Secretary for Economic Services Stephen Ip Shu-kwan feels a credit-information sharing system would address Hong Kong's rising level of bankruptcies. Mr Ip dismissed suggestions that the bankruptcy laws, which allow automatic discharge after four years, were too lenient and needed a revision. He pointed out that some countries allowed bankruptcy orders to be discharged after just six months. Mr Ip's comments came after a top-level meeting yesterday to address the problem of soaring bankruptcies. The closed-door meeting included all major players in the finance sector - among them the Official Receiver, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Hong Kong Association of Banks and the Privacy Commission. A proposal said to be discussed was to restrict people who had been declared bankrupt from conducting a business for eight years, instead of the present four. Mr Ip said the automatic discharge rule had been extended in more than 200 individual cases in the past several years. 'We agreed at the meeting that the problem was not the present legislation,' he said. The problem seemed to be that banks could not share clients' credit histories. Banks and finance institutions should be able to share certain credit information on clients - such as how many credit cards they possessed and the amount of outstanding money they owed. 'This information will help banks to access an applicant's financial position,' he said. As further follow-up on shared credit information would be undertaken by the Privacy Commission with a view to allowing banks and finance institutions to share data. Mr Ip said the Commercial Crime Bureau also expressed concern about debtors using bankruptcy for deception purposes, essentially to escape their debt obligations. The debate has been sparked by the release of data from Credit Information Services showing 3,395 people were declared bankrupt in the first half, a rise of 56.7 per cent year on year.