LCQ1: Use of closed-circuit television systems to assist in law enforcement
It has been reported that in recent years, the Police have detected a number of crime cases of great public concern by taking advantage of the clues obtained from the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footages near the crime scenes and such footages have constituted crucial evidence in the trials concerned. On the other hand, some members of the public have relayed to me that the installation of CCTV systems is conducive to reducing traffic contraventions. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current number of CCTV systems installed in public places by government departments; whether the authorities will install more CCTV systems in various crime black spots to enhance the deterrent effect and assist in law enforcement;
(2) of the number of crime cases detected in the past 10 years by various law enforcement departments by taking advantage of the clues obtained from CCTV footages; and
(3) whether the authorities will conduct a study on the installation of CCTV systems at bus termini, road junctions with yellow box markings, locations where illegal parking is frequent and traffic black spots to assist the Police in taking law enforcement actions against traffic contraventions; whether the authorities will consider amending the relevant legislation to expressly provide that CCTV footages can be taken as sufficient evidence to prove traffic contraventions such as illegal parking and stopping on yellow box markings?
Closed circuit television (CCTV) systems can video-film and monitor specified areas 24 hours a day and certain systems are equipped with recording function, helping to enhance security and prevent crime. Therefore, CCTV systems are commonly used for security and monitoring purposes in many private buildings, shopping arcades, government buildings and public facilities, etc. In addition, the Government has been using CCTV cameras to monitor traffic conditions. My consolidated reply to Hon Michael Tien's question is as follows:
Currently, many government departments, such as the Transport Department (TD), Housing Department (HD), Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), Immigration Department (ImmD), and Customs and Excise Department (C&ED), etc, have installed CCTV cameras in areas under their purview or in public places.
TD has set up CCTV cameras on roads with busy traffic throughout the territory and within government road tunnels and control areas for the purpose of traffic monitoring. HD has installed CCTV cameras at various locations of public housing estates, shopping arcades, carparks and construction sites for security, anti-theft and monitoring purposes, including CCTV cameras under the Falling Object Monitoring System, commonly called the "eyes in the sky". LCSD has set up CCTV cameras at its venues for maintaining public safety, assisting in crowd control and monitoring operation of the venues. FEHD has installed Internet Protocol (IP) cameras at six refuse dumping blackspots to strengthen the monitoring of illegal dumping of refuse. EPD has set up surveillance cameras at eight fly-tipping blackspots of construction waste and plans to install more surveillance camera systems at other blackspots.
In addition, HKPF have installed CCTV cameras along the land boundary and Hong Kong waters for boundary security, anti-smuggling purpose and anti-illegal immigration purpose, etc. During large-scale public order events, HKPF would set up temporary CCTV systems at strategic locations, such as places where large crowds would appear, in order to know about the flow and movement of crowds as well as adopt corresponding crowd management measures. These temporary systems are not equipped with recording function and will be removed as soon as possible after the events in accordance with operational needs. Separately, to monitor crowd and vehicle movements at immigration control points and the operation of e-Channels as well as for security purpose, ImmD and C&ED have also installed CCTV cameras at the control points.
All the above government departments have internal guidelines with stringent regulations which only allow authorised officers to use CCTV systems. The guidelines also ensure that the use of CCTV systems and the handling of recorded images as well as video footages comply with the regulations of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) (Cap 486). We do not maintain statistics of CCTV cameras installed by all government departments.
On traffic enforcement, TD has installed speed enforcement camera housings and red light cameras at various locations across the territory to combat speeding and red light jumping. HKPF has also been using radar camera system and laser speed-detection equipment. These systems and equipment possess photo-taking and speed-detection functions but are not CCTV systems.
Currently, relevant government departments are studying proposals relating to the application of information technology, including CCTV cameras, for the monitoring and prosecution of traffic contraventions, such as illegal parking, illegal picking up/setting down of passengers and loading/unloading of goods, including examining the legal and technical feasibilities of installing such systems for prosecution purposes, and the additional resources required for installing and operating such systems, etc. The objectives are to make use of new technologies to assist frontline officers to take enforcement actions against traffic contraventions and to enhance the efficiency of back-end support processes. Where necessary, the Government will propose legislative amendments to support such enforcement work.
In respect of crime investigation, CCTV footages may have recorded how a criminal case happened as well as the faces and special features of offenders and victims, thereby providing law enforcement departments with important clues for investigation. Such CCTV footages were even important evidence in some cases during prosecution and in conviction. We do not maintain the total number of crimes which were detected with the help of CCTV footages. However, I can provide one example. In the case in which a media practitioner was assaulted on February 26, 2014, police investigators have identified two suspects after analysing footages of CCTV cameras at the crime scene and nearby. During trial, the prosecution played various CCTV footages in the courtroom and such footages were accepted by the court as evidence. The two suspects were convicted and sentenced to 19-year imprisonment.
President, we have noticed that there are opinions in the community which suggest that Hong Kong should follow the practice of certain overseas cities such as London in permanently installing CCTV systems in various public places for the purpose of maintaining overall law and order. These systems can also deter criminals from committing crime in these places, assist the police in crime investigation and address the threat of terrorist attacks.
We maintain an open mind towards these opinions. However, at the same time, we must also carefully consider in detail the relevant legal purposes, necessity and protection of privacy. As a matter of fact, PDPO clearly stipulates that personal data shall not be collected unless the data is collected for a lawful purpose directly related to a function or activity of the data user who is to use the data; the collection of the data is necessary for or directly related to that purpose; and the data is adequate but not excessive in relation to that purpose.
In March this year, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data issued the latest version of its Guidance on CCTV Surveillance and Use of Drones (Guidance), which offers advice on determining whether CCTV should be used in given circumstances and how to use CCTV responsibly. The Guidance states that before using CCTV, we should carry out a privacy impact assessment, taking into account at least the following three factors: First, are the design and use of the CCTV system appropriate, necessary and proportionate for the given circumstances? Second, are there other less privacy-intrusive means than the use of CCTV to achieve the same objective? Third, has the data user acted and been seen to have acted responsibly and transparently, in terms of its policy, controls, and compliance with PDPO, in the use of CCTV? The Legislative Council Panel on Security discussed the installation of CCTV cameras in public places in April 2002 and June 2009 and some Members expressed concerns on the issue of personal privacy.
We will continue to listen to different views in the community. However, currently we do not have any plan to permanently install CCTV systems in public places for the purpose of maintaining overall law and order but not for certain specified purposes.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:05
Issued at HKT 15:05