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The Rights of the Individual

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Access to Information

It is Government policy to make available as much information as possible so that the public can better understand how we formulate and implement policy, and so more effectively monitor Government performance. The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau has general policy responsibility for access to Government information.

We introduced the Code on Access to Information (the Code) in March 1995, which was then extended progressively to the whole of the Government by December 1996. The Code enshrines the policy that the Government will make available information that it holds - unless there are valid reasons - related to public, private or commercial interests, third party or privacy - to withhold it.

Code on Access to Information

The Code comprises two parts. Part 1 describes the scope of the Code and the procedures for applying for information under it. It also details the system of charges for such information and provides for channels of review and complaint. Part 2 sets out the kind of information to which public access may be refused. With a few exceptions, the withholding of information is subject to a "harm test" whereby a department must consider whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs any harm or prejudice that may result.

The Code is underpinned by a complaint channel through The Ombudsman who is entirely independent of the Government.

Any person who believes that a department has failed to comply with any provision of the Code may ask the department to review the situation. Alternatively, they may complain to the Ombudsman.

The Code strikes the right balance - essential to effective government - between openness and the need to protect public and private rights, and personal and commercial privacy.

Experience gained so far demonstrates that the Code provides an effective framework to provide access by members of the public to a wide range of information held by the Government. Of the requests which covered information held by Government bureaux/departments and which the bureaux/departments had responded to, 97% were met either partially or in full.

To enhance transparency, we release statistics relating to compliance of the Code through press releases on a quarterly basis.

TV Announcements

If you wish to view the promotional video on the Code, you may click this link.