SCMP, January 19, 2003 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 that was 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 - for 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. A number of Hong Kong people are 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 serious criminal offence and cannot be tolerated. Glossary despicable (adj) deserving contempt Example: Israeli Ariel Sharon called the allegations such as vote-buying a despicable political attempt to topple a prime minister. (SCMP, January 10, 2003) mire (v) to get stuck, as if caught in mud patronise (v) to visit as a customer or member of an audience on a regular basis dismantle (v) to break down into pieces impetus (n) incentive, a force to encourage something to happen Example: The real impetus for improving her English, however, came in 1974, when a friend introduced her at a party to Jack Edwards, now her husband. (SCMP, January 4, 2003) manifestation (n) the form in which something exists or appears Discussion points ? Laws that would fight child pornography on the Internet have been stuck in the legislative process for nearly three years. There are concerns that the definitions of such key terms as 'possession' are too vague to avoid false accusations against innocent people. However, campaigners against child abuse insist that the need to protect children should outweigh those worries. What is your opinion? ? In some places, residents are told about the presence of convicted child offenders when they move into the neighbourhood. What do you think about this measure? Does the protection of children justify such schemes that may stigmatise offenders who have already received their punishment?