LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1187/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/IP
LegCo Panel on Information Policy
Minutes of Meeting
on Thursday, 11 April 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 Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP
Public officers Attending :
- For Item III (a)
- Mr Jeremy CROFT
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mrs Grace PUN
- Principal Executive Officer (Special Duties), the Efficiency Unit
- For Item III (b)
- Mrs Irene YAU
- Director of Information Services
- Mr Robin GILL
- Deputy Director of Information Services
- For Item III (c)
- Mrs Barbara LUK
- Assistant Director (Museums & Libraries)
Urban Services Department
- Mr Michael MAK
- Chief Librarian,
Urban Services Department
- Miss CHOI Suk-kuen
- Assistant Director (Culture & Entertainment),
Regional Services Department
- Mr TSE Fu-shing
- Chief Librarian
Regional Services Department
In attendance :
- Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre
- For Item III (a) - (d)
- Mr Mathias WOO
- Mr Eric CHOW
- Mr Ringo LAM
- Miss CHENG Wai-ning
Staff in Attendance :
- Mrs Justina LAM
- Assistant Secretary General 2 (Designate)
- Mrs Anna LO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
- Mr Colin CHUI
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2
I. Confirmation of notes of last meeting and matters arising
(LegCo Paper No. PL 1101/95-96 and Appendix VII to LegCo Paper No. CB(2)993/95-96)
The notes of the Panel meeting held on 8 March 1996 (LegCo Paper No. PL 1101/95-96) were confirmed.
2. Members considered the Administrations reply on the case of Mr XI Yang (Appendix VII to LegCo Paper No. CB(2)993/95-96) too general. The Administration should be requested for details on the points conveyed to the Chinese Government, the occasions on which they were raised and a copy of the judgment of the case.
(Post-meeting note : Members request was conveyed to the Administration on 16 April 1996)
II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(List of outstanding items tabled at the meeting)
3. Members went through the list of outstanding items and agreed that the following would be discussed at the next meeting scheduled to be held on 3 May 1996 at 10:45 am in Conference Room B of the LegCo Building:
- review of legislation having an impact on press freedom; and
- display of publicity materials in public places.
III. Meeting with the Administration, Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre (the Centre) and LegCo Secretariat
(a) Latest development on implementation of Code on Access to information
(Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 993/95-96)
4. The Administration, in reply to Members question, pointed out that the spirit of the Code on Access to Information was to encourage public access to information held by the Government. The Home Affairs Branch had the policy responsibility on the Code while the Efficiency Unit was responsible for its implementation.
5. Referring to para. 5 of the Administrations paper, Mr Andrew CHENG enquired on the refusal to provide information on the grounds of third party information and privacy of the individual. The Administration explained the two grounds as set out respectively in paras. 2.14 and 2.15 of the Code. It added that para. 2.15 on privacy of the individual was written to take account of the advent of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. Therefore there was no need to amend the Code. However, the relevant parts of the Guidelines to the Code would need to be elaborated and the necessary amendments to the Guidelines would come into effect at the same time as the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.
(b) Uploading of government information onto Internet
(Administrations paper at Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 993/95- 96)
(The Centres submission at Appendix V to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 993/95-96, and survey result on Government internet policy tabled at the meeting)
New home pages launched by departments
6. The Administration pointed out that, since the issue of its paper, two more departments had launched their home pages bringing the total number of departments/branches with their own home pages to 16.
Information provided in the government home page
7.In response to the Centres concern that the home page information provided by some of the branches/departments was sketchy and incomprehensive, the Administration explained that the information in these home pages was essentially based on the fact sheets of the branches/departments. It added that the government home page was only set up in December 1995 and branches/departments had discretion on the information to be uploaded. Nevertheless, the branches/departments concerned would be requested to upload more information onto the Internet.
Consultation papers put on the internet
8. Enquiries were made regarding the two consultation papers relating to the study concerning discrimination on the grounds of family status and sexual orientation respectively:
- the reason for confining the consultation to Hong Kong as stated in the papers put on the internet; and
- the reason for not loading the report concerning the opinion survey on sexual orientation onto the Internet.
9. The Administration responded that:
- it did not intend to exclude comments from people outside Hong Kong; and
- the report was not uploaded due to logistical problems such as time and resource constraints.
Staffing requirement of Government Information Centre
10. Mrs Irene YAU said that she intended to bid for additional staff in the next Resource Allocation Exercise to strengthen the existing two-strong temporary Internet Team, staffed by GIS officers.
Publicity of government home page
11. The Administration stated that it would constantly publicize the government home page, e.g. 100,000 pamphlets on the home page (copy tabled at the meeting) had been produced and more copies would be distributed to the public.
Policy on internet-available information
12. The Administration stated that there was a well established policy and culture of open, transparent and accountable government in Hong Kong. No single point in the Administration was charged with determining how information should be made available to the public. Individual branches and departments were best placed to decide how to disseminate information on their policies and plans including through use of the internet. In the absence of a designated policy secretary responsible for internet-available information, the following policy secretaries/department head were responsible for the various aspects of internet-available information: (a) Secretary for Economic Services on the telecommunication aspect; (b) Secretary for Home Affairs on information policy; (c) Secretary for Recreation and Culture on content regulation; and (d) Director of Administration on electronic transmission within the Government. The Administration could not accord priority in the allocation of resources to matters concerning internet-available information. Since individual branches/departments were in a better position to decide on the information to be loaded onto the Internet, the Administration would only establish a common practice on the essential information to be uploaded by branches/departments.
13. Members and the Centre considered that there was a need for a policy secretary dealing with information matters. Members shared the Centres concern about the lack of a coherent policy on internet-available information and requested the Administration to consider the Centres recommendations set out in its submission. It was agreed that the Administration and the Centre would be invited to discuss the issue again in the Panel meeting scheduled for 5 July 1996.
(c) The role of public libraries
(Administrations paper and Centres submission at Appendices III and IV(revised) respectively)
14. The discussion concerning the Centres suggestions on improving library services (para. 3 of the Centres submission) was summarized below:
Policy on library services
- In response to the suggestion of a designated policy branch on library services, the Administration pointed out that the statutory authorities for the provision of public library services in Hong Kong were the two independent Municipal Councils. As such, there was no central policy branch in this respect. The fully elected Municipal Councils, which maintained mutual co-operation and close liaison with District Boards and also conducted surveys and public consultation exercises on library services, could take into account public opinions in this respect. In this connection, the Regional Council had completed a review of its library services in October 1995. Guidelines for future development were endorsed at open meetings of the relevant committees of the Council and there was press release on the approved guidelines. The Urban Council was currently conducting a comprehensive review with a view to formulating a Five-Year Plan to better serve the community.
Proposed public use of university libraries
- On the Centres suggestion of opening the libraries in universities & other tertiary educational institutes, the Chairman requested the Clerk to convey the suggestion to the Education and Manpower Branch for consideration.
(Post-meeting note : The suggestion was conveyed to the Education and Manpower Branch on 16 April 1996)
Library services in relation to continuing education
- The Administration, in reply to the Centres comment that the two Councils library services were biased towards provision of leisure reading materials, stated that public libraries in Hong Kong had a relatively short history compared with most of the overseas public library systems in the developed countries. Prior to 1985, the priority of the services was to provide basic library services for the general public by physical expansion of the library stock and the opening of different types of new libraries in the various districts. In the past decade, taking into account the changing needs of the community for continuing education and information, the two Municipal Councils had made much effort to improve the quality of the library services by upgrading information and reference facilities through the provision of more central libraries and comprehensive reference services. Regarding library services to meet community needs for continuing education, the Administration pointed out that close co-operation was maintained by the two public library systems with other local and overseas libraries, such as interlibrary loan arrangements. Other arrangements included the provision of complete sets of course materials of the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong in nine Urban Council and six Regional Council libraries for public reference since September 1990.
Proposed merger of Hong Kong Central Library and Public Records Office
- Regarding the proposal to merge the Hong Kong Central Library and Public Records Office, the Administration said that they had different functions and were not merged in countries like Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
15. The Administration supplied the following information in response to Members questions relating to the questionnaire survey report attached to the Centres submission:
Staffing of public libraries
- Whilst professional qualification on librianship was not the entry requirement for the librarian grade (consisting of chief librarian, librarian and assistant librarian I/II), the majority of staff in the grade had such qualification as this was a requirement for promotion to assistant librarian I. Under the supervision of qualified librarian(s), assistant librarian IIs would undergo in-service training and take courses leading to internationally recognised professional qualification.
Public library computerisation system
- In response to the request for a review of the existing computerisation system with a view to providing the public with up-to-date and readily accessible information, the Administration pointed out that the public libraries provided computerized acquisition, cataloguing, circulation and online public access catalogue functions to facilitate readers in information searches. Reference facilities had been greatly enhanced by the introduction of independent CD-ROMs, CD-ROM networks, and online search of local and overseas library catalogues and other databases through Internet in the Councils libraries. The City Hall Public Library had been designated as the depository library in Hong Kong by a number of international organizations including the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, UNESCO, World Food Programme and International Labour Organisation. Further enhancement of the library computerisation system and search facilities under planning included dial-in access to library catalogues and search of the two Councils library catalogues and other databases through Internet.
Opening hours of public libraries
- The opening hours of the Councils central and district libraries were as follows:
In the independent Benchmark Survey on Urban Council services, respondents generally found the library opening hours acceptable. Benchmark Surveys on Regional Council services conducted regularly by statisticians in the Regional Services Department did not indicate that the public was dissatisfied with library opening hours.
12 improvement suggestions proposed in the questionnaire
- The Administration pointed out that, of the 12 improvement suggestions for Urban Council libraries proposed in the questionnaire, only three (i.e. providing public access to Councils library information and stock through internet, renewal of book loan by phone and 24-hour deposit boxes for return of books) had yet to be implemented. However, they were already under-planning for implementation after the completion of the Five Year Plan for library services.
Reliability of the Centres questionnaire survey
- On the Centres questionnaire survey, the Administration said that its professional statisticians had reservations on the representativeness of the respondents and objectivity of the questionnaire. Nevertheless, the Administration thanked the Centre for its suggestions contained in the survey report and would consider them. At the request of the Chairman, the Administration would provide copies of the two Councils Benchmark Survey reports to the Panel.
(Post-meeting note : The Regional Services Department had provided the Panel with a set of its 1993 Benchmark Survey on Public Opinion Towards the Regional Council (in English and Chinese) and the Urban Council had provided a set of its 1992 Benchmark Survey in English to the Panel. The two sets of the Benchmark Survey contained, inter alia, information relating to library services and were kept at the Clerks office.)
(d) LegCo and Internet
(Copy of LegCo home page at Appendix VI)
16. ASG2 (designate) briefed Members on the content of the LegCo home page and the plan to complete uploading of all papers issued by staff of the LegCo Secretariat for the 1995/96 session onto internet by summer 1996.
17.The meeting ended at 1:00 p.m.
1 May 1996
Last Updated on 20 Aug, 1998