Press Release



Speech by Acting Director of Information Technology Services


Following is the full text of the speech by the Acting Director of Information Technology Services, Mr Cheng Yan-chee, at a seminar presenting the Hong Kong Supplementary Charactre Set organised by the Information Technolgy Services Department today (Tuesday):

Today I am very pleased to announce the release of the Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set (HKSCS), and to introduce the work progress of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on establishing a common interface for Chinese information processing and exchange.

The current critical issues of using the Chinese language in electronic communication revolve around the existence of multiple standards and the reliance on only a subset of Chinese characters which are commonly used. In view of these limitations, users need to assign internal codes on their own for the characters not covered by the coding schemes. This works well in stand-alone computers; but when computers are connected to a wider network, end-user developed characters give rise to problem in inaccurate data exchange.

The Information Technology Services Department (ITSD) and the Official Languages Agency (OLA) have worked closely in developing the Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set (HKSCS) to address this problem. The HKSCS contains HKSAR's unique characters for Chinese computer systems such as proper nouns and characters used in Cantonese expressions. Code point assignments of HKSCS in the User-Defined Area of BIG 5, and in the ISO 10646 or in its Private Use Area have also been made.

To facilitate electronic communication within Government, a set of Chinese characters, i.e. the Government Common Character Set (GCCS) was jointly developed by the ITSD and the OLA in 1995. The GCCS encompassed characters which were used in Hong Kong but had not been included in the BIG 5 coding scheme. The Government also made GCCS freely available on the Government website. There are around 10,000 downloads of GCCS from Government's website by Internet users each month.

HKSCS is an updated version of the GCCS. The target user of HKSCS is not limited to government departments. We expect that the updated character set will be widely adopted in the community, and a new name is thus given to the updated version. As the updated character set has included the characters collected from the various sectors of the community, the HKSCS shall be able to better meet the needs in Chinese information processing in Hong Kong.

I would like to call on the Chinese applications vendors to actively develop products that support the HKSCS. This helps the public in using the HKSCS and will expedite the wider adoption of this local standard. The specification document of the HKSCS, the corresponding tools, and its latest information are available in the web site of the HKSCS. The specification of HKSCS is also available from the CD-ROM distributed to you just now.

I hope that this local standard would be widely adopted in the Hong Kong community so as to enhance the accuracy of data exchange in Chinese language computing.

The Government of the HKSAR is going to adopt ISO 10646 as the coding standard of the characters for Chinese computer systems in Hong Kong. We are now working closely with other governments and institutions under the aegis of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in the development of the ISO 10646 standard. This is an international coding standard which aims at developing one single common character set to encompass the characters of all languages. The current version of the ISO 10646 standard has defined more than 20,000 ideographic characters. It is estimated that the next version will cover more than 60,000 ideographic characters. We are actively working within the framework of the ISO to have the Hong Kong characters for Chinese computer system included in this international standard. When the new version of ISO 10646 is published, we expect that, as a superset of all known coding schemes, it will form the basis of data conversion and exchange between the various coding schemes and will ease the existing limitations of Chinese language computing.

With the ISO 10646 codes listed in the HKSCS, we hope that it will be more convenient for the vendors to develop products transiting from the BIG 5 coding scheme to ISO 10646 standard, and help promote the adoption of the new standard.

To help establish and promote a common interface for Chinese information processing and exchange in Hong Kong, ITSD set up the Chinese Language Interface Advisory Committee (CLIAC) in May 1999. Its membership comprises linguists, vendors and users of Chinese language computing.

There are two working groups under CLIAC, namely, the Working Group on Characters for Chinese Computer Systems with Dr. K. H. CHEUNG as convenor and the Working Group on Chinese Information Processing with Dr. Qin LU as convenor.

The compilation of HKSCS was completed with invaluable assistance from the members of CLIAC and its Working Groups. I would like to thank them for their contribution.

To facilitate an efficient coordination of all sectors with regard to their need for characters for Chinese computer systems, CLIAC is looking into the establishment of a mechanism to collect, validate and manage such characters in future.

CLIAC will also study the feasibility of legislative measures for defining the characters for Chinese computer systems in Hong Kong, for example, the need for regulations governing the usage of characters in electronic transaction or the usage of new characters in names of persons.

In addition, CLIAC will study the ways to handle the problems of characters for Chinese computer systems arising from the transition to the ISO 10646 standard. The relationship between the traditional Chinese characters and the simplified Chinese characters is an example of such kind of problems.

I believe that this presentation forum will enhance the understanding of the standardization of the Chinese language interface which will facilitate Chinese information processing and data exchange.

Thank you.

End/Tuesday, September 28, 1999