Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Handover anniversary: Hong Kong gov’t may pass journalists’ personal data to police

Hong Kong’s journalism watchdog has penned an open letter to the government, expressing concern that the personal details of reporters covering official events at the 20th anniversary of the city’s transfer of sovereignty may be shared with the police.

Consenting to sharing details with law enforcement agencies is a new requirement from the Information Services Department (ISD), said the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA).

HKJA Hong Kong Journalists Association

Requests for personal details and consent form for journalists.

Details of journalists that could potentially shared with all law enforcement agencies include phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and photographs.

The new requirements have surfaced amid rumours that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong during the Handover anniversary on July 1. But Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah remained tight-lipped when asked in the legislature on Wednesday whether the rumours were true.

‘Verification and accreditation purposes’

The registration form sent by the ISD to Hong Kong media outlets asks that journalists consent to the sharing of their personal details with the Home Affairs Bureau’s Celebrations Coordination Office, which is responsible for Handover events.

“I also understand that the Celebrations Coordination Office may refer such information to law enforcement agencies and other relevant department/agencies of the HKSAR Government as necessary for identity verification and accreditation purposes,” it read.

However, in an open letter to the ISD on Wednesday, the HKJA said that the referral of details to law enforcement is at odds with past government press accreditation practice.

各大傳媒機構昨日起需向政府新聞處就回歸二十周年活動報名。但報名表格訂明傳媒報名資料會交予執法當局。記協已去信政府新聞處處長黃智祖,要求對方撤回做法;並要求網媒能參與採訪七一回歸活動。…

Nai-post ni 香港記者協會 Hong Kong Journalists Association noong Miyerkules, Hunyo 14, 2017

During the One Belt One Road forum attended by China’s number three official Zhang Dejiang, journalists were required to submit personal data to the ISD and present their identity cards for entrance into venues. “There was no suggestion of police involvement in this process,” said the HKJA.

“There is no justification in changing the accreditation practice that has served every party well over the years,” added the watchdog.

“The personal data provided should be sufficient in identity verification while the meticulous security check and bag search at the door step of the venue would keep the event free from any hazard.”

Digital media ban

The HKJA’s letter also asked the government to change its policy banning digital media outlets – such as HKFP – from all official events and press conferences.

“None of [the digital outlets] have received any invitation to register for the event so far.”

press freedom

File photo: HKFP.

Hong Kong’s High Court is currently processing the HKJA’s judicial review in March to challenge the constitutionality of the government’s digital media access ban. A hearing will be conducted at a later date.

See also: Court refuses to order Hong Kong gov’t to lift election day ban on digital news outlets

Last year, the Ombudsman also called upon the government to review its practice and draw up guidelines as soon as possible.

HKFP has contacted the ISD and the Celebrations Coordination Office for comment.

Handover anniversary: Hong Kong gov't may pass journalists' personal data to police