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LCQ6: Abuse of Government hotline 1823

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a verbal reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 16):


     It has been reported that in recent months, someone made repeated calls to the government hotline 1823 complaining about offences, such as storage of dangerous goods, operation of a clubhouse without a licence and illegal gambling, in the offices of an educational institution, an online media organisation and a cultural services organisation. Although the relevant government departments confirmed after investigation that all of the complaints were totally groundless, such investigations nonetheless had seriously disturbed the daily operation of those organisations. It is learnt that the complaints originated from the same telephone number and were lodged anonymously. Also, some of the calls reported in one go several offences about the same organisation, resulting in several government departments sending personnel to the organisation concerned to conduct investigation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that the Office of The Ombudsman, Hong Kong does not accept anonymous complaints, why the relevant government departments accepted the aforesaid anonymous complaints lodged through the government hotline 1823; and

(2) whether it has measures in place to prevent the aforesaid abuse of the government hotline 1823; if it does, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     1823 provides a round-the-clock one-stop service to answer enquiries for 22 participating Government departments. 1823 also receives complaints about bureaux and departments, and reports on nuisance or suspected irregularities, and refers them to appropriate bureaux or departments for follow-up. The services rendered by 1823 not only facilitate interaction and communication between the public and the Government, but also enable the Government to provide more customised and efficient services. Apart from making calls to 1823, the public can also access 1823 services through mobile application, electronic form, email, fax, short message service and post.

     On complaint handling, 1823 does not have investigative functions and powers. Upon receipt of information or complaint cases, 1823 will record the case details and refer them to the appropriate bureaux or departments for follow-up. The bureaux or departments will take account of whether the information provided is sufficient and whether it is within the Government¡¦s purview to handle those cases, etc, to decide if those cases warrant investigation or follow-up actions against any violations. They will also decide on the extent to which resources should be expended in investigation and follow-up actions.

     1823 will monitor case progress and provide replies to the complainants upon request by bureaux or departments. 1823 has set up a dedicated complaint handling team to render assistance in case handling and has developed a comprehensive network with bureaux and departments to strengthen communication and facilitate prompt response to the complaints.

     As regards anonymous complaints which are of concern to the Hon Wong Yuk-man, 1823 will also refer the cases to the appropriate bureaux or departments for follow-up. The public have their own reasons for making their complaints anonymously. Indeed, quite a number of anonymous complaints that we have received were genuine, valid and actionable. In general, bureaux and departments should handle anonymous complaints in the same way as signed complaints, and exercise common sense as to whether an anonymous complaint is too vague for identifying sufficient details for conducting effective investigation.

     To prevent abuse of the 1823 complaint service, at present, if a department has decided not to take any further action on a particular case, 1823 will not refer the same complaint to the department. In addition, 1823 plans to adopt further measures as below to prevent abuse of its services:

(1) For complaints involving a number of departments, 1823 will notify all the departments concerned to facilitate their consideration of arranging joint site visits, so that disturbance that may be caused to the organisation under complaint could be reduced.

(2) Where an organisation is subject to frequent complaints over a short period, 1823 will alert the relevant departments to such cases.  

Ends/Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:25


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