Amid calls for his appointment to be cancelled, new privacy commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang started work yesterday by asking the government to consider making the misuse of personal data an offence. The HK$44 million sale by Octopus Cards of cardholders' details to third parties exposed lax regulation of private information, Chiang said, echoing concerns held by his predecessor, Roderick Woo Bun. He was met outside his office by a group of democrats who said he should be removed from the job because of a post office privacy row when he was postmaster general. Lawmakers questioned his appointment because of the installation of six secret pinhole surveillance cameras at Cheung Sha Wan post office 'to catch thieves' that led to an investigation in 2005 by the office he now heads, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data. Chiang said yesterday that he had nothing personally to do with the cameras. 'I must point out that the installation was made without my knowledge and my authority. It was a local decision. [As the head of Hongkong Post] I was accountable for the incident,' he said. 'But that does not mean I've been ignorant of privacy issues and am ignorant of privacy protection. The incident was an individual case that happened five years ago and should be regarded as a part of history, he said Chiang said the Octopus affair was a 'great lesson for Hong Kong' that had raised public awareness of privacy protection in a short time and existing laws were no longer up to public expectations. Under the law as it stands, the sale of personal data by data users for profit without the consent of the subject is not a criminal offence and there is no penalty for misuse of personal data in direct marketing. He said the government, as it reviewed privacy laws, should consider making violations an offence. He said the commissioner should also be given more powers, including the ability to help victims fight for compensation and to initiate prosecutions. To show his devotion to the new post, Chiang said he would put a statuette of Themis - the Greek goddess of justice and law that also adorns the Legislative Council - on his desk to remind him of the importance of impartiality. His words did not convince Democratic Party spokesman Lam Lap-chi who led the protest yesterday. He said Chiang had no legal background or experience in defending human rights, both essential qualities of his predecessors. Such an appointment sparked worries that watchdogs would become a 'club for retired officials'. Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor also said it did not accept the appointment because the former civil servant had no experience in privacy protection and human rights issues.