LCQ12: Installation of CCTV cameras in public transport vehicles

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (January 11):


     It has been reported that the first mainland-assembled train of the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) came into service at the end of 2011, which is equipped with a closed circuit television (CCTV) monitoring system with four cameras on each train car and a total of 32 cameras in the whole train.  According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), it has not received any written enquiry about the use of CCTVs from MTRCL.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:

(a) whether MTRCL has informed PCPD of and made enquiry about the CCTV monitoring system in its first mainland-assembled train or other trains in service in the past or at present; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether at present there is any procedure or guideline regulating the installation and use of CCTVs on public transport vehicles (e.g. whether the relevant government departments or PCPD must be notified);

(b) from 2007 onwards, the number of trains in service on each MTR rail line in each year and among them, the number and percentage of trains with CCTV monitoring system installed (list by year and rail line); whether MTRCL has any plan to install CCTV monitoring system on train cars which are not yet equipped with such system; if it has, the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) the selection mechanism adopted and the conditions taken into account by MTRCL in acquiring trains; if CCTV is a necessary condition;

(d) given that MTRCL has indicated that the CCTV monitoring system is mainly used for coping with emergency incidents, and the recorded images will be erased weekly according to the usual practice, while access to these images is restricted to certain categories of staff, yet according to PCPD, organisations which plan to use CCTVs should first consider other less privacy-intrusive alternatives, post clear notices near CCTV cameras to inform the public of the CCTV monitoring and the reasons for such monitoring, as well as erase the recorded images according to a schedule and ensure safe custody of the records, how MTRCL defines the use for coping with emergency incidents; what mechanism has been put in place by the Government and MTRCL to ensure that the CCTV monitoring systems will not be used beyond the original scope and extent, and to prevent any misuse or abuse of the CCTV monitoring systems; whether MTRCL has considered alternative means, and whether it has posted notices;

(e) as it has been reported that according to the results of an online survey conducted earlier by a concern group for sex crimes occurred on public transport vehicles to collect public views on MTRCL's measures against sexual violence, most respondents consider that MTRCL should step up monitoring measures such as installing CCTVs in train compartments, whether MTRCL will use the CCTV monitoring system to curb sex crimes; and

(f) whether CCTVs are installed in the train cars or compartments of various kinds of public transport vehicles in Hong Kong; if so, of the details, together with the respective numbers of compartments in various categories of public transport vehicles which are equipped with CCTVs and the percentages of such numbers in the total number of train cars or compartments of the respective categories; whether the operators of these public transport vehicles have enquired PCPD in respect of the installation of CCTVs; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether public transport operators which have not installed CCTVs on their vehicles have any plan to install such devices?


     The replies to various parts of the question are as follows:

(a) According to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) does not require public transport service providers which intend to install closed circuit television (CCTV) system in their facilities to submit their proposal to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) for consideration.

     Where the use of a CCTV system involves compilation of personal data, the data user would be required to comply with requirements under the PDPO.  In this connection, PCPD has issued "Guidance on CCTV in Surveillance Practices" to organisations of various sectors in July 2010, which provides practical guidance on matters such as proper consideration to be given in deciding whether or not to install CCTV system, how it may be installed to minimise intrusion into personal data privacy, and the proper handling of images recorded.

     The main purpose for MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) to install CCTV system in MTR train compartments is to enable the train captain to immediately understand the situation in the train compartment through the CCTV system and provide prompt assistance, when passengers activate the in-train intercom where necessary.  Notices have been put up in train compartments to inform passengers that the CCTV system has been installed on trains.

     According to MTRCL, the relevant principles for compilation of personal data under the PDPO have been taken into consideration when installing CCTV in train compartments.  At the same time, MTRCL has stringent regulatory procedures in place allowing only authorised persons to review CCTV recordings when necessary.

(b) The existing number of trains in service on each MTR line and the number of trains installed with CCTV system are set out in the Annex.

     MTRCL does not have plan to install CCTV system in trains currently without CCTV.

(c) The new trains purchased by MTRCL have been designed according to international safety standards and MTRCL's usual stringent requirements for performance and safety.  All of the trains' systems and their integrated operation are professionally designed to ensure compatibility with the fail-safe operation of the existing MTR system.  The Corporation will also introduce appropriate facilities with the advancement of technology when purchasing new trains to enhance operational efficiency and service quality.

     Currently, CCTV equipment is installed on all new trains purchased by MTRCL.  As a matter of fact, other international railway operators also include CCTV as a standard technical specification when purchasing new trains for urban railway systems.

(d) and (e) Under emergency circumstances, train captains can immediately understand the situation inside train compartments to provide assistance should passengers activate the in-train intercom system.

     If recording function is available in the CCTV system installed in train compartments, recordings are made in a continuous loop, with old images automatically being covered up by new recordings after a certain number of days, and old images are automatically removed.

     At the same time, MTRCL has in place stringent regulatory procedures to ensure only authorised persons can review the CCTV images when necessary.  Under special circumstances, such as cases involving crime or personal safety of passenger, MTRCL will provide video clips on request from the Police or other law enforcement agencies for investigation purposes.  At present, notices are put up in train compartments to inform passengers that CCTV system has been installed.
(f) At present, there are around 5,800 franchised buses in Hong Kong, of which around 1,580 buses (i.e. about 27%) have been installed with CCTVs in their compartments to facilitate bus captains to monitor the safety and alighting of passengers.  As long as the CCTVs installed will not affect the structure or safety of the franchised buses, franchised bus companies may install such devices without the need to make prior application to the Transport Department (TD).  TD will inspect the CCTV installation during the routine vehicle examination, so as to ensure that the installation will not affect driving safety.

     As for taxis, the taxi trade may, subject to their own operating conditions, decide whether to install CCTV system inside the taxi compartments without making prior application to TD.  According to TD, the trade's installation of CCTVs in taxi compartments is not common.  However, the taxi trade has to ensure that such installation will not obstruct or easily cause injuries to both drivers and passengers.  TD will inspect the CCTV installation during the routine vehicle examination, so as to ensure that the installation will not affect driving safety.

     Besides, all of the existing 163 trams are installed with CCTV system in the tram compartments to facilitate motormen to monitor passengers' boarding at the rear gate.  The public light bus (PLB) trade in general has not installed CCTV system in PLBs and does not have any plan at present to install such devices.

     TD has reminded public transport trades to observe the relevant requirements under the privacy legislation and make reference to the guidelines provided by PCPD in their daily use of CCTV systems.

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:31