Government moves on cyber cafe delinquency

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 May, 2011, 12:00am


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Last month the government came up with a plan to prevent internet cafes becoming gathering places for young delinquents. However, there were mixed reactions on the proposal's possible effectiveness.

Under the plan, put forward by the Home Affairs Bureau, internet cafes with at least five computers will be regulated. But internet kiosks at hotels and airports, on private housing estates and at youth centres will not be affected.

The government says that children under 16 will be barred from entering internet cafes between midnight and 8am. Internet cafes inside residential or mixed-use buildings will have to close by midnight. In other words, only cafes inside commercial buildings will be allowed to operate after midnight.

Alcoholic drinks will not be allowed and filters barring access to violent and erotic websites must be in place. In addition, partitions separating different computers cannot be higher than 1.5 metres.

Some of the rules are already listed in a code of practice issued to internet cafe owners in 2003, but compliance has been voluntary.

Secretary for Home Affairs Raymond Young Lap-moon said the plan was put forward because, despite this code of practice, some people were still worried that cafes were gathering places for young delinquents.

According to Young, there are more than 200 internet cafes in the city, with about half belonging to commercial chains. An average of about 20 complaints and two crimes were linked to the cafes each year.

The plan will go through a series of consultations in the next few months, and will be tabled in the Legislative Council by the middle of next year.

Teens had mixed views about the plan. Ken Cheung Kwan-kiu, 16, said cafes might have attracted some hooligans in the past, but this had stopped. Cafe staff kept a keen eye on anything suspicious, because they had been subject to increased police inspections. He was unsure how successful the plan would be. 'If they can't stay in the cafes overnight, teenagers will just go somewhere else,' he said. 'There will not be much effect.'

Another teenager said the plan might not be easy to implement as cafe staff might not be keen on checking teenagers' ID cards.

Chan Ka-ling, a social worker and director of Youth Outreach's School of Hip Hop, said the plan itself was not enough to solve the problem of teen delinquency in internet cafes.

She said the government should work with youth centres to come up with a strategy on how to deal with teenagers who caused trouble.

Otherwise, she said, teenagers would just go to game centres if they were banned from internet cafes. She and her team had been visiting internet cafes, trying to get troubled teens back on the right track.

Additional reporting by junior reporter Candace Shevonne Kwan