Which government official should take responsibility in the problems with the Shatin-Central link?
Who ordered the firing of tear gas grenades during the Occupy Movement?
Why hasn’t the Inland Revenue Department asked former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to pay tax for the money he has taken from UGL?
Without an access to information law, the public has been kept in the dark on these. After more than 20 years’ campaign by the civil societies, the Law Reform Commission has finally proposed the introduction of such a law. Yet, it is a faulty proposal that will render the future legislation toothless in pushing public bodies to tell. Here is why.
1. It says an officer can refuse to entertain an information request if he or she believes it will take more than 15 hours to get.
2. There’s no mention of the setting up of an independent and professional information commission to standardize, promote and monitor the implementation of the law. Neither has the commission proposed a tribunal to review rejected request and complaints. The review power will remain with the Office of the Ombudsman who will be empowered to issue enforcement note. Penalty against refusal to implement the note has not been discussed.
3. The Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary and Attorney General can override the Ombudsman’s decision on certain areas of information. Judicial review will be the only available redress. Those areas are defence, security, inter-government affairs, Executive Council proceedings, management of public services and audit functions.
4. More exemptions are proposed. Instead of 16 under the current regime, the commission is suggested 12 absolute exemptions and 11 qualified exemptions that are subjected to public interest test. This list is much longer than what Britain, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are having.
5. It expanded the coverage to 86 public bodies under the Ombudsman Ordinance. Many living on public fund and exercising public functions will be excluded. Among them are the MTRC, Airport Authority, universities as well as 300-some advisory committees.
These cannot protect our right to information. Sign here to tell the commission the genuine freedom of information law that Hong Kong deserves.