Hong Kong’s internet cafes face stricter regulation with licensing system

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 11:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 11:24pm

The government is to regulate the operations of internet cafes in the city with a licensing system.

The government suggested that the regulation of internet cafes be made through the licensing regime under the existing Amusement Game Centres Ordinance, with licensing conditions to be based on the existing voluntary-based code of practice for the industry set ten years ago.

Premises have to comply with various building and fire safety requirements as stated in the code, the Home Affairs Bureau said in a document to be discussed at a meeting in the Legislative Council’s panel on home affairs on February 17.

The code also includes restrictions of access by children under 16 at specified hours, and a requirement to use only software that complied with intellectual property rights and the installation of filtering devices against online pornography.

The Home Affairs Bureau said internet cafes with five or less computers would be exempt from the licensing system. .

It also said that licensing conditions should exclude some of the most stringent requirements that applied to conventional amusement game centres, which are more commonly known as TV games centres.

The suggestion was made after a public consultation in Legco, district councils, parent and teacher groups and youth organisations in 2011.

The bureau said no amendments  to the Amusement Game Centres Ordinance would be needed in its proposed regulation over internet cafes.

The government will publish a set of application guidelines for operators and a transitional period of 18 months will be allowed before the guidelines formally take effect.

It said it had planned to submit the proposal details to Legco this year after collecting views from the panelists.

In 2011, the government estimated that the city had more than 200 internet cafes, about half of which belong to commercial chains. Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Raymond Young Lap-moon said in that year an average of about 20 complaints and two crimes were linked to the cafes each year, and that licensing was a preventive measure.