONG commented that the Administration should strengthen its education on cyber-consciousness and Internet usage ethics. It should also take the lead to foster an international agreement on Internet similar to that on intellectual property. She stated that the Asia-Pacific Net Conference would be held in late August 1996 in which the Hong Kong Government should actively participate in the event.

11. Mr SIN Chung-kai suggested the Administration to consider forming an advisory committee on Internet. He added that the latest version of “Laws of Hong Kong” should be made available on Internet, which would be very useful to the public, particularly the business sector. In supporting the suggestion, Mrs Elizabeth WONG proposed that the advisory committee should comprise representatives of relevant Government departments and the community.

12. In response, Mr Jeremy Croft stated that the Laws of Hong Kong was being made available through Internet. He undertook to reflect the other suggestions made at the meeting to the relevant Policy Branches. The suggestion on EDI would need further examination, as it involved privacy and security.


13. It was agreed that the subject would be discussed again at the Panel meeting in November 1996.

IV. Review of legislation having an impact on press freedom

(Appendix VI to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1746/95-96)

14. Mr Peter LAI presented the salient points of the Administration’s paper. He informed Members that proposals relating to Article 23 of the Basic Law (BL) had been provided through the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) to the Chinese side in July 1995.

Official Secrets Act, Crimes Ordinance (S2, S9) and Post Office Ordinance (S32(1)(h))

15. Mr Peter LAI stated that the latest development was that the Administration had put the Official Secrets Bill and Crimes (Amendment) Bill to the Chinese side of the JLG. The initial proposals provided to the Chinese side in July 1995 were related to treason and sedition only, but the Crimes (Amendment) Bill also included secession and subversion. To his knowledge, the draft bills provided to the Chinese Government were compatible with the BL, the Bill of Rights Ordinance (BORO), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, he was not in a position to disclose further details, which were subject to JLG’s confidentiality principle.

16. In response to Mr Andrew CHENG, Mr Peter LAI stated that the Administration was not in a position to provide a definite time-table for the introduction of the bills. Once consensus was reached with the Chinese side, the draft bills would be presented to LegCo. The Administration was fully aware of the time constraint and hoped that the legislative process would be completed within the next legislative session. If consensus could not be reached with the Chinese side, the Administration would explain to the public the circumstances of the disagreement. Having said that, he stressed that there was at present no indication of disagreement between the Chinese side and the Administration on the draft bills. He added that if consensus was reached and the draft bills passed by LegCo within the 1996/97 legislative session, minor amendments, such as change of the name of the sovereign state, were still necessary after 30 June 1996. Mr LAI also confirmed that the draft bills did not relate to the latter part of Article 23 of BL, i.e. “to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies.”

17. Mr James TO stressed the importance of the spirit of Article 23 of BL to enact laws on its own by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). He echoed the view that there should be a concrete time-table for the introduction of the draft bill into LegCo. He went further to say that even if consensus could not be reached with the Chinese side, the draft bills should nonetheless be introduced to the current LegCo.

18. Mr Bruce LIU was concerned about the commencement date of the bills. He hoped that consensus would be reached and the bills gazetted by the end of 1996.

19. Mr Peter LAI undertook to report progress on the draft bills periodically to the Panel.

Prison Rules (Rules 76(a) (b), 239 (1)(e)(i)(ii))

20. Mr Andrew Kluth informed Members that the proposed legislative amendments relating to Rules 76 (a) (b) and 239 (1) (e) (i) (ii) of Prison Rules would be introduced to LegCo on 10 July 1996 for negative vetting. In response to the Chairman, he stated that the proposed amendments were not related to the recent incident involving removal of the racing section of newspapers in the prisons. Amendments relating to the latter were under Rule 56 of the Prison Rules and were compatible with the BORO. They would be gazetted on 5 July 1996 for introduction to LegCo for negative vetting.

Telecommunication Ordinance (S33), Post Office Ordinance (S13)

21. In response to the Chairman, Mr Peter LAI stated that he was not in a position to advise when the final report of the Law Reform Commission (LRC) on interception of telecommunications and mail would be finalised. Nevertheless, the Administration would try its best to expedite the process of considering the LRC’s report (once available).

Telecommunication Ordinance (S13C, S28)

22. Members noted that the Telecommunication (Amendment) Bill 1996 had been introduced to LegCo on 22 May 1996. A Bills Committee had been formed, but pending activation. Mr Andrew CHENG suggested that, in order to expedite the examination of the Bill, consideration might be given to refer it to the Panel for scrutiny. Mr Bruce LIU reserved his position on the suggestion and commented that it was more appropriate to examine the Bill through the usual legislative process, as existing mechanism had already provided for priority to be granted to bills, where necessary.

23. Mr Andrew CHENG’s suggestion was supported by the majority of Members present who agreed that it should be raised at the House Committee meeting in the same afternoon.

(Pre-meeting Note: Due to the revision of the priority list of bills to be studied by the Administration, the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 1996 was activated on 5 July 1996.)

Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (S30)

24. Mr James TO highlighted the deliberations of the Bills Committee on the Prevention of Bribery (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 1995. It was noted that the resumption of Second Reading debate on the Bill would take place on 10 July 1996.

25. The meeting ended at 1:10 p.m.

LegCo Secretariat
5 September 1996

Last Updated on 20 Aug, 1998