Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)1380
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/IP

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Information Policy

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 27 February 1998 at 9:00 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon CHOY So-yuk (Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Members Attending :

Hon LEE Kai-ming
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Public Officers Attending:

Item II

Secretary for the Treasury

Mrs Carrie YAU
Director of Administration

Mr Paul TANG
Deputy Director of Administration

Mrs Jenny WALLIS
Deputy Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport

Attendance by Invitation:

Item I

Mr Stephen LAU
Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

Mr Tony LAM
Assistant Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

Clerk in Attendance:

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Colin CHUI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. Personal data privacy and the Internet
[Paper Nos. CB(2)1088(01) and AS227]

At the invitation of the Chairman, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Privacy (PCPD) briefed members on the paper [Paper No. CB(2)1088(01)]. He informed members that in recognition of the inherent insecurity of Internet, and in view of the popularity of Internet nowadays, there was a need to enhance public awareness of the risks associated with the use of personal data on Internet. To promote public understanding of the issue, his office had published two guides, one for the data users and the other for individual net users. Copies of these guides had been distributed to interested parties and Members of Provisional Legislative Council.

Use of credit card number for on-line payment

2. Some members expressed concern about the advice given in the guide that net users should avoid using credit card numbers for on-line payments on the Internet. A member asked about the extent of risks and ways to guard against fraudulent use of credit card information on the Internet. Another member agreed with PCPD that the Internet did not provide sufficient security for transmission of sensitive data and users should be made aware of the danger. In response, PCPD clarified that the guide did not advise against the use of credit card for on-line payments but only to alert net users of the potential risks involved in the transmission of personal data on the Internet. Individual net users were therefore advised to take appropriate security measures such as encryption, before transmitting personal data on the Internet. In particular, net users might consider taking the following preventive measures -

  1. before providing personal data on-line, an individual should check the identity of the site and the existence of any on-line privacy policy on the collection and use of personal information by the organisation operating the site;

  2. when transmitting sensitive personal data on the Internet, the individual should consider using privacy protective tools to encrypt the data; and

  3. an individual might consider using an intermediary who would make payment upon the user's authorisation without the need to disclose credit card numbers on the Internet.

Public education

3. The Chairman and some other members shared the concern of PCPD about personal data protection on the Internet and asked whether PCPD would step up publicity in this respect. On the Chairman's suggestion of operating a telephone hotline to answer enquiries in this connection, PCPD advised that enquiries and complaints could be made to PCO's existing hotline '827 2827' PCO was also liaising with the Internet Service Providers on distributing copies of the guides to all new subscribers. In reply to a member, the Assistant Privacy Commissioner advised that the two guides were available at PCO's website on the Internet.

Legal liabilities for breaching the guide

4. In reply to the Chairman, PCPD said that the contents of the guides were based on the six data protection principles in the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. While the guide itself is not legally binding, an individual who did not comply with the data protection principles might have committed an offence for breaching certain provisions in the Ordinance.

5. PCPD also pointed out that regulation of electronic shopping would be considered by the future Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau, and extra-territoriality would be a problem to be tackled. In this connection, PCPD would obtain more information about the international standards and legislative objectives on protection of individual privacy on the Internet.

II. Establishment of the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau (ITBB) and related staffing proposals
[Paper No. CB(2)1078(01)]

6. The Chairman congratulated Mr K C KWONG, currently Secretary for the Treasury (S for Tsy) on his appointment as the Secretary-designate of the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau (ITBB). At the Chairman's request, S for Tsy briefed members on the Administration's proposals on setting up the ITBB in April 1998.

Members were pleased to see that, after much representation of the industry and discussion at the Panel, the Administration had now put forward concrete proposals to set up a bureau to focus on information technology development in Hong Kong. Members noted that the IT-related responsibilities currently under different bureau secretaries would be grouped under the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting (SITB). In this connection, the Administration would re-structure the existing Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Bureau (BCSB) as ITBB with the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) taking up the policy responsibilities for arts, culture, sports, physical recreation and entertainment licensing. S for Tsy said that the re-organisation would involve the following staffing changes with an increase of roughly $13 million in annual salary costs -

  1. the transfer of those posts relating to culture and sport in BCSB to HAB;

  2. the creation of four directorate posts in ITBB, that is, one AOSG'B'and three AOSG'C'posts; and

  3. the creation of ten and eight non-directorate posts respectively in ITBB and HAB to provide the necessary support.

7. Members noted that the staffing proposal would be submitted to the Establishment Subcommittee for consideration in late March.

Re-organisation proposals

Press freedom and data protection

8. The Chairman noted that HAB would continue to be responsible for the press freedom and personal data protection policies after re-organisation, and questioned if this should more appropriately be placed under ITBB. S for Tsy responded that press freedom and personal data privacy were more related to freedom of expression and rights of individuals rather than broadcasting or telecommunications. As HAB was the policy bureau for all human rights matters, HAB would continue to oversee press freedom and data protection issues in future.

Arts, culture and sport

9. A member expressed concern about the arrangement of placing film and broadcasting policies under ITBB while transferring those on arts, culture and sport to HAB. He considered that separation of two related policy areas would make it even more difficult to have a coordinated cultural policy in Hong Kong. S for Tsy responded that with the rapid development in technology, there was a global trend towards convergence of computing, broadcasting and communications industries which would fall within the policy areas of ITBB. As regards the promotion of local arts and sports activities, the Administration considered that the district-based network of HAB would help the coordination of cultural and sport activities. The two bureaux would maintain close liaison on issues of common concern.

Coordination of IT-related policies

In response to members, S for Tsy acknowledged that it was sometimes difficult to draw a definitive line between policy areas which were IT-related, for example, electronic banking, electronic voting and community electronic commerce systems such as Tradelink. In this respect, ITBB would play the coordination role in the launching of new initiatives relating to IT development between bureaux and departments. He stressed that coordination was necessary as any policy decision would not be based solely on technical feasibility, and the policy and financial implications would need to be taken into account.

10. Referring to paragraph 1 of the Chinese version of the Administration's paper, the Chairman queried why ITBB was described to rather than the coordination and development of IT applications and telecommunications in the public and private sectors. The description as such gave the impression that ITBB would not be able to give sufficient attention and impetus to steering IT development in both public and private sectors. S for Tsy clarified that ITBB would 'assume policy responsibility' in the coordination and development of IT applications in the public and private sectors. He would ensure that the Chinese translation of the Establishment Subcommittee paper would clearly reflect the meaning.

New areas of work under ITBB

11. A member pointed out that some items in the job description of SITB in Enclosure 8 of the Administration's paper appeared to be new areas of work. On the promotion of IT development to encourage wider use in the community and the commissioning of pilot projects to make innovative use of the infrastructure, the member considered that these would be the major areas of work of ITBB and a Green Paper should be prepared to gauge the views of the industry and the community on future directions. In this connection, he mentioned that the Singapore National Computer Board which had fewer responsibilities than ITBB had made vigorous efforts in these areas. In response, S for Tsy confirmed that items 2, 3 and 5 in the job description of SITB were new responsibilities. In formulating long-term strategy on IT development, SITB would consult the various advisory committees concerned and the community . He noted the member's suggestion of issuing a Green Paper for public consultation.


12. A member noted that the Deputy Secretary (Broadcasting and Film Services) of ITBB would oversee the housekeeping responsibility for Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and asked if the job description of the post implied that the Government did not monitor the work of RTHK. He added that, as far as he was aware, the Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport had only issued one directive to RTHK in previous years. He was therefore concerned about the working relationship between ITBB and RTHK under the proposed structure. S for Tsy replied that the post was deployed from BCSB for the continued monitoring of broadcasting services in Hong Kong including RTHK. ITBB would continue to have a policy responsibility for RTHK and would maintain close liaison with RTHK on its work. S for Tsy further advised that all licensed broadcasters including RTHK were regulated by the code of practice on broadcasting. To remove any doubt the member might have on the responsibility of Deputy Secretary (Broadcasting and Film Services), S for Tsy would consider providing clearer job descriptions in this respect. As regards the future direction of the work of RTHK, the Administration would consult and consider views of the community and Members of the Provisional Legislative Council.

Advisory boards and committees

13. Referring to the job description of Deputy Secretary (IT and Telecommunications) in Enclosure 10 of the Administration's paper, a member enquired about the types of boards and committees requiring the attendance of the Deputy Secretary. S for Tsy replied that these boards and committees would advise SITB on the overall direction of the information infrastructure and in specialised areas of technology, support services and applications. While the Government was still working on the details concerning the functions and composition of these boards and committees, it was expected that representatives from the industry, academia and the community would be invited to participate and contribute to the formulation of IT policy and strategies.

Filling of the directorate posts in ITBB

14. A member asked whether candidates for the directorate posts in ITBB should possess any professional qualifications. He was concerned that generalists such as Administrative grade officers might lack the technical expertise to lead and direct an important policy area which required IT competence. S for Tsy advised that in considering appointments to these directorate posts, the Government would take account of the background, interests and relevant experience of the candidates. These officers could seek technical advice from Information Technology Services Department and the Telecommunications Authority. Where necessary, private consultancies could be engaged to provide expert advice on specific IT issues.

Government investment in IT

15. Responding to a member, S for Tsy said that Government would continue to work together with the private sector in promoting investment and the use of the physical infrastructure for IT development.

16. As regards the resources for IT education, S for Tsy advised that provisions had been included under the Education and Manpower Bureau and the Education Department in the 1998-99 draft estimates. The Administration would seek further resources through the normal channel if more provisions were required to implement the initiatives for IT development.

Other suggestions

17. The Administration also noted a member's suggestion of introducing a public access television channel and wider use of smartcard technology.


18. In concluding the discussion, the Chairman said that the Panel in general accepted the re-structuring proposals and had high expectations on ITBB in leading Hong Kong into an information age. She hoped the Government would demonstrate its commitment to enhancing IT development in Hong Kong by putting sufficient resources and efforts to promoting the use of IT in the whole community.

III. Any other business

19. Members agreed that the next meeting should be re-scheduled to 27 March 1998 and the agenda should include "draft Panel report to Provisional Legislative Council" The Chairman invited members to give their suggestion on other discussion items to the Panel Clerk.

(Post-meeting note : No suggestion on agenda items was received and the meeting scheduled for 27 March 1998 was cancelled with the concurrence of the Chairman.)

20. The meeting ended at 10:20 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
2 April 1998