The sexual abuse of children is a despicable crime that must be dealt with through the harshest punishment. Anyone involved, no matter whether they are the abuser or the purchaser of pornography, must be dealt with. Child pornography has flourished in the Internet age. The borderless medium of distribution has meant the industry has grown spectacularly. Many governments have recognised the trend and put in place laws making access to Web sites distributing pornography illegal, and those accessing them liable to prosecution. Hong Kong does not have such rules. Such an ordinance has been under debate for over three years, mired in controversy over what constitutes possession of pornography. Enacting such regulations is a matter of urgency, given the nature of the child pornography business and those who patronise it. Other governments have had little problem in putting laws in place and jailing criminals. Since 1999, the international criminal investigation organisation Interpol has been dismantling a global child pornography network which had been centred on an Internet site operated from the United States city of Fort Worth. In a raid on the home of Thomas and Janice Reedy, the US Postal Investigation Service uncovered a database of 389,000 subscribers to a company called Landslide Productions. That list resulted in more than 100 arrests in North America and the jailing of the Reedys to massive terms - a total of 1,335 years in Thomas Reedy's case. Investigators handed the database to Interpol, which has since been working with governments to arrest other subscribers. Rock music star Pete Townshend was arrested by British police last week as a result of information they had received. A number of Hong Kong people are also on the list and their names are included among information on offenders from China being held by Interpol's Beijing office. Yet authorities here have no impetus to find the offenders because they cannot prosecute them with any crime under Hong Kong law. This is despite their activities being considered criminal in many other parts of the world. That they are free among us is worrying. But even more so is the fact that no action can be taken against them due to legislative dithering. Hong Kong's lawmakers must act swiftly. Only then can their actions send a clear message - child abuse in all its manifestations is a criminal offence and cannot be tolerated.