Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)544
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/BCS

Provisional Legislative Council Panel on Broadcasting, Culture and Sport

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 3 October 1997 at 11:00 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon MOK Ying-fan (Chairman)
Hon MA Fung-kwok (Deputy Chairman)
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Henry WU
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

Members Absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Item II

Mr CHAU Tak-hay
Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport

Mrs Rita LAU
Deputy Secretary (Broadcasting and Entertainment)

Miss Joanna CHOI
Principal Assistant Secretary (Film and Entertainment)

Mr Frankie FAN
Senior Executive Officer (General and Administration)

Mr D J Howells
Government Geotechnical Engineer/Mainland
Civil Engineering Department

Mr SIU Kong-lam
Chief Geotechnical Engineer/Mines & Quarries (Ag.)
Civil Engineering Department

Mr K Braithwaite
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Support)

Mr WONG Shiu-yuen
Assistant Director of Electrical & Mechanical Services/
Gas & General Legislation

Mr HSU King-ping
Chief Fire Officer (Protection)

Mr CHU Man-chun
Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Protection)

General Manager/Operations (Ag.)
Marine Department

Item III

Mr CHAU Tak-hay
Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport

Mrs Rita LAU
Deputy Secretary (Broadcasting and Entertainment)

Miss Joanna CHOI
Principal Assistant Secretary (Film and Entertainment)

Commissioner for Television and Entertainment Licensing (Ag.)

Attendance by Invitation :

Representatives of the film industry

Mr Bruce LAW
Bruce Law Stunt Unlimited

Mr Woody TSUNG
Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Motion Picture
Industry Association Ltd

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Colin CHUI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

The Chairman informed the meeting that Mr HO Sai-chu had withdrawn from the Panel due to other commitments. The Panel now had 13 members and the quorum (Chairman plus three members) remained unchanged.

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising
[PLC Paper No. CB(2)377]

2.The minutes of meeting held on 5 September 1997 were confirmed.

3.Members noted that, as requested by the Panel at the last meeting, the Administration had provided progress reports on the Five-year Strategic Plan of the Hong Kong Sports Development Board (PLC Paper No. CB(2)345) and the Arts Development Council (PLC Paper No. CB(2)385).

II.Control and regulation of the use of explosives by the film industry
[Paper No. CB(2)378(01)]

4.At the Chairman's invitation, Messrs Woody TSUNG and Bruce LAW, representatives of the film industry, presented the problems encountered by the film industry in applying for permits to use pyrotechnics during film shooting. Given that shooting of a film only took six months or so to complete, the long time taken to process such applications and the requirement for applicants to seek approval from up to six government departments could not meet the operational needs of the film industry. This often discouraged the film makers from applying for the necessary permits. However, without the permit, insurance companies declined to provide insurance cover for film workers involved in the use of pyrotechnics. Messrs TSUNG and LAW therefore requested the Government to streamline the application procedure and review the existing regulatory system to meet the operational needs of the industry.

5.The Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport (SBCS) said that the Government appreciated the film industry's concerns and was examining ways to improve the present regulatory system. To tackle the problem of the illegal use of pyrotechnics and to devise a system which could protect both public security and safety, and which took into account of the operational needs of film industry, the Government had decided to set up an inter-departmental working group to conduct a comprehensive review of the existing regulatory system for the use of pyrotechnics in film making. The working group would be chaired by SBCS with representatives at directorate level from Hong Kong Police Force, Marine Department (MD), Mines and Quarries Division of the Civil Engineering Department (CED), Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), Fire Services Department (FSD) and Television & Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA). The working group would consult the industry in the review process.

Timetable for the working group's work

6.In response to the Chairman, SBCS said that the working group would decide on an action timetable at its first meeting, and would report progress to the Panel. He added that as the subject matter fell under the policy responsibility of a number of bureaux (Works Bureau, Security Bureau and Economic Services Bureau), he would need to consult the various policy secretaries in mapping out the recommendations. In the interim, he urged the film industry to comply with the requirements of the existing control system.

Registration of pyrotechnicians

7.Referring to the concerns raised by the film industry representatives, the Deputy Chairman remarked that as pyrotechnicians responsible for the discharge of pyrotechnics in film-shooting and theatrical performances were required to register with the Commissioner of Mines while the film industry did not have any registered pyrotechnicians, applications for permits to use pyrotechnics in film shooting were bound to fail. The Government Geotechnical Engineer/Mainland (GGE/M) responded that there was in fact no statutory registration requirement in this respect. The Mines and Quarries Division of CED assessed each application based on considerations such as the qualifications and experience of the person purporting to run the special effects and the type of materials to be used. The same requirements apply to film shooting and theatrical performances, and applications would be approved if all requirements were met. As the Division kept records on successful applications for such permits, it maintained a register of pyrotechnicians responsible for these cases. As regards whether a statutory register should be maintained, GGE/M said that the Government would need to consider related issues such as training for pyrotechnicians. This issue could probably be one of the subjects to be examined by the working group.

Applications for use of pyrotechnicians in film shooting

8.GGE/M said that the Government had received only two applications for use of pyrotechnics in film shooting since the implementation of the regulatory system in 1993. The first application was not approved due to insufficient information provided. The second one had been processed to the stage of granting approval but was withdrawn by the film company concerned. The Deputy Chairman said that, to his knowledge, the film company which handed in the second application had employed a pyrotechnician who held overseas qualifications to run the special effects. Basing on the pyrotechnician's qualifications, the Mines and Quarries Division would likely approve the application. However, owing to the lengthy processing time, the pyrotechnician could not stay in Hong Kong to wait for the approval of the permit. The film company therefore withdrew the application although pyrotechnics were still used in film shooting. The Deputy Chairman considered the situation unsatisfactory and urged the Government to address the problem in order to ensure public safety and to facilitate film-shooting. He considered that local film workers engaged in the use of explosives or pyrotechnics were experienced in running the special effects, and that the Government should give due recognition to their experience in considering these applications.

Involvement of other government departments in processing permit applications

9.At the Chairman's invitation, representatives of the Police, EMSD, FSD and MD briefed members on their involvements in processing permit applications:

  1. The Hong Kong Police Force did not have specific control measures at present in respect of the use of pyrotechnics in shooting films. However, the use of modified firearms and blank ammunition required an exemption permit issued by the Police Licensing Division, and the Police Public Relations Branch had to be informed of the film shooting three working days in advance. The Police were also responsible for investigation of accidents arising from the use of pyrotechnics in film shooting.

  2. The relevant provisions of the Gas Safety Ordinance (Chapter 51) must be complied with in the use of fuel gas in film shooting. Under the Gas Safety (Registration of Gas Installers and Gas Contractors) Regulations, any gas installation work should be carried out by a registered gas installer (about 3400 at present) employed by a registered gas contractor (about 450 at present). A gas installation with a gas container of over 130 litres of water capacity was regarded as a notifiable gas installation, and the film company concerned should apply for approval from EMSD which was also concerned with prevention of uncontrolled inflammable gas emission. In view of the film industry's concerns, EMSD would consider shortening the approval time for construction and use of a notifiable gas installation.

  3. FSD was responsible for regulating the use and storage of dangerous goods. A dangerous goods licence was required from the Director of Fire Services for storage and use of dangerous goods (excluding explosives and liquefied petroleum gas) in excess of the exempted quantities permitted under the Dangerous Goods Regulations. In the case of petrol, the exempted quantity was 20 litres.

  4. The Director of Marine was responsible for issuing permits for the discharge of pyrotechnics on water. MD would consult relevant departments before approving such applications. Vessels carrying or conveying pyrotechnics would require MD's declaration of fitness. Depending on the scale of the approved activities, MD would deploy its launches to patrol the waters to monitor such activities, and would notify the Marine Police if necessary. Following a review in mid 1996, MD had streamlined the application procedure and shortened the processing time to less than a month. Application materials and guidelines were available in MD licensing office.

10.Members supported the Administration's review of the existing regulatory system. They considered that concerned policy bureaux and departments should make concerted efforts to streamline the system with regard to the operational needs of the film industry. Pending the review, the various departments concerned should make better co-ordination to facilitate the film industry to obtain approval for the use of pyrotechnics in film shooting. In this respect, the Chairman would write to the bureaux secretaries concerned (i.e. Secretary for Security, Secretary for Economic Services and Secretary for Works) urging them to give the necessary support to SBCS to introduce long term and immediate improvements to the regulatory system. SBCS undertook to report to the Panel the progress made in this area.Adm

(Post-meeting note : The Panel Chairman had written to the three Bureaux Secretaries on 8 October 1997.)

III.Control and regulation of obscene and indecent materials transmitted through the Internet
[Paper No. CB(2)378(02)]

11.At the request of the Chairman, Mr MA Fung-kwok took the chair during discussion of this item.

Filtering of objectionable materials

12.Referring to the discussion paper, a member enquired about the use of filtering and labelling tools to enable parents to prevent their children from access to objectionable materials transmitted through the Internet. In response, Deputy Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport (DSBCS) explained that in line with the Government's policy of preserving the free flow of information and safeguarding freedom of expression and access to information, the Government would not impose censorship over materials transmitted through the Internet. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were therefore not required to pre-censor materials in their service provision. However, to protect young people from accessing obscene and indecent materials on the Internet, the Government encouraged ISPs to exercise self-regulation through the development of a Code of Practice. A set of specific guidelines drawn up by the industry to deal with transmission of obscene and indecent material would be issued in October 1997. DSBCS added that, apart from enforcement, it was important to educate children on the proper use of Internet and for parents to exercise guidance. To this effect, publicity programmes were launched to encourage parental guidance on the proper use of Internet. The Government also encouraged ISPs to provide subscribers with free filtering software. The ISPs themselves had also offered special service packages to teenagers by filtering objectionable Web sites using proxy servers. In addition, a list of commonly used filtering tools for home computer users was included in the home pages of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association, the Education Department, and TELA, while ISPs were also encouraged to include same in their home pages.

13.On the role of Government in regulating objectionable materials transmitted through the Internet, DSBCS said that the global nature of materials transmitted through the Internet made it increasingly difficult to differentiate between local and overseas materials. It was an impossible task for the Government to exercise surveillance of such materials in view of the enormous amount and transient nature of information transmitted through the Internet. Given this, any active attempt to monitor the content of these materials would be impractical and unproductive. Instead, Internet users could report objectionable materials on the Internet to the ISPs concerned and to TELA's hotline. As a matter of practice, ISPs would conduct investigations on receipt of these reports. In this respect, the industry-driven Code of Practice to be promulgated shortly also set out measures to deal with reports of obscene and indecent materials on the Internet. If necessary, TELA would refer the complaints to the Police for investigation.

14.As regards the need to introduce administrative measures to regulate local objectionable materials on the Internet, DSBCS pointed out that at present the amount of objectionable materials was of relatively small proportion. Excessive regulatory measures might obstruct development of the Internet industry which was still at an early stage of development in Hong Kong. According to legal advice, the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (COIAO) could apply to obscene and indecent materials on the Internet, and there were successful prosecutions under the Ordinance. The Government would review the effectiveness of the existing regulatory system one year after the introduction of the Code of Practice and decide whether the law need to be amended for enforcement purpose.

Recent court cases

15.Referring to the court ruling on two recent cases regarding objectionable materials on the Internet, Mr MOK Ying-fan asked whether there were loopholes in COIAO giving rise to unsuccessful prosecution. DSBCS clarified that there was only one unsuccessful prosecution which involved the publication of obscene materials originating from overseas and over which Hong Kong had no jurisdiction. In the case where prosecution was successful, the magistrate had affirmed that the definitions of " article " and " publish " under COIAO were sufficiently wide to cover computer files or electronic data uploaded to the Internet. There was no need to amend the law meanwhile but the Government would review the adequacy of existing legislation in the light of court rulings. Mr MOK Ying-fan considered that the Government should closely monitor the problem of transmitting objectionable materials on the Internet and explore measures to plug loopholes in COIAO regarding the extra-territoriality of the regulatory scheme.

16.Referring to Annex B to the BCSB's paper, a member asked for an update of the overseas experience in regulating obscene and indecent materials on the Internet. DSBCS responded that the Communication Decency Act of the United States of America had been ruled to contravene the First Amendment to the United States' Constitution in relation to freedom of speech.

IV.Items for discussion at the next meeting
[Paper No. CB(2)378(03)]

17.Members agreed to the following meeting arrangements on 7 November 1997:

  1. to hold a joint meeting with the Security Panel to discuss the new licensing system for karoke establishment at 10:45 am on 7 November 1997; and

  2. to hold the regular Panel meeting at 11:45 am to discuss the proposed family entertainment centres and the impact on the licensing of amusement games centres.

V.Any other business

Briefing on the Policy Address

18.Members noted that the briefing by the Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport on the Chief Executive's Policy Address would be held on 16 October 1997 at 9:00 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building.

Meeting schedule for 1998

19.Members agreed to the following meeting schedule for 1998 -

2 January 199810:45 am) Conference Room A
6 February 199810:45 am)of the Legislative
13 March 199811:00 am)Council Building

20.The meeting ended at 12:45 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
5 November 1997