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Transcript of USCMA's remarks at media session

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Miss Adeline Wong, at a media session after attending two radio programmes this morning (December 20):

Reporter: Miss Wong, will the Government ensure that free press is not actually violated by this proposal? Who actually is the judge - what are the normal and reasonable conditions, what are the normal activities and who is to judge?

Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Press freedom is a fundamental core value of the Hong Kong society. The Government has all along been pledging to protect press freedom and to facilitate the media in their daily news-gathering activities. What we are proposing now is to follow or base on the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission to legislate against stalking. The proposal is to set a new offence, under which if a person pursues a course of conduct which constitutes harassment to another person, and the harassment is serious enough to cause that person alarm or distress, then this would be a criminal offence. What we are proposing is also to set out some specific defence provisions in the proposed legislation. One of the proposed defence is reasonable conduct which is to address the concerns not only of the media but also to address other legitimate activities in everyday life. We hope that by this defence, we will be able to address the concerns of the media about the possible implications on press freedom. Of course, we understand that some in the media sector considered that such a defence may not be sufficient to protect or to cater for all kinds of legitimate news-gathering activities. So what we aim to do during this public consultation is to collect views of different sectors of the community, and also to discuss in detail with media organisations as to how the law should be drafted in order to provide sufficient protection not only for victims of stalking, but also to allow legitimate news-gathering activities to continue.

     As regards the question of who is to judge whether a particular course of conduct is reasonable in the circumstances, that would depend on individual cases and also the particular sector we are talking about. The word "reasonable" appears in many different legislations. It would be up to the court to judge based on the individual circumstances and the evidence advanced by both parties to the litigation. Of course, I think in a democratic civil society like Hong Kong, people have their reasonable standards or some commonly agreed standards as to what constitute a reasonable course of conduct in different sectors. Thank you.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Tuesday, December 20, 2011