Proposals for Net cafe content ban
Access to sex, violence and gambling over the Web should be banned at internet cafes in Hong Kong, according to the latest government proposals to regulate the industry.
The surge in popularity of internet cafes and video-game arcades in Hong Kong has prompted the Home Affairs Bureau to recommend a series of voluntary regulations covering a range of issues including content filters, safety measures and the age of patrons.
Community concerns have been raised over the possibility that young patrons may have access to pornographic, violent or gambling websites, and that these centres may also provide venues for vice-related and triad activities. Further concerns have also been raised over fire and public safety at internet cafes and games arcades.
The bureau's code of conduct will be introduced next month for a trial period of six months. After the trial, the government plans to review it and carry out random inspections to see how well internet cafes and games arcades have complied.
A Legislative Council panel is due to discuss the proposals next week and, following the government review, the code of conduct may be drafted into legislation.
The government has estimated that there are 290 internet cafes in the city.
In its code of conduct, the bureau says operators of internet cafes should install filtering devices on computers to block websites containing unsuitable content. It states children younger than 16 should 'generally' be restricted from internet cafes after midnight.
It added that cafes should conform to building and fire safety regulations similar to those of other licensed businesses. Operators should also take measures to control noise, smoking and ventilation.
Although there have been no major incidents at internet cafes in Hong Kong, a fire at a Beijing internet cafe a year ago killed 24, prompting stricter regulations.
But the Home Affairs Bureau loosened regulations on video arcades. After public consultation it proposed allowing video game parlours for people over 16 to extend their operating hours from midnight to 2am in a six-month trial to cover about 70 games arcades - a sixth of the total in Hong Kong.
It also recommended lowering the licence fee for video arcades, but did not give more details.