Articles: Free speech & transparency

Critics of China economy risk backlash from regulators
Straits Times Singapore, 5-May-2016
HK journalists, academics fear new requirement when using online companies register
South China Morning Post, 2-May-2016
Moody's says it will appeal against HK tribunal decision on "red flags" report
Reuters, 28-Apr-2016
SFAT's red flag on Moody's chills negative research
We look at what the SFAT's ruling and the SFC's action says about the future of Hong Kong as a place in which freedom of debate and negative criticism is becoming increasingly difficult. (8-Apr-2016)
Webb on "Backchat" re Panama Papers
RTHK, 6-Apr-2016
One registration, two companies
Webb-site reveals how a UK company registered in HK and then swapped names with another one, which illegally kept the HK registration. That company is now a subsidiary of UK-listed Cobham plc. (7-Mar-2016)
Deception behind the Companies Registry paywall
On International Open Data Day, we reveal a network of knock-off companies using the CIBC, Credit Suisse and BNP brands, based in HK with subsidiaries in the UK and New Zealand. If those registries were not free and open, the deception would remain undiscovered. We call on HK Registrar Ada Chung to tear down this paywall. (5-Mar-2016)
Seeking the wisdom of crowds
Webb-site is proud to launch the World's first crowd-sourced governance ratings system. Now, with a single click, any logged-in user can anonymously contribute to the average rating of an organisation, including listed companies, governments and others. Also we are launching Webb-site Trust Ratings, where users can rate their trust in company directors, politicians, financial advisers or anyone they can find in Webb-site Who's Who. The system will only be as useful as users make it, so let's get started! (1-Feb-2016)
Keeping public data public: the right to remember Video
These are the slides of a presentation by David Webb to the Foreign Correspondents' Club today. (12-Jan-2016)
HK companies see record closures, slowest growth since 2003
Webb-site reveals that 2015 saw the slowest net growth in HK companies since the recession of 2003 and record levels of dissolution. Market forces may still be alive though, with about half of 2007's companies already closed, despite the Government's increasing intervention. We don't need an Innovation and Technology Bureau, but we do need removal of Government barriers to information and competition - and they could start by removing the paywall on public registries. (2-Jan-2016)
Another HK worker at anti-Beijing bookshop 'disappears'
BBC, 1-Jan-2016
FIFA investigates HK over China match booing
BBC, 25-Nov-2015
Doesn't FIFA have enough problems without penalising HKFA for free speech of fans?
Hong Kong's Memory Hole
Wall Street Journal, 20-Nov-2015
AAB rejects Webb-site appeal of redaction order
In a chilling decision for media freedom in HK, the AAB has rejected our appeal of the Privacy Commissioner's order to remove from Webb-site Reports information obtained from published judgments, ruling that "reporting and publication for general use" is not an allowed purpose. Constitutional aspects, such as the necessity of a restriction on free speech that does not apply to overseas online publishers, were barely covered. We look at the consequences and options. (30-Oct-2015)
Alex Lo: Time for HK's privacy commissioner to go
South China Morning Post, 14-Jul-2015
HK privacy watchdog’s order to remove names from website would create an ‘Orwellian memory hole’, says market analyst
South China Morning Post, 13-Jul-2015
David Webb appeals against ban on publishing names Newswrap audio clip
RTHK, 13-Jul-2015
Webb to defend HK media freedom in landmark appeal
In a public hearing on 13-Jul-2015, Webb-site's founder, editor and publisher will appeal against an Enforcement Notice issued by the Privacy Commissioner which, if upheld, would have wide-ranging implications for freedom of speech and publication in HK and access to media archives of HK-based publishers. (4-Jul-2015)
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".
Daily Mail list of articles forgotten by Google
Daily Mail, UK, 13-Feb-2015
Your right to know.
Telegraph list of articles forgotten by Google
Telegraph, UK, 26-Jan-2015
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)
SFAT sets Moody's hearing for 10-12-Sep-2015
SFC, 8-Jan-2015
Deacons: Status of Personal Data lawfully in the Public Domain
Company web site, 8-Jan-2015
SFC actions risk chilling critics
A New Year's Eve SFAT ruling reveals an SFC action against Moody's for its 2011 "red flags" report, following the recent launch of MMT action against a short-selling analyst. The SFC risks chilling publication of critical opinion and analysis - something we would hate to stop doing. We will be watching the cases carefully. (1-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.
The right to remember: keeping public data public
The slides from a speech by Webb-site founder David Webb to the AGM of the Hong Kong Library Assocation tonight. (5-Dec-2014)
Freedom of Speech v Privacy - can public domain information be private?
These are the slides of a presentation by Webb-site founder David Webb to a Year 12 (Form 6) school class today. (25-Nov-2014)
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 Video
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)
Press watchdog rejects complaint over ‘right to be forgotten’ story
HoldTheFrontPage, 5-Sep-2014
'Right to be forgotten' is misguided in principle and unworkable in practice, say Lords
UK Parliament, 30-Jul-2014
Man who wished to be forgotten is remembered after Google complaint
Guardian, 4-Jul-2014
Google erases local newspaper story under ‘right to be forgotten’ law
HoldTheFrontPage, 4-Jul-2014
Google removes first Oxford story about Robert Daniels-Dwyer's conviction for shoplifting under Right To Be Forgotten ruling
Oxford Mail, 3-Jul-2014
Why has Google cast me into oblivion?
BBC, 2-Jul-2014
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)
HK media worries over China’s reach as ads disappear
New York Times, 11-Jun-2014
HK's outspoken media chiefs are facing growing intimidation
Sydney Morning Herald, 31-May-2014
In this article, Next Media spokesman Mark Simon alleges that HSBC and Standard Chartered have ended their advertising on request from Beijing.
Webb on "Backchat" re Google v Spain and the right to remember
RTHK, 15-May-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)
Video: interview with Ben Richardson, former Bloomberg editor
CNN, 31-Mar-2014
Bloomberg editor resigns over handling of China story
CNN, 29-Mar-2014
Outgoing China editor Ben Richardson says Bloomberg News tried to muzzle him
International Business Times, 28-Mar-2014
Another Bloomberg editor explains why he has resigned, over its China coverage
The Atlantic, 26-Mar-2014
Editor Ben Richardson leaves Bloomberg, citing China coverage
New York Times, 24-Mar-2014
Ben Richardson quits Bloomberg News over handling of investigative piece
JimRomenesko.com, 24-Mar-2014
Bloomberg hints at curb on articles about China
New York Times, 20-Mar-2014
Bloomberg in China: 'We Have to Be There'
Asia Society, 20-Mar-2014
Magazines dispute privacy orders over nude and intimate photos of TVB stars
South China Morning Post, 19-Mar-2014
FCC condemns attack against former Ming Pao Editor
Company media release, 26-Feb-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)?
HKJA condemns attack on Kevin Lau, Former Chief Editor of Ming Pao
Company media release, 26-Feb-2014
Sky TV reporter on Xu Zhiyong trial pushed around by Chinese police (video)
Sky TV, 22-Jan-2014
China activist lawyer Xu Zhiyong on trial
BBC, 22-Jan-2014
With video of China's plain-clothes heavies moving the reporter away.
China cracks down on CNN crew (video)
CNN, 22-Jan-2014
New York Times hires Bloomberg reporter in China controversy
New York Times, 12-Jan-2014
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.
Bloomberg News suspends reporter whose article on China was not published
New York Times, 17-Nov-2013
Pulitzer winner Bennett leaving Bloomberg
Talking Biz News, 13-Nov-2013
At Bloomberg, special code keeps some articles out of China
New York Times, 13-Nov-2013
Bloomberg News is said to curb articles that might anger China
New York Times, 8-Nov-2013
"A system has been in place that allows editors to add an internal prepublication code to some articles to ensure that they do not appear on terminals in China, two employees said".
Webb-site opens airport slot data
HK needs a full debate about how we optimally allocate scarce resources, whether it is radio spectrum for mobile phones and broadcasting, or in this case, for takeoff and landing slots at HK's airport. To facilitate that debate, Webb-site is today decrypting the Civil Aviation Department's slot data and calling for it to be added to the Data.One government portal in a machine-readable format. (9-Sep-2013)
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."
Property tycoon fails to hush up son's HK$1.2b divorce appeal
South China Morning Post, 17-Jul-2013
HK drops new law restricting access to directors’ details
Bloomberg, 29-Mar-2013
HK plan to limit public data on directors put on hold
New York Times, 28-Mar-2013
Govt shelves company information plan
RTHK, 28-Mar-2013
Interview with David Webb
HK Magazine, 7-Mar-2013
Of privacy and opacity
Economist, 1-Mar-2013
Webb on "The Pulse" (TV) re freedom of publication in HK (at 05:57)
RTHK, 22-Feb-2013
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)
HKID index suspended: A special message from our Founder
 (15-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)
Webb on "Backchat" re tunnel tolls and (at 45:30) directors' secrecy
RTHK, 30-Jan-2013
Fear, fury over HK corporate privacy proposals
CNN, 28-Jan-2013
HK's plans to protect corporate data spark backlash (video)
Reuters, 23-Jan-2013
HK reconsiders changes to corporate database
New York Times, 16-Jan-2013
Cayman Islands too far away? Just build your own
Bloomberg, 15-Jan-2013
HK journalists call for withdrawal of planned privacy law
Bloomberg, 10-Jan-2013
FCC letter of concern on a proposed change to the Companies Ordinance
Media release, 10-Jan-2013
HK Journalists Association strongly opposes withholding of directors data from public
Media release, 9-Jan-2013
HK moves to limit information on executives
New York Times, 9-Jan-2013
HK proposes law making it harder to identify directors Your ID number is not a password
Bloomberg, 8-Jan-2013
See our article of 8-Nov-2010 for comments from us, and the Law Society, on why the Government should not be obfuscating ID numbers.
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?
China's 'memory holes' swallow up Melissa Chan
BBC, 9-May-2012
Al Jazeera English forced out of China
Al Jazeera, 9-May-2012
Chinese official questioned about Al Jazeera reporter's expulsion
Voice of America, 8-May-2012
Investigation Report: Unfair Collection of Two Artistes' Personal Data by Face Magazine Ltd
HK Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, 28-Mar-2012
Investigation Report: Unfair Collection of an Artiste's Personal Data by Sudden Weekly Ltd
HK Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, 28-Mar-2012
Oriental Press Group Ltd, Ma Ching Kwan & others v Fevaworks Solutions Ltd & Alive! Media & Communications Ltd
HK Court of First Instance, 25-Feb-2011
In this libel case, the court finds that the operators of an internet discussion forum were mere "subordinate distributors" and as such the defence of innocent dissemination is open to them, but they lose that defence if they fail to remove defamatory material after they become aware of it.
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)
Post-service Employment of Civil Servants
Watching the Leung Chin Man case, we discovered that the not-so-public register of approved employment of ex-senior civil servants is only available offline, and entries are "unpublished" as soon as people quit. This must be the only government in the world which tries to make official secrets out of public documents rather than vice versa. To improve transparency, we are now putting the register online, along with annual reports of the advisory committee from 1990 to 2003. (8-Oct-2009)
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)
Justice Flip-flop
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)
Cyberport Secrets
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)
Report censored
HK Court of Appeal, 1-Jan-2002
Webb-site Reports 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
SFC, 31-Jul-2001
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.
Report censored
HK Court of Final Appeal, 1-Jan-2001
Webb-site Reports 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: costs
HK Court of Appeal, 16-May-2000
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 - In reality, only a half way house
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)
Report censored
HK Court of Appeal, 1-Jan-2000
Webb-site Reports 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.

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