Accessing HK's Code on Access to Information -
2019 Update

accessinfo.hk

 

Guy Freeman, 19th February 2019

Right to Information

In a democracy it is essential that people can access a wide range of information in order to participate in a real and effective way in the matters that affect them.

Public bodies are – or should be – acting as “servants of the people”. That’s why we all have the right of access to the information held by public bodies on our behalf.

International standards and jurisprudence have confirmed that this information belongs to the public.

From https://www.access-info.org/right-to-know:

Right to Information

We don't know yet, because Hong Kong doesn't yet have an RTI law

How good is Hong Kong's RTI law?

However, Hong Kong already has a framework implementing RTI

Hong Kong has a "a formal framework for access to information held by government departments":

the Code of Access to Information

which is available at access.gov.hk

What can I request under the Code?

You can ask for any information from any Government department!

Except when it's exempt. Clear?

What can I request under the Code?

1.14: The Code does not oblige departments to -
  • acquire information not in their possession
  • create a record which does not exist
  • provide on request information which is already published, either free or at a charge, or
  • provide information available through an existing charged service.

So how do I make a request under this Code?

1.11 Written requests may be made by letter [...] and should be addressed to the Access to Information Officer of the department concerned.

That's a little too 19th-century for me.

So how do I make a request under this Code?

My answer:

accessinfo.hk

Why should I use accessinfo.hk to make a request?

  • No need to find contact information of an "Access to Information Officer", just the name of the department
  • Electronic: access from anywhere
  • Public, so transparent/accountable
  • Public, so information available to everyone

How do I use accessinfo.hk to make a request?

Now what?

Help maintain and improve accessinfo.hk

  • Complete translation into Chinese(s)
  • Ensure custom text for Hong Kong is accurate, especially any legal text
  • Spread the word!
  • Volunteer to assist users

Now what?

Let's start using accessinfo.hk to open up the HK Government

  • This is only a "political" site in a narrow sense; it is only making it easier to make requests under the Government's own Code on Access to Information
  • It is our right to access the information!
  • If you feel the Government is unnecessarily opaque, use this site to get them to open up

Now what?

New proposed law will have some effects of accessinfo.hk

  • Although the Code on Access to Information was not statutory, I found it mostly worked well, or at least not very different from, e.g., the UK situation
  • The devil is in the details when it comes to the new proposed law; worst possible change will be charging just to make a request, which would kill accessinfo.hk

Now what?

New proposed law will have some effect

  • Timetable of responding to requests not clearly addressed in consultation paper, but necessary for accessinfo.hk to send reminders
  • Internal reviews can hopefully be done as now, by just asking for it!
  • Communication with Ombudsman should be electronic...!?

Accessing HK's Code on Access to Information - 2019 update

By slygent

Accessing HK's Code on Access to Information - 2019 update

accessinfo.hk in 2019

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