Hong Kong could learn from the mainland's record-keeping system, which is protected by an archival law that makes it mandatory for government bodies at each administrative level to keep proper public records and regulate public access to the material, experts say. The importance the central government attaches to archive preservation was reflected by the fact that a top-level body - the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee - oversaw the area. Hong Kong has long been regarded as lagging behind other territories, and despite repeated calls has yet to enact an archival law. Ji Xuegang - general manager of Beijing's UNIS VITOVA Information Technology Company, whose products are being used by various government bodies including the State Archives Administration of China - said the mainland's archive system did not just focus on record-keeping, but also encouraged education and research. 'Having an archival law is important because government policies and actions can be traced through the records,' said Mr Ji, who added that the government could have more room to manoeuvre if records of its policy-making processes could not be traced. He said digitalisation would enhance public access to the archives - allowing the public to search via the internet for the materials they need - and better preserve the materials. But he stressed the need for mainland record-keeping bodies to meet international standards, a goal for which he said they were striving. Christine Loh Kung-wai, chief executive of the think-tank Civic Exchange, said the city could study the mainland's comprehensive system and experience in drafting the legislation. Civic Exchange has long advocated archival laws in Hong Kong. While highlighting the need to train experts on this front, as none of the city's universities offer a degree in archiving, Ms Loh also pointed out the need to invest in archiving and called for government commitment in this area. 'On the mainland, a top-level body handles archiving, yet the Public Records Office in Hong Kong is only a small department and the official in charge of it is also of low rank.' In Hong Kong, archives are kept by the Government Record Service. Access to records kept by any government bureau or department is provided through the Code on Access to Information. While recognising that 'developing an electronic record-keeping system was one of four core priorities for the time being', a government spokesman defended the 'administrative arrangements' for archives. 'Archival legislation is not the government's current priority,' the spokesman said. A spokeswoman for RTHK, which is using an analogue system, said it had been a long-held wish to digitalise its record-keeping system, but money had been a huge obstacle. Danny Chin Ching-man, president of the Hong Kong Archives Society, said that despite the existence of the archival law on the mainland, people still faced obstacles in gaining access to documents. 'Ultimately, it is the authorities who decide which information they will let citizens read.'