Hong Kong Law & Crime

Hong Kong lawmakers and NGOs welcome plan for law against voyeurism and upskirt photography

The Law Reform Commission (LRC) has recommended enacting new laws against voyeurism and upskirt photography to address a loophole left by a recent court ruling.

Hong Kong has no law that specifically tackles voyeurism or “upskirting,” according to an LRC report published on Tuesday. University of Hong Kong law lecturer Eric Cheung, who is part of the LRC subcommittee behind the report, said there was a pressing need to address the issue.

“This is a special case… We have conducted comprehensive consultation on these two recommendations, and we have found broad consensus and support,” Cheung told an RTHK radio programme on Thursday.

Eric Cheung

Eric Cheung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The LRC released a consultation paper on the topic last August, though the work to review Hong Kong’s sexual offences began as early as 2006.

Following the example from England, the report suggested defining voyeurism as “non-consensual observation or visual recording of another person for a sexual purpose.” It also recommended setting up two offences for non-consensual upskirt-photography, so that the act is criminalised no matter if it is for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Prior to April, the Department of Justice had prosecuted cases of upskirt photography using section 161 of the Crimes Ordinance – “access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent.” The charge has been criticised as being a “catch-all” mechanism that prosecutors use for a range of offences.

However, the Court of Final Appeal ruled on April 4 that the charge was not meant to cover a person using their own devices.

The Court of Final Appeal.

The Court of Final Appeal. File photo: GovHK.

The LRC recommended legislation in its report, but did not specify a schedule or penalties.

Linda Wong, executive director of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women (ACSVAW), said on Thursday that the group supported the report.

“I appreciate the [proposed] amendment by the Law Reform Commission,” Wong said. “We also receive a lot of questions from women, for example, whether the law can tackle women being photographed while breastfeeding?”

There may still be some behaviours that the proposed offences do not cover, such as photographing down a woman’s blouse.

Cheung agreed that some “grey areas” will remain despite the LRC’s recommendations. For example, it is unclear if the voyeurism charge will cover the celebrity scandal last month, where a camera recorded interactions between Andy Hui and Jacqueline Wong in the backseat of a car.

Upskirt photo

Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

“We have to be careful, is there a possibility that the law will overreach… or cause other unforeseen problems? It is true that our recommendations did not target taxis,” he said.

Cheung said one solution could be for the government to amend the rules and regulations on taxis.

The LRC report has also been welcomed by government officials, with both Secretary for Security John Lee and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo calling for swift legislation.

Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat from the pro-Beijing DAB party also said she hopes the law can be in place within the current Legislative Council term.


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Hong Kong lawmakers and NGOs welcome plan for law against voyeurism and upskirt photography