LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1412/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/IP

LegCo Panel on Information Policy

Minutes of Meeting
held on Thursday, 23 January 1997 at 3:45 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing (Chairman)
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members Attending :

    Dr Hon Samuel WONG, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin

Public Officers Attending :

Item II

Mr Martin GLASS
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
Miss Doris HO
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Acting)
Mr Geoffrey WOODHEAD
Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
Mr Jeremy CROFT
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Mr Patrick CHUNG
EDI Co-ordinator, Trade and Industry Branch
Ms Michelle LI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Secretary-General, University Grants Committee
Deputy Chief Inspector of Schools, Education Department
Mr Anthony S K WONG
Senior Assistant Director of Telecommunication
Mrs LAM LEE Ching-sau, Sophie
Assistant Director of Information Technology Services
Mr Joseph LAI
Deputy Head, Efficiency Unit
Chief Management Services Officer

Item III
Mr Jeremy CROFT
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Mr Philip CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
Assistant Commissioner of Police
Miss CHAN Siu-mui, Jean
Chief Information and Publicity Officer
Police Public Relations Branch

Attendance by Invitation :

Item II

Hong Kong Internet Services Providers Association
Mr Charles MOK

Hong Kong Information Technology Federation
Mr John DALY
Council Member

Asia Television Limited
Mr Kenneth KWOK
Assistant Chief Executive Officer

The University of Hong Kong
Social Sciences Research Centre
Computer Centre

The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Prof Frank TONG
Deputy Director, Information Networking Laboratories, CUHK
Prof Soung LIEW
Associate Professor
Mr Ringo LAM
Project Manager
Information Networking Laboratories
Mr Kin-ming FUNG
Computer Officer
Computer Services Centre

The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
Prof Vincent SHEN
Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs
Mr Lawrence LAW
Associate Director
Centre of Computing Services & Telecommunications
Dr John WONG
Principal Computer Officer
Department of Computer Science

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Chief Computing Officer

City University of Hong Kong
Mr POON Kin-chung, Raymond
Associate Director of Computing Services

Hong Kong Baptist University
Mr Jerome J DAY, Jr
Computing and Telecommunications Services Centre

Hong Kong Institute of Education
Mr Herbert H S TSOI
Head of Academic Implementation

Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong
Mr Andrew WONG
Associate Director (Administration)
Principal Lecturer
(Science & Technology)

Vocational Training Council
Executive Director
Mr Stephen AU
Chief Systems Manager

Regional Services Department
Mr TSE Fu-shing
Chief Librarian

Urban Services Department
Mr Michael MAK
Chief Librarian
Mr Nelson HA Ka-wing
Manager, Information Technology Centre

Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
Mr Stephen LAU Ka-men
Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
Mr Robin McLEISH
Deputy Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

Hong Kong Computer Society
Mr Johnson CHENG
Director, Publication

Item III
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Miss MAK Yin-ting

Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Mr LO Yuk-kong

Hong Kong News Executives’ Association
Mr YEUNG Kam-kuen
Mr Raymond WONG

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Anna LO
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Miss Eva LIU
Head, Research & Library Services Division
Miss YUE Sin-yui
Research Officer 2
Miss Elyssa WONG
Research Officer 4
Mr Colin CHUI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. Date and items for discussion for next meeting

(Paper No. CB(2)1020/96-97(01))

Members agreed that discussion on the subject of "Development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong" would continue at the next special meeting to be held on Thursday, 27 February 1997 immediately after Governor’s Question Time (at about 3:45 pm) in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building. All LegCo Members, representatives of the Administration and organisations who had expressed views on the subject to the Panel would be invited to the meeting.

II. Development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong

(Paper Nos. CB(2)1020/96-97 (02) - (05), (07) - (09), RP06/96-97)

2. Referring to LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1020/96-97(08), representatives of the Finance Branch (FB) briefed members on the policy regarding the use of information technology within the Government and the government information technology infrastructure. They reported the progress of the automation programme for the Government Communication Network. The Government had just set up a high-level interdepartmental task force to develop, implement and monitor a co-ordinated strategy for Government’s use of Internet and its related technologies. The task force was chaired by the Secretary for the Treasury and comprised members from government branches and departments with a key interest in information technology. The aims, objectives and approach of the task force were set out in detail at the Annex to FB’s paper.

3. With reference to LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1020/96-97(02), representative of the Economic Services Branch (ESB) went over the development of the physical infrastructure and the promotion of the effective use of that infrastructure for possible applications. He pointed out that the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) was establishing the Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee which would focus mainly on the development of the broadband physical infrastructure while accepting ideas and inputs on potential applications. The Advisory Committee would consist of representatives from the telecommunications network operators, experts in the academic sector, members of the information technology industry and relevant government departments.

4. Representative of the Home Affairs Branch referred members to its paper (LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1020/96-97(07)) on dissemination of government information through the Internet and took members through the latest development of the Government Information Centre and Government home-pages on the Internet. He pointed out that the Administration intended to bring the whole of the Government onto the Internet by the end of 1997. To achieve this, an Internet Resources Centre (IRC) would be established in the Information Services Department in March 1997 to provide assistance to branches and departments which wished to set up or improve their own home-pages but were constrained by resources, time or lack of expertise. IRC would also develop guidelines for branches and departments on the potential uses of the Internet for information dissemination and would consider how the Government could improve the dissemination through better use of the Internet.

5. Representatives of the Education Department (ED) and Secretariat of University Grants Committee (UGC) referred members to EMB’s paper (LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1020/96-97(09)) which provided information on the present position of computer and internet applications in schools and the tertiary sector, and addressed issues related to this aspect raised at the last two Panel meetings. The following were highlighted.

6. Representative of ED pointed out that the computer subject syllabuses were regularly revised to take into account the rapid development in computer technology and the changing needs of the community. The Curriculum Development Council and the Hong Kong Examinations Authority were now jointly revising these syllabuses to further streamline their continuity and to strengthen information technology, its associated applications and network communication including Internet and multi-media technology. Proposed revised syllabuses would be issued for public consultation in May 1997.

7. Representative of ED said that in 1996, ED negotiated with four Internet Service Providers for free Internet accounts to all secondary schools. Since November 1996, schools might receive free Internet accounts for use by students under teachers’ supervision. Internet activities would be conducted within the formal and informal curricula. As at 20 January 1997, 255 secondary schools had set up Internet accounts. More schools were expected to join soon. To use Internet meaningfully, students were encouraged to define their own goals and to make decisions in surfing the Net. They were urged to assume a proactive role rather than the passive role of receiving information through the Net.

8. Representative of ED said that in September 1993, the Finance Committee approved a commitment of $570M for the implementation of information systems strategy for ED (EDIS). The major objectives of EDIS were to enable electronic processing of complicated and recurrent procedures that were now being treated manually. The major exercises handled by EDIS included student assessment, staff matters, financial planning and budgeting, allocation of school places, appointment of teachers, enrolment surveys, statistical analyses, etc. As a lot of sensitive personal data were handled by EDIS, measures had been taken to ensure system security and to guard against data being obtained by unintended users during transmission.

9. With reference to para 16 of EMB’s paper, representative of ED pointed out that various measures relating to computer equipment, computer training for teachers, use of Internet in schools and multi-media computer system for primary schools were being considered to further enhance computer education in schools. As a long-term measure, ED would co-ordinate the wider use of Internet in schools, the future development of the computer curriculum, the provision of multi-media computer-aided learning to primary schools. The objective was to prepare young people for the Information Age.

10. Representative of UGC pointed out that information technology applications would affect educational processes by serving as an aid to productivity, by enriching/extending the range of conventional teaching methods, and by facilitating student initiated learning. Information technology also had an impact on the three aspects of higher education set out in para 19 of the paper - (a) further widening of access to higher education and advanced learning of adults, non-traditional and second chance learners; (b) faculty evaluation and awards; and (c) research and publication. UGC recognised that Hong Kong’s excellent and rapidly improving telecommunications infrastructure provided the opportunities for Hong Kong’s institutions to take a lead in the development of on-line courses and academic interactions, as well as widening access outside the traditional boundaries of a physical campus and the borders of Hong Kong. He said that the application of information technology in tertiary institutions and implications of the information technology revolution for higher education were discussed in the UGC’s recently published report "Higher Education in Hong Kong". The Chairman requested him to provide a copy of the referred materials in the report for members’ reference.

(Post-meeting note: UGC advised that the referred materials were at Chapter 26 and Annex F of the report, and provided the Universal Resource Locators (URLs) of the UGC documents referred at the meeting - LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1128/96-97 referred.)

11. H(RL) went over the research report on overseas national information infrastructure (NII) policies at LegCo Paper No. RP06/96-97 and highlighted the following observations for the meeting’s consideration -

  1. Whether the Hong Kong Government should continue to take a complementary role in the development of NII with a low degree of support provided to the private sector vis-à-vis the role of overseas governments set out at Table 3 of the report .
  2. Whether the Hong Kong Government should formulate an NII policy on physical information infrastructure.
  3. Whether there was a need for a government structure overseeing the NII policies. In this connection, more details on the Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee, e.g. membership composition, terms of reference and participation by the industry, were required to assess whether the Committee could serve as such a government structure.
  4. Whether manpower training in this respect was sufficient in Hong Kong - Overseas governments included in Table 7 of the report recognised that information technology would play a major role in the daily lives of their citizens. They had to prepare their citizens for the contribution to the growth of NII and understanding and enjoying the services that NII made available.
  5. How to co-ordinate the efforts of private institutions and academics to conduct R&D to avoid wastage and overlap of efforts. When compared with the seven overseas governments at Table 8 of the report, the Hong Kong Government did not provide any financial support for research and development (R&D) targetted at developing NII in Hong Kong.
  6. Hong Kong performed quite well in terms of dissemination of government information over the Internet when compared with other Asian territories. When compared with the more advanced territories such as the United States of America (US), some of the home-pages of the Hong Kong departments contained limited information. Not all information of public interest which was printed could be found on the Hong Kong Government home-page.
  7. The Hong Kong Government had yet to conduct a comprehensive review on the legislative and regulatory framework regarding intellectual property protection and data security. The Government reacted to the issue of content control over the Internet by asking the industry to adopt a self-regulatory approach to avoid impeding the development of on-line businesses by unnecessary administrative and legal burdens. Referring to para 11.6 of the report, H(RL) pointed out that the draft law on content control in Germany proposed that service providers were responsible for third party content which they made available for use if they had knowledge of such content and it was possible and reasonable for them to block its use. The German Government expected the draft law to be passed by the parliament in mid-1997. The development of the draft law would offer content control experience for Hong Kong to learn.

Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IIAC)

12. A member was concerned whether IIAC would, like the Information Highway Advisory Council of Canada referred to in para 8.4 of the report, take a proactive role in the provision of input from the private sector on the development of NII. Representative of ESB said that the terms of reference of IIAC were as follows -

  1. To advise on the development and regulation of the information infrastructure in Hong Kong.
  2. To advise on the promotion of the effective use of the information infrastructure for various possible applications in Hong Kong.
  3. To advise on technical standards and related issues in the development of the information infrastructure in Hong Kong.
  4. To advise on the formulation of Hong Kong’s position at, and contribution to, international and regional fora on issues relating to the global and regional information infrastructure.

IIAC would consist of representatives from the telecommunications network operators, experts in the academic sector, members of the information technology industry and relevant government departments. Representative of OFTA supplemented that, as set out in para 1 of ESB’s paper, the term information infrastructure was broadly accepted to cover three aspects : (a) the physical infrastructure, (b) applications using the physical infrastructure and (c) facilitating and supporting functions. IIAC would focus mainly on the development of the physical infrastructure and promotion of applications using the infrastructure. It would not preclude the setting up of further advisory body(ies) on the other aspects. At the Chairman’s request, representative of ESB undertook to provide members with the terms of reference and membership of IIAC.

(Post-meeting note: The requested information was forwarded to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1057/96-97.)

Blueprint for NII

13. A member considered that the Hong Kong Government should, like the governments of Canada, Japan, Korea and US, draw up a blueprint for NII laying down details of policy actions and the time-frame for their implementation. Such a blueprint gave direction to both the private and public sectors and would facilitate them in developing NII. Another member agreed with Asia Television Limited that the Government should not adopt a laissez-faire policy on the development of NII. As NII had widespread implications on the society, he considered that an agency like the Independent Commission Against Corruption should be established on the development of NII.

Provision of computer equipment and facilities for education on NII

14. In response to a member’s question, H(RL) said that she was collecting information on the provision of computer equipment and facilities for education on NII and would provide the information to the Panel. The University of Hong Kong (HKU) agreed with the suggestion of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University that students, particularly those studying at tertiary institutions, should have their own computers. UGC responded that, while personal computer was not on the list of subsidised items under the Student Finance Scheme, tertiary institutions, in varying degrees, provided students with personal computers for study purposes.

Computer education in schools

15. On the question of the lower percentages of public sector schools offering computer subjects to Secondary 6-7 students (para 3 of EMB’s paper referred), representative of ED explained that Secondary 6 and 7 students selected a smaller number of subjects in their studies according to their interest and intended subject discipline to be chosen for further studies. The computer subjects at Secondary 6 - 7, which provided indepth study on the subjects were therefore only taken by students prepared to sit for the Advanced Level or Advanced Supplementary Level examination on computer subjects. Representatives of HKU was disappointed in the Government’s focus on computer education rather than use of computers as tools in education. He opined that use of computers should be regarded as a means of education rather than a school subject.

Computer training for teachers, students and their parents

16. A member suggested the establishment of an interdepartmental group comprising representatives of EMB, FB, UGC, ED and Information Technology Services Department on computer training for teachers, students and their parents. Representative of EMB undertook to consider the suggestion. Representative of ED said that a wide range of in-service teacher education programme was offered to computer and non-computer teachers as set out in para 11 and 12 of EMB’s paper respectively.


Financial support for research and development on NII

17. On the question of the Government’s financial support for research and development on NII, H(RL) said that, as stated in para 10.4 of her research report, such NII-specific funding support was not available from the Government. UGC pointed out that both the Industry and Technology Development Council and the Research Grants Council granted funds to projects which might be related to the development on NII.

Electronic commerce

18. Representative of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation asked for information concerning the percentage of government purchases currently carried out electronically, and the projection of such percentage in six months’ time. He also wished to know the percentage of documents which could be submitted to Government electronically and had in fact been so submitted, and the projection of such percentage in six months’ time. Representative of FB undertook to provide the required information in writing. Representative of the Trade and Industry Branch said that in January 1997 the Government launched a commercial Restrained Textiles Export Licenses (RTEL) service whereby textile companies could use Community Electronic Trading Service (CETS) to apply for RTEL. Similar service was aimed to be provided for Trade Declarations (TDEC) in April 1997. It was Government’s intention to close all its receipt counters for RTEL by December 1998 and TDEC by March 2000. From these dates onwards, applications for RTEL and lodgements of TDEC would all be processed through CETS.

(Post-meeting note : The information provided by FB was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1337/96-97.)

Investment in the information industry

19. Noting that the development of the physical infrastructure was being undertaken by the private sector telecommunications services operators, Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association enquired whether the Government would invest on the information industry. Representative of ESB said that generally the Government considered that investment decisions were best made by the private sector; Government would invest in its information infrastructure, both internal and where there was a public interface; and Government might also consider investment in some research work in the sector through, for instance, the Research Grants Council.


20. The Chairman requested the Administration to revert to the Panel on the points raised at the meeting and the research report prepared by the LegCo Secretariat. Views of the deputations on the Administration’s papers and the research report, if any, would also be welcome. The Chairman also asked H(RL) to prepare a supplementary information paper on the aspects of NII-related assistance on education and research and development.


(Post-meeting note : H(RL)’s supplementary information paper was circulated to members vide RP07/96-97.)

III. Policy in handling the press

(Paper Nos. CB(2)809/96-97 and 1020/96-97 (06) from the Oriental Press Group Ltd)

21. Referring to the two letters from the Oriental Press Group Ltd, the Chairman recapitulated the background to the Panel’s decision to discuss the policy in handling the press.

22. In response to a member’s question, representatives of the Administration said that no charge on the press photographer had been filed. As the photographer had lodged a complaint which was under investigation by the Complaints Against Police Office, it was inappropriate to discuss details of the case.

23. The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) opined that journalists on duty should not be unfairly treated even if the person(s) concerned did not agree to be reported on; and films of pictures of incidents were private property.

24. The Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA) opined that some times press photographers on duty might be in conflict with the person(s) reported on and/or the Police. HKPPA considered that under any circumstances the Police should stop any assault on press photographers and should not demand reporters to hand over their films.

25. Representatives of the Administration said that it respected press freedom. It was the general practice of the Police not to seize films. If seizure of films for evidential purpose was required, the Police would only do so after obtaining a search warrant. In discharging the Police’s duties as laid down in the Police Force Ordinance, the Police facilitated as far as possible journalists’ work at the scenes of incidents. The Police had issued internal orders setting out the importance of seeking and obtaining co-operation of the press provided that it would not hinder the work of the Police. The main duties of the Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) were to facilitate journalists’ work and to mediate/resolve any conflict between police officers and journalists.

26. The Hong Kong News Executives Association (HKNEA) considered that journalists should discharge their duties lawfully. Conflicts could be avoided if the Police and journalists had a mutual understanding of each other’s duties at the scenes of incidents. It was therefore important to educate journalists and police officers working at the scenes of incidents.

Training for police officers on handling the media

27. The Administration agreed with HKNEA on the importance of mutual understanding of the duties of the press and police officers at the scenes of incidents. Newly recruited police constables at the Police Training School were briefed on the work of PPRB. In-house training sessions on handling the media at scenes of incidents by experienced journalists were offered to police officers. Similar training sessions were also offered to information officers of PPRB who were on duty at the scenes of incidents to assist the Police in the dissemination of information of the incidents. Front-line police officers were also provided with orders and rules setting out their work which included, inter alia, handling the press. A member opined that front-line police officers should be provided with more training on handling the press at the scenes of incidents.

Guidelines for police on handling the press/media

28. A member expressed concerned that in the recent demonstration cases in restricted areas journalists were regarded as demonstrators and charged with unauthorised entry to these areas. He was concerned that the police might tighten control on the media towards the handover in July 1997 and requested the Administration to issue guidelines for the Police on the handling the press/media at scenes of incidents or at least discuss with press associations on the issue.

29. HKNEA agreed with HKJA that the Police should distinguish journalists from the person(s) reported on at the scenes of incidents. It was important for the Police and journalists to have a mutual understanding of each other’s duties at the scenes of incidents.

30. Another member considered that journalists breaking the law when doing their reporting work did not intend to commit crime. He opined that the Police should consider circumstances of such cases before referring them to the Attorney General for consideration of prosecution.

31. The Administration pointed out that journalists could contact PPRB to seek permission for reporting in restricted areas such as the border. The Attorney General took into account all circumstances of a case, including the police report, in consideration of prosecution.

32. HKPPA took the view that Hong Kong journalists, like their counterparts in the United States of America, should be exempted from prosecutions in discharging their duties.

33. The Administration stressed that press freedom was guaranteed under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Restraining entry to a restricted area was on the grounds of public safety or public order. Journalists on duty should abide by the law and be treated as any other citizens. On the suggestion of giving exemptions to journalists working at the scenes of incidents, the Administration considered it difficult to draw a line between what should and should not be exempted.

34. A member enquired the United Kingdom experience in handling the press and opined that the criterion of granting exemption should be on whether a journalist had the intention to commit crime (mens rea). Representatives of HKNEA said that the court’s rulings on unauthorised entry to restricted areas appeared to be inconsistent.

35. The Administration stated that granting exemptions would be inconsistent with the equality principle. The court had regard to all circumstances in making a judgement on a case. In reply to a member, the Administration pointed out that special arrangements had been made to assist the anticipated large number of journalists covering the handover ceremony. At the Chairman’s request, the Administration undertook to provide members with a copy of the report to the Independent Police Complaints Council on the complaint lodged by the press photographer of Oriental Daily News.


36. The meeting ended at 6:45 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
4 March 1997

Last Updated on 20 August 1998