Celebrities to look at anti-paparazzi law

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 12:00am

A union representing film stars and pop singers is considering calling for legislation to stop reporters and photographers approaching celebrities when they are not at work.

The move follows recent showdowns between the paparazzi and celebrities such as Nicholas Tse Ting-fung, Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi and Jordan Chan Siu-chun.

Cheung Kuen, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild which represents about 800 performers, said members would hold a meeting next week to discuss ways to better protect celebrities' privacy.

Mr Cheung said guild members and its president, actress-singer Anita Mui Yim-fong, would seek legal advice to see whether a ban was feasible.

'We will study whether artists can maintain their privacy without having photographs taken of them or being interviewed when they are not working . . . We don't know whether the idea is practical, but we will seek legal advice before making a submission to the Law Reform Commission,' he said.

A commission report in October 2000 proposed criminalising stalking, which it said was a menace to society. The report, which the government is studying, was attacked by media groups as an affront to legitimate news gathering.

Mr Cheung said he acknowledged the concerns over press freedom, but said some media representatives had gone too far in recent years.

'Decades ago, artists had very good relations with reporters. We don't know why things have come to this.'

In 1995, the guild organised a three-day boycott of the media, in a move to target publications including the Chinese newspaper Apple Daily.

Fung Wai-kong, of Apple Daily, said the latest idea was ridiculous as it would gag press freedom. 'I can't imagine how one could limit reporters' work in public . . . Reporters chasing celebrities is not something exclusive to Hong Kong,' he said.

Matthew Leung Man-fai, chairman of the Press Photographers' Association, said reporters should not take the blame as they were acting on the orders of management whose decision was driven by public interest. 'You can't be selective and allow us to take pictures when you want and ban us when you don't,' he said.

Actor Eric Tsang Chi-wai, vice-president of the guild, said: 'It's inevitable [for celebrities] to be interviewed after hours because we are public figures. But we want some privacy at the same time.

'It's very scary to know that a reporter is living in a hotel room right next to us.'

Godfrey Kan, secretary of the privacy sub-committee of the Law Reform Commission, said the report it submitted to the government involved general suggestions about stalking and was not specific enough to cover the guild's idea.