For information
on 3 October 1997


Control and Regulation on the Use of Pyrotechnics
by the Film Industry in Shooting Films


This paper briefs Members on the Government's existing control and regulation on the use of pyrotechnics by the film industry in shooting films.


2.The use of fireworks has been generally prohibited since 1967. In view of the increase in the illegal use of pyrotechnics in film shooting for special effects by film companies and television stations, the former Executive and Legislative Councils approved in March 1993 the use of pyrotechnics in the production of television programmes and films as well as theatrical performances but, for the sake of safeguarding public security and safety, a permit is required to be obtained from the authority.


3.The use of pyrotechnics in shooting films is regulated under Section 59 of the Dangerous Goods (General) Regulations (Chapter 295), and a permit is required for such activities. The Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport and Director of Marine are the authorities responsible for the issue of permits for the discharge of pyrotechnics on land and on water respectively. They will consult relevant departments (including the Mines and Quarries Division of the Civil Engineering Department, Fire Services Department, Hong Kong Police Force, and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department), and set licensing conditions relating to fire precautions and the protection of public safety before approving any application for a permit. The relevant departments will follow up with the applicant directly over aspects falling under their respective areas of responsibilities.

4.A pyrotechnician responsible for the discharge of pyrotechnics must be registered with the Commissioner of Mines before a permit is granted. This is to ensure that pyrotechnics are discharged by a pyrotechnician who is experienced in discharging pyrotechnics and producing pyrotechnic effect. A pyrotechnician is usually required to give a demonstration in respect of the discharge of pyrotechnics which is the subject of a permit application. A licence and a permit issued by the Commissioner of Mines is required for storage and conveyance of pyrotechnics respectively. A declaration of fitness issued by the Marine Department is required for a vessel carrying or conveying pyrotechnics.

5.The use of fuel gas in film shooting must comply with the relevant provisions of the Gas Safety Ordinance (Chapter 51). 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 employed by a registered gas contractor. A dangerous goods licence is required from the Director of Fire Services for using more than 20 litres of petrol.

6.In respect of the use of pyrotechnics in shooting films, the Hong Kong Police Force does not have specific control measures at present. However, the use of modified firearms and blank ammunition do require an exemption permit issued by the Licensing Division (of the Hong Kong Police Force), and the Police Public Relations Branch has to be informed of the film shooting three working days in advance.

7.To ensure compliance with the conditions set out in the permits, the Mines and Quarries Division of the Civil Engineering Department conducts surprise checks. Depending on the scale of the approved activities, the Marine Department will deploy its launches to patrol the waters concerned. If necessary, they will notify the Marine Police to be on the alert. Officers of the Marine Department on board its patrol launches will also monitor closely such activities.

8.Since the implementation of this system, we have only received two applications for the use of pyrotechnics in film shooting. The first one was not approved due to insufficient information provided. The second one had been processed to the stage of granting approval. The film company applying for the permit however withdrew the application. Meanwhile, the film industry continues to use pyrotechnics unlawfully in shooting films, posing threat to both the film workers and the general public and directly affecting public security. The film industry has asserted that it did not follow the existing laws and system to apply for permits and relevant licences because the existing regulatory system failed to meet their needs.


9.The Government has in response to the use of pyrotechnics in film making established a regulatory system. The rationale of the film industry that the existing system cannot cater for its needs cannot stand when they have not attempted to apply for a permit. The same system, on the other hand, is also applicable to applications for the use of pyrotechnics for theatrical performances. The Government has hitherto approved 112 such applications, representing a success rate of 82%.

10.The industry had proposed that the use of explosives other than pyrotechnics in film making should be allowed, but explosives (mainly explosives for rock blasting) are very powerful and can cause shock waves, ground vibrations, noise and rock debris. To permit the film industry to use explosives in film shooting is thus highly dangerous. Besides, public security and safety will also be threatened directly. As it stands the use of pyrotechnics in film shooting already poses danger to life and property. Hence, it is necessary for the government to have a stringent regulatory system for safety reasons.


11.The Government appreciates and understands, through various channels (including holding meetings with the industry), the industry's concern over the existing permit system. To tackle the problem of the illegal use of pyrotechnics and to devise a system which can protect both public security and safety, and which takes into account of the operational needs of film industry, we have 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 will be chaired by the Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport with representatives from the Hong Kong Police Force, the Marine Department, the Mines and Quarries Division, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, the Fire Services Department and the Television & Entertainment Licensing Authority. We will also invite industry participation to jointly examine the issue with us.

Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Bureau
Government Secretariat
September 1997