Trial Scheme complies fully with the law

     A Government spokesman issued the following statement today (August 11):

     As always, Government is committed to fully complying with the provisions of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance in working out the details of the School Drug Testing Trial Scheme in Tai Po. The Trial Scheme is based on consent. We have been working closely with the Department of Justice in designing the Trial Scheme and are satisfied that the Trial Scheme as it now stands complies fully with the law.

     We note the concerns raised by the Privacy Commissioner in his press release and letter to the Secretary for Education yesterday (August 10). We are fully aware of the principles enshrined in the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

     As clearly spelt out by the Secretary for Education in briefing the principals and teachers of Tai Po on a preliminary proposal of the scheme, "voluntary nature" and "confidentiality" are key principles that Government would adhere to in designing the Trial Scheme.  

     One viewpoint brought out by the Privacy Commissioner is that the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance does not give parents/guardians the authority to give consent on behalf of a minor. The Privacy Commissioner also cited section 54 AA of the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance which requires both a minor and his or her parent's consent for the collection of urine specimen by law enforcement officers.

     We would emphasise that a student may still refuse to provide a specimen for drug testing even if he/she has joined the Trial Scheme and has been selected for drug testing under the Scheme. There is no question of relying only on the consent of his or her parent, or of compelling him/her to provide a specimen against his/her will.

     It should be noted that section 54 AA of the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance is applicable to law enforcement procedures. On the contrary, the Trial Scheme is designed to offer help to young people. It is not intended for prosecuting students found to have abused drugs.

     Government appreciates the Privacy Commissioner's commitment to giving recommendations on good personal data privacy practice. We would be happy to provide necessary information and work with his office as we develop further details of the scheme.

Ends/Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Issued at HKT 00:43