Anti-stalking law: is it time to give up pursuit?

Controversial legislation that has been under discussion for 14 years may need to be shelved due to lack of consensus, lawmakers hear

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 12:03pm

Anti-stalking legislation may be shelved after the government said it saw "no favourable conditions" for pursuing it after almost 14 years of discussions.

The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said in a paper submitted to the Legislative Council yesterday that views on the issue diverged widely and none had won majority support.

"The administration is of the view that there are no favourable conditions for us to pursue the matter further," it said, adding that it would make a final decision after hearing lawmakers' views at a meeting on Monday.

The Law Reform Commission suggested in October 2000 that stalking should be made a criminal offence as existing civil and criminal law did not address it.

But the proposal met strong opposition from journalists' and human-rights groups. The government launched a three-month consultation exercise in late 2011, but there was still no public consensus.

Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan welcomed the news yesterday.

"If the government indeed shelves the proposal, it will be the one good thing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has done for the media in this adverse time," she said.

In previous discussions, some suggested that the law should be applied only in certain specific relations, such as between landlord and tenant or between money lenders and borrowers, but the bureau said it would be against the legal principle of fairness and equity.

It was also suggested that newsgathering activities should be exempted, but the Journalists Association said it would still affect press freedom as intervention by law enforcement, even if subsequently found unsubstantiated, would disrupt reporting.

There were also concerns that a blanket exemption for journalists would significantly weaken the protection to victims.

Sham said such a law would have affected investigative and entertainment reporting in particular.

"If the law had been in place, it would have been impossible for journalists to set up cranes outside Henry Tang Ying-yen's house at the time of the chief executive election," added Sham. She was referring to how reporters tried to investigate Tang's Kowloon Tong house when it was revealed that it included a basement built without planning approval.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data did not respond to the Post's inquiries last night.