In response to The Ombudsman's direct investigation report on the access to information regime in Hong Kong which was released today (March 20), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said, "The administrative Code on Access to Information has provided an effective framework for the public to seek access to a wide range of information held by the Government. Since implementation of the Code, the percentage of requests where information is provided has consistently remained at a high level. Through the years since the operation of the Code in March 1995 up to the end of September 2013, over 97 per cent of requests for information were met in full (95.5 per cent) or in part (2.1 per cent), while less than 3 per cent of requests were refused for reasons as set out in Part 2 of the Code. Such performance is on a par with that of overseas jurisdictions.
"Non-provision of information has to be justified on the basis of specific reasons as set out in Part 2 of the Code, such as when matters affect law enforcement or legal proceedings, or pertain to the privacy of an individual. These reasons are commonly found in the access to information regimes in overseas jurisdictions.
"We have kept an open mind on practical ways to strengthen the regime on access to information and have indeed implemented all the 11 recommendations put forward by The Ombudsman pursuant to his last review of the regime in 2009-10."
The spokesman added, "We note that further to the direct investigation in relation to the access to information regime in 2009-10, this is another direct investigation The Ombudsman has conducted on the subject. The report puts forward a number of legislative and other recommendations to improve the public's access to information. We will carefully consider the feasibility and implications of the recommendations."
Included among the recommendations is a proposal that the Government consider introducing a law on access to information. The spokesman said, "The Law Reform Commission has started a comprehensive comparative study on the relevant laws in overseas jurisdictions, with a view to considering whether measures to improve the access to information regime should be implemented in Hong Kong, and, if so, how these measures should be implemented. We will carefully study any recommendations the Law Reform Commission may have on this and then consider the way forward."
Ends/Thursday, March 20, 2014