Proposed legislation would require judicial approval in some circumstances Law enforcers will be able to conduct covert surveillance without judicial warrants unless their targets have a reasonable expectation of privacy or when the operation requires entry to private premises without permission, lawmakers heard yesterday. The arrangements were outlined by Permanent Secretary for Security Stanley Ying Yiu-hong at a briefing to the Legislative Council's security panel on the government's plan for covert surveillance legislation. Lawmakers asked if the definitions were too vague and whether it would be best to require judicial authorisation for all types of such surveillance. Mr Ying said where, for example, a person was 'in his own room and has drawn the curtains of the room, he can reasonably expect that what he does in the room would be private. 'If a law enforcement agent wishes to enter the room to install an optical surveillance device before the person enters that room, that operation would need judicial authorisation. If however, person A allows person B into the room to observe what he does, and B covertly videotapes the scene, executive authorisation would be required.' Where 'moles' are involved in attempts to infiltrate criminal syndicates, authorisation from senior officers would suffice. Even where a tracking device is attached to the outside of a vehicle, judicial warrants would not be necessary. But when the device was placed inside a person's briefcase, it would have to be authorised by a judge. Mr Ying and Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said the regime proposed to regulate covert surveillance in Hong Kong would be stricter than regulations in Australia and the United States in a number of ways. The administration is consulting the legislature before submitting a draft bill. It hopes to have a law in place in six months, before expiry of a grace period given by a High Court judge who this month ruled that covert surveillance in Hong Kong had no legal basis. But the decision to grant a six-month grace period is being challenged by activist Koo Sze-yiu, who filed the original judicial review with legislator Leung Kwok-hung. Department of Justice law officer Ian Wingfield said yesterday the government reserved its right to launch a counter appeal. Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Kong-wah was concerned with the definition of 'reasonable expectation of privacy'. He asked if he did not draw the curtains at his home, which faces a quiet hillside, whether he could be said to have such an expectation or if he could be spied upon without judicial approval. The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said she would take the matter to the United Nations next month during its hearing on Hong Kong's human rights.