Watchdog chief slams shelving of privacy law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 4:22am

Privacy commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang has expressed his disappointment in the government's decision to shelve a controversial law restricting public access to company directors' personal information.

In a move seen as bowing to public pressure, the government last week said it would shelve the legislation of the clause attached to the new Companies Ordinance passed last year.

The move came two months after bankers, lawyers, journalists and businessmen spoke out about their concerns over the proposed law, saying it might undermine the free flow of information. Under the proposal, directors and company secretaries would no longer have to make public their residential addresses and full identification numbers.

On Thursday, the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said the legislation would be put on hold until a consensus was reached on ways to strike a balance between privacy and freedom of information.

Chiang said the postponement was "a retrograde step" in enhancing the protection of personal data in the city.

"In other words, the existing unsatisfactory system of unfettered public access to company directors' residential address and full identification number will continue for an indefinite period of time," he said.

Saying that the recent debate on the issue had been "lopsided", he urged the government to pledge a timetable for enacting the subsidiary legislation.

"Maintaining the status quo is not an option," Chiang said. "I trust the administration will not abdicate its leadership responsibility in taking forward these data protection initiatives despite their controversial nature."