LCQ4: Police's handling of reports or complaints against the mass media

    Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming on police's handling of reports or complaints against the mass media in the Legislative Council today (November 21):


     It has been reported that the Police conducted an investigation on the Oriental Press Group on the first of this month, and pointed out that as a member of the public had sent an e-mail to a police station complaining about an article entitled "Don't reason with the treacherous gang, just bash them up" published by the Sun of the Group last year, the Police had therefore asked the Group to provide information about the writer concerned and the mechanism for scrutinising such kind of articles.  In 1999, the Police also conducted an investigation into a similar case involving the Group.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) in the past three years, of the number of cases in which the Police took follow-up actions in response to the complaints they received through e-mail, and the number of complaints the Government had received which concerned contents of newspaper articles or reports involving criminal violence;

(b) whether the Police were concerned about the above complaint and took follow-up actions because the complainant is a public figure; if not, how the Police verified the identity of the complainant to ascertain that such a person had lodged the complaint and conducted the investigation accordingly; and whether the Police, in conducting their investigation, had at the same time considered the above complainant's act of lodging the complaint more than a year after the article had been published; and

(c) whether it has assessed if the Police had infringed freedom of the press in exercising their power to investigate the media organisation in the above case and the impact of such action on freedom of the press and the international image of Hong Kong?


Madam President,

(a) E-mail addresses are available on the websites of the Hong Kong Police Force to facilitate members of the public to provide information on general crimes and cyber crimes.  In the past three years, the number of reports and complaints about crimes received through these e-mail addresses is as follows:

2004     2005     2006            2007
                           (January - October)
----     ----     ----     -------------------
1,574    1,422    4,173          23,544
cases    cases    cases          cases

     Regardless of whether a report or complaint is received through e-mail or other means, the Police will carry out an initial assessment, and collect background information if necessary, before deciding whether and how it should be followed up.  The Police have not kept statistics on the number of cases among the above-mentioned reports and complaints for which they have taken follow-up action.  Nor do they keep separate statistics on complaints regarding articles or reports in newspapers involving violent content.

(b) As a general rule, the Police handle reports and complaints received in accordance with the above-mentioned established procedure, irrespective of whether the complaint is made anonymously and whether the complainant or complainee is a public figure.  Even if the report or complaint is made to the Police after a period of time has lapsed following the incident, the Police are duty-bound to carry out an initial assessment based on the information available to determine whether and how follow-up action should be taken.

(c) Article 27 of the Basic Law protects residents' freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  The SAR Government and the Police respect and uphold these rights.

     As always, the Police uphold the freedom of the press and of speech strictly in accordance with the law.  They handle cases involving reports or complaints against the mass media in a prudent manner.  At the same time, for any suspected breach of the law, the Police have an obligation to give serious and impartial consideration to taking follow-up action in accordance with law.  The Police visited the media organisation concerned with a view to obtaining its co-operation in providing background information for an initial assessment.  There was absolutely no intention on the part of the Police to infringe the freedom of the press.  The procedure of collecting background information in the context of the incident concerned has not infringed the freedom of the press as protected by the Basic Law.

Ends/Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Issued at HKT 14:40