Hong Kong Ombudsman Says He Will Examine Access Code

4 January 2013

Hong Kong’s Ombudsman Alan Lai has announced an investigation into the access to information regime and records management system in Hong Kong.

“There have been calls from time to time from the public for the Administration to enhance citizens’ right to access information,” according to the Jan. 4 press release. “The Administration has thus far maintained that there is no such need because it considers that its Code on Access to Information (“the Code”) already provides an effective framework for the public to access a wide range of information held by Government.”

Lai’s office goes on to point out that the Hong Kong code dates to 1995 and that since then “many jurisdictions have further introduced major reforms to their FOI regimes to increase the public’s access to information, expand the coverage of the FOI stipulations, and update the laws to keep up with the advance of information technology.”

The ombudsman said he will compare Hong Kong’s standards and practices with those of other places “so as to determine whether the public’s right to access information in Hong Kong is adequately provided for and whether the measures taken are in keeping with modern standards of open and good administration.”

He also announced plans to look into the government’s records management system. The announcement explained: “Records management and archiving of public records is currently done by the Government Records Service.  There is no statutory protection of archival records.  The Administration has maintained that the current administrative framework is effective in ensuring proper records management.  However, elsewhere in the world, many jurisdictions introduced, as early as in the 1940s and 1950s, specific laws to protect their archives.  Some of such laws require proper creation and management of records, with penalty provisions to ensure compliance. 

The ombudsman invited public comments, due by Feb. 4. The email address is complaints@ombudsman.hk

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