LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1942/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/IP

LegCo Panel on Information Policy

Minutes of Meeting
held on Thursday, 27 February 1997
immediately after Governor’s Question Time
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

Members Absent :

    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members Attending :

    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon SIN Chung-kai

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Patrick W M CHIM
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury
Mrs LAM LEE Ching-sau
Assistant Director of Information Technology Services
Mr Joseph LAI
Deputy Head, Efficiency Unit
Mr YUK Wai-fung
Principal Management Services Officer
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
Secretary-General, University Grants Committee
Mr NG Kwok-chuen
Assistant Director of Education
(Chief Inspector of Schools)
Mr Anthony S K WONG
Senior Assistant Director of Telecommunications
Ms Ernestina WONG
Acting Principal Assistant Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport (Film and Entertainment)

Attendance by Invitation :

Hong Kong Information Technology Federation
Mr Anthony AU
Mr John DALY
Council Member

Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association
Mr Daniel NG
Mr Charles MOK

Hong Kong Coalition of Services Industries
Mrs Cindy CHENG
Mrs Lorraine WONG

Hong Kong Computer Society
Mr Johnson CHENG
Director of Publication

Television Broadcasts Limited
Mr Alex YING
General Manager - Corporate Affairs

Asia Television Limited
Mr Kenneth KWOK
Assistant Chief Executive Officer

The University of Hong Kong
Social Sciences Research Centre
Computer Centre
Professor F Y L CHIN
Department of Computer Science

The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
Prof Samuel CHANSON
Associate Head
Department of Computer Science
Dr John WONG
Principal Computer Officer
Department of Computer Science

The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Mr Ringo LAM
Project Manager
Information Networking Laboratories
Mr Che-hoo CHENG
Senior Computer Officer
Computer Services Centre

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Chief Computing Officer
Mr Kent LEUNG Ka-tsun
Senior Computing Officer

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

Hong Kong Baptist University
Mr Jerome DAY
Computing & Telecommunications Services Centre

Vocational Training Council
Mr Stephen AU
> Chief Systems Manager

Hong Kong Institute of Education
Mr Danny TANG
Head, Information Technology and Services

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

Information Group of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers
Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
Mr Stephen LAU
> Privacy Commission for Personal Data

Regional Services Department
Mr TSE Fu-shing
Chief Librarian
Urban Services Department
Mr Nelson HA Ka-wing
Manager, Information Technology Centre

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Anna LO
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

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

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 10 January 1997 and matters arising

[LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1103 and 1225/96-97]

The minutes of meeting held on 10 January 1997 were confirmed.

II. Date and items for discussion for next meeting

[Paper No. CB(2)1300/96-97 (01)]

2. The Chairman said that the next (regular) meeting was scheduled on 7 March 1997 at 10:45 am in Conference Room A. The agenda for that meeting had been issued. The first part would be a joint meeting with the Security Panel on "Law Reform Commission Report on ‘Privacy: Regulating the Interception of Communications". The second part would be on enforcement of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. Members agreed that another meeting on the subject of "Development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong" would be held on 11 April 1997 at 10:45 am in Conference Room A.

(Post-meeting note : Members were notified (vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1467/96-97) of the revised timing of the meeting on 11 April 1997, i.e. 10:30 am - 11:45 am. A joint meeting with the Security Panel would be held from 11:45 am to 12:30 pm to follow-up with the Administration on its consultation paper on the Interception of Communication Bill.)

III. Development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong

Views of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association (HKISPA)

(Paper No. CB(2)1300/96-97 (03))

3. Representatives of HKISPA took members through the submission and highlighted the following -

Policy development

(a) HKISPA believed that the Administration should review its long-term policy to take a more engaging role in information infrastructure development. It recommended the Administration to place due priority to the development of a blueprint for an information infrastructure for Hong Kong. It also appealed to the Administration to allocate sufficient funding to the industry and the education sector to develop research in information infrastructure development, while taking special care to promote and protect, but not interfere with the fair and competitive market dynamics.

Regulatory framework

(b) HKISPA supported the Administration’s review on the regulatory framework on communications, information technology, telecommunications, and broadcasting and to consider development of a converged regulatory framework for the above areas. It also supported legislation to protect fair competition and guard against anti-competitive practices in the telecommunications market.

Advisory framework

(c) HKISPA welcomed in principle the establishment of the Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IIAC). It, however, believed that representatives of relevant branches/departments listed in para 7 of its submission, local universities, schools and teachers’ groups should also be included. The relative representation of Internet access and service providers and Internet user groups in IIAC should also be expanded.


(d) HKISPA supported Government policies geared towards educating about the Internet and computers in schools, but regretted the lack of any coherent computer education policy in Hong Kong, from kindergarten to tertiary institutions. It requested that future projects undertaken by the Education Department should be properly funded by the Administration, rather than relying on free Internet accounts provided by the industry, and handled with due and open procurement procedure to ensure fairness and service quality.

Control of obscene materials

(e) HKISPA believed that the Administration’s policy decision on the regulation of obscene and indecent materials transmitted through the Internet was practicable and reasonable. In consultation with the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Branch, HKISPA was drafting a Code of Practice which would cover, among other things, the regulation of pornographic materials available on the Internet.

Views of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)

(Paper No. CB(2)1300/96-97 (02))

4. Representatives of PolyU took members through the submission. They highlighted that the Administration’s proposals for the development of the Internet for tertiary education fell short of what was now required for the tertiary institutions to make full use of its capabilities. Behavioural changes by academic staff were now as important as the provision of technology. Rather than pursuing the opportunity for transforming teaching and learning by moving education away from the centuries-old mode in which it was still operating, the Administration was in danger of continuing to apply models of resource provisioning that were rapidly loosing their relevance in a fast-changing world. In order to realign the use of the Internet and related technologies from acting as a low-impact tool at the periphery of educational endeavours to becoming an essential infrastructural component which deeply impacted students’ learning experiences, the following proactive actions were suggested - (a) provision of laptops for students, (b) networks to the homes of students so as to allow them to make use of Internet from outside the campus, (c) seed funding projects in one or more universities to expose staff to new learning methods and channel investments towards appropriate uses of technology, (d) research programmes to help institutions differentiate between what worked and what did not in the new learning methods and (e) establishment of an Internet task force for tertiary education.

5. Representative of the University Grants Committee (UGC) responded that it had approved funding on various initiatives to promote adaptations in the use of technology in the teaching and learning referred to in PolyU’s submission. UGC had funded improvement of the Hong Kong Academic and Research Network (HARNET) and upgrading the telecommunications links with places outside Hong Kong. Further funding applications on such improvement/upgrading were under consideration. Regarding establishment of an Internet task force for tertiary education, he pointed out that, the universities should take the initiative to form one if they considered necessary, as in the case of the Joint Universities Libraries Committee and the Joint Universities Computer Centre.

Views of the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU)

(Paper No. CB(2)1375/96-97 tabled at the meeting)

6. Representative of HKBU took members through the submission. He highlighted that it was time for much more to be done to foster the development of more applications using Hong Kong’s current excellent physical Information Infrastructure. This would be greatly facilitated by Hong Kong Government committing and mandating that, within the Government, its own departments and offices served as exemplars in developing and implementing such applications.

7. Representative of HKBU opined that much more must be done in a practical way to ensure that our young people, particularly secondary and primary students, were better prepared to use the facilities of the Internet in all areas requiring their information gathering and communicating their learning and knowledge building. That was to say, they needed to be using the Information Infrastructure in all areas of their studies.

8. Representative of HKBU also took the view that, these things being done, Hong Kong would have, in addition to its physical infrastructure, a substantial array of applications and a broad and growing base of people who knew how to use the applications as well as develop new ones, In other words, Hong Kong would have fully embarked into the Information Age.

Views of the Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre (HKDSRC)

(Paper No. CB(2)1342/96-97 (01))

9. As representatives of HKDSRC could not attend the meeting, Mr Ringo LAM, who was its member, presented the Centre’s submission which set out some of the principles and problems that the Administration should consider and evaluated some of the problems of the Government Internet Services. HKDSRC considered it important for the Administration to play a leading role in formulating a comprehensive Government Internet Services policy to bring the greatest benefits to the public. To achieve this, it recommended that the Administration should -

  1. set up a high level policy-making body to formulate a policy on the Government Internet Services;
  2. with community participation, decide the category of public information available to the public on the Internet;
  3. develop a policy to cope with computer illiteracy and to promote Internet access, in particular access to the Government Internet Services; and
  4. co-ordinate different policy branches, departments and other public bodies (such as the Urban Council and the Regional Council) to formulate a comprehensive policy on Government Internet Services.

Views of the Asia Television Limited (ATV)

10. Representative of ATV opined that the Government should promote the use of information on the Internet by -

  1. issuing publication on searching information on the Internet; and
  2. enabling access to the Internet via television.

Views of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU)

11. Representatives of CityU said that UGC had approved CityU’s research projects on use of Internet in teaching. CityU was equipped with teaching facilities to enable use of Internet in classes. As Internet had become a public utility, the Government should co-ordinate work of the private sector, which had already paid much efforts on Internet-related business, in the provision and development of Internet services.

Views of the Vocational Training Council (VTC)

12. Representatives of VTC supported the establishment of IIAC. VTC also supported that education on Internet should begin in primary schools. It would strengthen training to its students on computer, use of Internet, and supporting and application software.

Views of the Hong Kong Institute of Education

13. Representative of the Hong Kong Institute of Education said that computer facilities in primary and secondary schools were generally insufficient. They were only earmarked for students taking science subjects. Training of teachers on the use of Internet was important and a pre-requisite before they could teach their students accordingly.

Views of the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong (OLI)

14. Representatives of OLI said that the Government should take a leading and co-ordinating role in the development of Internet in Hong Kong. It should provide students with more computers with access to the Internet.

Views of the Information Group of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE)

15. Representative of HKIE presented his views on the subject and highlighted that there should be a clear technological policy distinction in Government, so that the Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport continued to handle all broadcasting that had its origins in analogue technology, while the Secretary for Economic Services, assisted by the Office of Telecommunications Authority (OFTA), should have sole policy responsibility for all communications technology which had its origin in digital transmission.

(Post-meeting note : Submission from the HKIE Information Group representative was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1368/96-97(01).)

Policy on National Information Infrastructure (NII)

16. The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data would like to know whether the Government would formulate a policy on NII so that the industry concerned could have regard to Government’s position in deciding the way forward. Representatives of HKU considered that there should be a government policy on NII and, as a starting point, a policy branch should take up responsibility for co-ordinating and formulating such a policy. Both the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation (HKITF) and the Hong Kong Coalition of Industries considered that the Administration should take, or at least plan, actions on the development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong. Representatives of HKITF opined that the Government should provide assistance to the industry for development of information technology. Representative of HKBU opined that efforts to develop a policy on NII might be too "grand" in the near term. It would be a much less ambitious undertaking, and probably more rewarding in the short-term, if Hong Kong Government would simply develop and promulgate a well thought-out and articulated Hong Kong Government information infrastructure policy, along with forceful action plans supporting such a policy.

17. A member took the view that Hong Kong Government should, like the government of the United States of America, take a leading role in developing NII without hindering private sector participation in this area. To do so the Administration should establish a high-level committee with membership including representatives of the academia, Internet Service Providers and business sector.

Establishment of Information Age Co-ordination Council

18. In response to members’ questions on the Council, representative of the Finance Branch said that he was not aware of the establishment of Information Age Co-ordination Council under the chairmanship of the Financial Secretary as reported in a newspaper. The Chairman would contact the Financial Secretary on this issue.

Development of information infrastructure in Hong Kong

19. Representative of the Economic Services Branch pointed out that Hong Kong was already in the forefront of the world in the development of the physical infrastructure to meet the demands of the information age. This development was being undertaken by the private sector telecommunication services operators under favourable market conditions. He reiterated the work of IIAC on the development of the Hong Kong Information Infrastructure. The higher usage of Internet by both university and school students was an example of the results of the efforts by the Administration and the private sector on the development of such information infrastructure.

Membership composition of IIAC

20. On the question of membership composition of IIAC, representative of OFTA said that details of membership composition together with the terms of reference of IIAC had been forwarded to members (LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1057/96-97 referred). The first batch of members appointed on an ad personam basis would be finalised before its first meeting to be held in March 1997. OFTA would balance the representativeness of membership and ensure an optimal size of the committee for effective discharge of its duties. IIAC would focus mainly on the development of the broadband physical infrastructure while accepting ideas and inputs on potential applications. Meetings of IIAC would be open to the public. The public could have access to the meeting papers through the Internet and express their views to IIAC via the Internet. Dr N NG, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Joint Universities Computer Centre which provided computer network services for tertiary institutes in Hong Kong, suggested OFTA to include a representative of the Centre on IIAC. Representatives of CUHK opined that, in view of the importance of education in the development of information infrastructure, the education sector should also be represented on IIAC.

Task Force on exploiting Internet technologies within Government

21. Representative of the Finance Branch said that, as mentioned at the last meeting, the Government had set up a high-level inter-departmental 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 (IT). At its first meeting, the task force decided to conduct a pilot scheme on selected departments regarding ways to improve intra-departmental and inter-departmental communications, and Government’s communication with and service delivery to the community.

22. Representatives of the Efficiency Unit (EU) said that the main task of EU was to improve efficiency within the Government. Use of Internet was an example of how technology was used to provide better service to the public. As a member of the Task Force, EU played a role of supporting and co-ordinating the activities of the Task Force and worked with departments on the potential applications of IT.

Dissemination of Government information through the Internet

23. Representative of the Home Affairs Branch said that it was Government intention to bring all its branches and departments 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 users of the Internet for information dissemination and would consider how the Government could improve the dissemination through better use of the Internet. The Government did not intend to impose uniform standards for branches and departments in the dissemination of information through the Internet but had introduced certain key and core functions for branches and departments to carry out. One of them was set out under the Code on Access to Information which required branches and departments to introduce a home page visitor to the fundamentals of the branch/department concerned. Other than these key and core functions, branches and departments had to be selective in uploading information on the home page as maintaining a home page, particularly one with information which was readable and easily downloaded, was very labour intensive. The Internet was only one of the means to disseminate general government information which could also be obtained through other forms of mass media bearing in mind that the general public might not have access to the Internet. The Administration would also develop applications where it could communicate with, disseminate government information and deliver government services to specialist user groups of the Internet.

NII-related assistance on education and research and development

24. H(RL) briefed members on a paper (paper No. RP07/96-97) by the Research and Library Services Division of the LegCo Secretariat which provided further information on the government NII-related assistance on education and research and development.

NII-related assistance on education

25. H(RL) pointed out that, as stated in para 2.6 and 2.7 of her paper, no computer provision for Computer Literacy classes in Form 1 to Form 3 meant that education in computer literacy was truncated: computer resources for classes were made available only to students in Form 4 to Form 5 who took Computer Studies. The high demand for computers for Form 1 to Form 3 students was demonstrated by the fact that 286 out of a total of 387 public secondary schools ran classes on Computer Literacy which was not a compulsory subject for these students. Representative of the Education Departmeent (ED) explained that provision of computers to schools for computer education at S1 - 5 levels was based on the requirements for the teaching of S1 - 3 Computer Literacy and S4 - 5 Computer Studies as a whole, ie these computers could be used by S1 - 5 students. ED would review the provision of computers if they were found to be insufficient.

26. Regarding the review of curriculum, representative of ED reiterated that, as set out in its paper for the last meeting, proposed revised syllabuses on the following subjects - (a) "Computer Literacy" at Secondary 1 to 3, (b) "Computer Studies" at Secondary 4 to 5, (c) "Advanced Level Computer Studies" and (d) Advanced Supplementary Level Computer Applications" at Secondary 6 and 7 would be issued for public consultation in May 1997. Information on computer education in schools supplied by the Computer Centre of ED could be found on its home page. Representative of HKIE considered that use of computer in the education process should be emphasised in education on Internet in schools. Representative of TVB considered that education was important in the development of NII. A member opined that Internet-related applications, rather than education on Internet, should be emphasised.

NII-related assistance on research and development

27. Referring to table 3 of the paper, representative of UGC pointed out that between 1988 and 1996, the Research Grants Council had funded 55 (not 233 as stated in the paper) IT-related research projects which involved a total funding of HK$28 million (not HK$96.7 million as stated in the paper).

Public access to the Internet

28. HKDSRC suggested that computers should be provided in District Offices and public libraries to facilitate public access to Internet. Representative of the Regional Services Department (RSD) pointed out that, as stated in RSD’s paper for the meeting on 10 January 1997, computers supporting access to the Internet were available in the three Regional Council (RC) central libraries at Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun, and eight RC district libraries at North District, Yuen Long, Tai Po, South Kwai Chung, North Kwai Chung, Sai Kung, Tai Hing and Cheung Chau.

Handling of Internet-related complaints

29. On the suggestion of setting up an international Internet vetting committee to handle Internet-related complaints, HKISPA pointed out that it did not support such a suggestion and was in favour of self-regulation which was the Administration’s policy. HKISPA reiterated that it was drawing up a Code of Practice which would cover, among other things, the regulation of pornographic materials on the Internet. Representative of the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Branch pointed out that the Administration had decided to adopt a self-regulatory mechanism in the regulation of obscene and indecent materials transmitted through the Internet. If members of the public had complaints on such materials, they might make use of the hotline operated by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA). Where appropriate, TELA would take action in co-operation with the Police. The existing mechanism of classification of indecent and obscene articles by the Obscene Articles Tribunal was also applicable to materials transmitted through the Internet. However, the existing complaint handling mechanism as provided for in the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance did not cover other possible Internet-related complaints such as traffic jam on the Internet.

Community Electronic Trading Service

30. Representative of the Trade and Industry Branch said that in January 1997 the Government had launched the Community Electronic Trading Service and was working towards phasing out paper Trade Declarations in three years’ time.

31. The Chairman thanked representatives of the Administration and deputations to attend the meeting and welcomed deputations to send in further submissions.

32. The meeting ended at 6:06 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
3 April 1997

Last Updated on 20 August 1998