Articles: Free speech & transparency
The right to remember: Oregon case study
Willamette Week, 15-Feb-2015
This article about the fiancee of Oregon's Governor, who resigned last week, revealed that before running for election to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2002, she had been in a sham green-card marriage with an Ethiopian, filing for divorce the year before the election. The trail of records that led to this article is the sort of thing that would-be EU politicians can now get removed from search engines under the European Court of Justice's "right to be forgotten".
Yes Pope Frank, we can mock faiths
Pope Francis says its OK to punch someone who insults his mother, and we cannot make fun of faith. No, it's not. No insult justifies an assault, whether it's an insult against you, your mother or Muhammad, and whether it is a punch, a massacre or a state-sponsored flogging. Laws against blasphemy, insult and mockery have no place in an open society and incentivise intolerance of free speech. (17-Jan-2015)
Where will it end?
The judge in the Hui-Kwok trial resorted to quoting Sir Humphrey Appleby in rejecting Bloomberg's request for a copy of fund flow charts presented to the jury. (31-Dec-2014)
HK Companies Registry finds new way to milk its monopoly
Company announcement, 19-Dec-2014
The CR has the monopoly on companies register information; last year it made a pre-tax profit of HK$347m on $606m of fees, including $70m of search fees, so it would still make a huge profit without charging to see the data. The principles of open data for public sector information require it to abolish the pay-wall and let the market innovate presentations and utilities for the data. Same goes for the Land Registry.
HKSAR v Koo Sze Yiu & Ma Wan Ki
HK Court of Final Appeal, 10-Nov-2014
The court says that the law against desecrating the HKSAR flag (and by implication, the national flag) is still constitutional, 15 years after the last test, as it is "necessary" to maintain public order. On the other hand, the flag of the Communist Party is probably fair game.
T v Commissioner of Police: Dancing in the Street.
HK Court of Final Appeal, 10-Sep-2014
By a 3:2 majority, the Commissioner of Police loses his appeal; dancing in the street during a public procession does not require a licence under the Places Of Public Entertainment (POPE) Ordinance. Mick Jagger and David Bowie will be grateful for that clarification (as will Martha and the Vandellas). A narrow victory for common sense.
PCPD not answering our calls
After blogging about parts of an "intemperate grilling" from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau over his call for a do-not-call person-to-person register, igniting public debate, the Privacy Commissioner has now refused our request, under the Code on Access to Information, for copies of the CEDB's letter and his reply letter, citing a lack of public interest. He can't have it both ways. (5-Sep-2014)
Why has Google cast me into oblivion?
The BBC's economics editor gives a first-hand description of what Google does when it removes a page from search results "on European versions" of its search engine. This follows the European Court of Justice's ruling. The Great Firewall of Europe is now under construction.
The right to remember
In the wake of ECJ's Google v Spain ruling, we publish a letter from the UK Information Commissioner regarding the sanctity of newspaper archives, and then look at the unintended and dangerous consequences of the ECJ's ruling. You really don't have a right to make other people forget, and you do have a right to remember. (20-Jun-2014)
Ombudsman discloses more information
Following pressure from Webb-site, the Ombudsman has today published a summary of the submissions received during its investigations on Access to Information and keeping public archives. The submissions show strong support for legislation. Meanwhile, the wheels at the Law Reform Commission are slowly turning and covering similar ground. (17-Apr-2014)
Statement by CE on attack on MediaNet Resources Ltd COO Mr Kevin Lau
HK Government, 26-Feb-2014
He is the recently removed Chief Editor of Ming Pao newspaper. Why does the government evade this point by describing him as the COO of a BVI company which does not even have a place of business in HK (it is a fellow subsidiary of Media Chinese International Ltd, which owns Ming Pao Newspapers Ltd)?
Face Magazine Ltd v PCPD
HK Administrative Appeals Board, 6-Jan-2014
The AAB upholds the decision of the Privacy Commissioner in the complaints of actors Wong Ho (aka Vincent Wong Ho Shun) and Yoyo Chen Chi Yiu against the magazine, which had published intimate pictures of them in their home, taken with a telephoto lens from a hillside footpath which was not open to the public. The personal data (the photos) had been collected by unfair means, contravening Data Protection Principle 1(2).
Sudden Weekly Ltd v PCPD
HK Administrative Appeals Board, 6-Jan-2014
The AAB upholds the decision of the Privacy Commissioner in the complaint of actor Bosco Wong Chung Chak Wong Ho against the magazine, which published pictures of him and Myolie Wu Hang Yee in his home, taken with a telephoto lens from about 1000 metres away. The personal data (the photos) had been collected by unfair means, contravening Data Protection Principle 1(2). The AAB decision is brief, because it directly follows decision in Face Magazine AAB5/2012, handed down on the same day.
TCWF v LKKS, STL & OIL
HK Court of Appeal, 29-Jul-2013
In relation to open justice, this judgment in the Florence Tsang and Samathur Li case contains the following guidance: "In the matrimonial context, the [current] practice in Hong Kong is that even though an appeal is heard in open court, the names of the parties are anonymized in the daily cause list and the judgment of the court. This is particularly so in children cases. This gives some protection to the privacy of the parties. However, unless the court grants a specific injunction, it is not against the law to publish the names of such parties if their identities were known. This is the position even if the proceedings take place in private, see Sections 3 and 5 of the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Ordinance, Cap 287."
Response to HK's Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
Last week's very public intervention by the Government's Privacy Commissioner regarding the Webb-site Who's Who database raises important implications for the freedom in Hong Kong to compile, publish, and even access compilations of public domain data on individuals. Having raised these issues, the PCPD must now clarify where we all stand. (20-Feb-2013)
HKIDs and Government secrecy
Webb-site calls on Government to abandon plans to restrict access to HKIDs, and instead to promote their use as unique identifiers of individuals and eliminate their misuse as authenticators. A media exemption would imply media controls. We launch an index of HKIDs which are already on the web. The Companies Registry and Land Registry should tear down the pay-wall and provide open online access to all documents. (12-Feb-2013)
Submission to HK Ombudsman on access to information and records management
Webb-site calls for a Freedom of Information Ordinance, to include provisions on government record-keeping. There should be an online freely accessible archive of records, and pay-walls on registries should be demolished. Government claims to copyright should also be scrapped - we have already paid for what they produce, and it should not be commercial anyway. (12-Feb-2013)
TCWF v LKKS, STL & OIL
HK Court of Appeal, 24-Dec-2012
These are the detailed reasons for the decision referred to in the SCMP's article of 7-Dec-2012; the Court of Appeal says that the matter of disclosure of the earlier judgment for enforcement purposes is for the Court of First Instance to decide. Upholding open justice, the court declines to hold this hearing in private: "Whatever might be said in this hearing should not (and we have made sure it did not) reveal...more than that which is already in the public domain."
Government secrecy in land tenders
Since March, we've been quietly trying to persuade Government to increase transparency in land tenders, rather than publishing meaningless lists of shell bidders, often with unknown owners. The Government responded that information on who stands behind bidders was "unnecessary". That's inconsistent with its requirement that estate agents report possible money-laundering, and the secrecy also strengthens perceptions of collusion and protection of the developer cartel. (9-Nov-2012)
China keeps up block on Bloomberg website
Financial Times, 30-Jul-2012
What better endorsement of a publication can there be, than when a Government of 1.3 billion people blocks it rather than dispute any of its content?
Your ID number is not a password
There is a common misconception that HK identity card numbers are secrets, a misconception that Government is promoting by its policy actions, putting us on the road to increased abuse of the HKID and higher economic losses from fraud. To prevent this, the register of ID numbers and names should be published, after a transition to allow commercial abusers to stop abusing the ID for authentication. This article also looks at the unfulfilled potential of the Smart ID Card, including biometric authentication and electronic money. (8-Nov-2010)
The Prize for China
We look at what Liu Xiaobo's 2010 Nobel Peace Prize could mean for the future of the Chinese leadership and the future prosperity of the people in a more open society. Will the next Chinese winner be a leader, not a dissident? (9-Oct-2010)
The fictitious spokesman
We look at the HK Government's media management strategy, involving abuse of unattributed briefings, and the quotation of imaginary spokespersons, 97.3% of whom are male. The HK media should put a stop to this practice. (28-Feb-2010)
SDI breaches go dark at SFC
The SFC has quietly stopped disclosing details of successful prosecutions for failure to disclose shareholdings, including the name of the offender and the company involved. This is important information for investors, and we urge them to reinstate it. We also look at its questionable and inconsistent policy of redacting names from historic press releases. (6-Oct-2009)
Who is the Bauhinia Foundation?
We look into the Bauhinia Foundation, a tycoon-funded lobby group with an increasingly cosy relationship with Government, and the people behind it. BF refuses to disclose who funds it, or publish its accounts, claiming to be both private and a tax-exempt "trust of public character" at the same time. Who is making policy for HK - the Government, or a secretly-funded lobby group? (13-Jun-2008)
Is Tibet entitled to self-determination?
This is the article by Senior Counsel Paul Harris originally commissioned by Hong Kong Lawyer, the journal of the Law Society, the Editorial Board of which approved, but then U-turned and decided not to publish. In the interests of freedom of speech and debate that are cornerstones of HK's success, Webb-site.com is publishing it instead. (26-Apr-2008)
HK Government intervenes in journalism
Was overseas coverage of HK's Handover anniversary too much and too positive? Webb-site.com exposes the Hong Kong Government's junket journalism programme, spending taxpayers' money flying journalists here, putting them up in 5-star hotels, and biasing the coverage of HK affairs. (14-Jul-2007)
In a bizarre case, a judge first issued a ruling against an appeal, and then retracted it and allowed the appeal hours later, after being reminded that his judgement did not tally with statements made in the hearing 9 months earlier. The first judgement does not appear online - until now, that is. Webb-site.com is publishing it in the interests of transparency. (7-Jun-2006)
Government 'sanitizes' LegCo Cyber Report
In a test of the flimsy Code on Access to Information, Webb-site.com has been quietly battling to obtain the Cyberport accounts. We can now reveal that the Government has "sanitized" the financial information it recently released to LegCo. We call on Legislators to establish a Select Committee to investigate this controversial, untendered project and force disclosure of all the documents. If Government is serious about collusion with the business sector, or preventing it, then they should co-operate. (7-Feb-2005)
Government-owned Hong Kong Cyberport Development Holdings Ltd and its subsidiaries were incorporated in December 1999, but refuse to publish any of their accounts. What is the Government trying to hide? We also take a look at the controversial West Kowloon project, the winner of which will be determined by Government in a highly subjective process. (24-Oct-2004)
State Securities Above the Law
In another Webb-site.com
exclusive, five years after the market intervention, an investor with over HK$87bn of stocks has claimed exemption from the new law which protect investors in Hong Kong, which includes disclosure, insider dealing and market manipulation. The Government claim comes from a written response to questions we raised at the MTRC AGM. We look at the implications. (8-Jun-2003)
HK Court of Appeal, 1-Jan-2002
previously reported a judgment, handed down in 2002, which named and involves this person. We have a copy. The name in the online version of the judgment was removed by the judiciary in 2012. In Aug-2014, the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data ordered us to remove our report, thereby censoring our archives and leaving us with published information that we cannot tell you. We have removed the report, including a hyperlink and the exact judgment date, pending an appeal in the interests of freedom of speech, the media and publication in Hong Kong.
SFC suspends Mr Ho Chung Ming for 4 months due to dishonesty conviction
An SFC spokesman said "It is important for investors to be aware of the history of the intermediaries that they are dealing with so that they can make an informed decision" - but unfortunately, they do not uniquely identify the "Ho Chung Ming" involved or say where he works.
HK Court of Final Appeal, 1-Jan-2001
previously reported a judgment, handed down in 2001, which named and involves this person. We have a copy. The name in the online version of the judgment was removed by the judiciary in 2010. In Aug-2014, the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data ordered us to remove our report, thereby censoring our archives and leaving us with published information that we cannot tell you. We have removed the report, including a hyperlink and the exact judgment date, pending an appeal in the interests of freedom of speech, the media and publication in Hong Kong.
Eastweek Publisher Ltd & Eastweek Ltd v PCPD
HK Court of Appeal, 28-Mar-2000
The Court of Appeal quashes the Enforcement Notice, pointing out that photographs taken and published of people whom the publisher does not identify (or even know the identity of) are not "personal data" within the meaning of the PDPO. The fact that people who already know the person can recognise them in the photos does not mean that the publisher has identified them; the reader has.
Town Planning Bill
Guest writer Nicholas Brooke, Chairman of Brooke International and a member of the Town Planning Board, examines the proposals in the new Town Planning Bill and calls for the meetings of the board to be opened to the public. (2-Feb-2000)
HK Court of Appeal, 1-Jan-2000
previously reported a judgment, handed down in 2000, which named and involves this person. We have a copy. The name in the online version of the judgment was removed by the judiciary in 2010. In Aug-2014, the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data ordered us to remove our report, thereby censoring our archives and leaving us with published information that we cannot tell you. We have removed the report, including a hyperlink and the exact judgment date, pending an appeal in the interests of freedom of speech, the media and publication in Hong Kong.