Changes to privacy rules must follow Basic Law, minister says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2008, 12:00am

A review of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance to empower the Privacy Commission to initiate prosecutions must take into account the Basic Law, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said yesterday.

Speaking at this year's Privacy Awareness Week opening ceremony, Mr Lam said authorities were considering a review of the privacy law, and that amendments could be tabled in the legislature.

Mr Lam was reacting to calls by the privacy commissioner to overhaul what have been termed outdated laws protecting personal data in Hong Kong .

A proposal containing more than 50 recommendations was drawn up and submitted to the government in December, calling for public consultations and amendments to the law.

Mr Lam said the possibility of making an offence out of inappropriate collection of personal data required public discussion. And he said suggestions that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, headed by Roderick Woo Bun, should have the power to prosecute could violate the Basic Law. At present, such responsibility lies with the Department of Justice.

Mr Woo said experience in other jurisdictions had shown that a privacy commission could be given more power to handle cases involving personal data. The to-ing and fro-ing between prosecutors and the commission in Hong Kong over prosecutions was 'a waste of citizens' money', he said.

Meanwhile, he said discussions were continuing over the commission's HK$39 million budget. Commenting on what he described as a 'small' budget, he said: 'We are not asking to beautify our office. We are not asking for a pay rise for our colleagues. Not to my pay, certainly. We just want to get the job done.'