SCOPE

Government departments

  1. The Code applies to all government departments (1) as listed at Annex A.
    (1) The term "department" includes any department, bureau, force, service, unit, secretariat, or other agency of the Government.

Courts, tribunals and inquiries

  1. The Code does not apply to information held by courts, tribunals or inquiries. The existing legal rules governing disclosure of information in the context of proceedings before courts, tribunals and inquiries are not affected by the Code.
  2. The Code does, however, apply to information other than that stated in paragraph 1.2 which is held by all registries and administrative offices of courts and tribunals for which the Judiciary Administrator has responsibility, and secretariats and similar offices of other tribunals and inquiries.

PROVISION OF INFORMATION

Information to be published or made available routinely

  1. Each year departments will publish -
    • details of their organisation
    • information on the services they provide
    • their performance pledges and the extent to which they have been met.
    They will also publish, or make available for inspection at appropriate locations -
    • a list of their records by category
    • a list of information either published or otherwise made available, whether free or on payment
    • the procedures and any charges for access to information not routinely published.
  1. Whenever a service for the public is introduced or changed, the department responsible will publish sufficient information to explain the nature of the new service or change, and who will be affected by it.

Information to be provided on request

  1. Each department will also, on request, provide additional information relating to its policies, services, decisions and other matters falling within its area of responsibility, except that requests for information in the areas listed in Part 2 may be refused.

Legal obligations and restrictions

  1. The Code does not affect statutory rights of access to information. Equally the Code does not affect legal restrictions on access to information whether these are statutory prohibitions, or obligations arising under common law or international agreements which apply to Hong Kong.

PROCEDURES

Access to Information Officer

  1. Each department will designate an Access to Information Officer who will be responsible for promoting and overseeing the application of the Code.

Requests for information

  1. Requests for information may be made orally or in writing.
  2. Oral requests will usually suffice where the information sought can be provided readily and simply, for example by oral replies or provision of leaflets or standard forms. Civil servants may, however, ask for an oral request to be confirmed in writing where necessary or appropriate.
  1. Written requests may be made by letter or by the application form at Annex C, and should be addressed to the Access to Information Officer of the department concerned.

Responses to requests for information

  1. Responses to requests for information will be given as quickly as possible.
  2. Where a request, whether written or oral, cannot adequately be met by an oral reply or provision of a standard leaflet, form, etc., the information may be given by -
    • providing a copy of the relevant record or part thereof
    • providing a transcript of the relevant record or part thereof
    • affording a reasonable opportunity to inspect, hear or view the relevant record or part thereof, or
    • providing a summary of the relevant record or part thereof.
    So far as possible, information will be provided in the form in which it exists. Where disclosure of certain information in a record is to be refused, access will normally be provided to the remaining part of the record.
  1. The Code does not oblige departments to -
    • acquire information not in their possession
    • create a record which does not exist
    • provide on request information which is already published, either free or at a charge, or
    • provide information available through an existing charged service.
    In these circumstances, an applicant for information will, where possible, be directed to the appropriate source of the information.
  1. However, if a department receives a written request for information which is held by another department, it will transfer the request to that department and so advise the applicant.

Target response times

  1. Where possible, information will be made available within ten days (2) of receipt of a written request. If that is not possible, the applicant will be so advised by an interim reply within ten days of receipt of the request. The target response time will then be twenty-one days from receipt of the request.
    (2) Whenever the term "days" is used in the Code, this means "calendar days".
  1. If a request is to be refused, the applicant will be so informed within the timeframe set out in paragraph 1.16 above.
  1. Response may be deferred beyond twenty-one days only in exceptional circumstances, which should be explained to the applicant. Any deferral should not normally exceed a further thirty days.
  1. These targets may be extended if necessary to accommodate the third party procedures set out in paragraphs 1.20 - 1.23, or where the applicant fails to pay any charges levied in accordance with paragraph 1.24.

THIRD PARTY INFORMATION

Procedures and timeframe

  1. Where information requested is held for, or was provided by, a third party under an explicit or implicit understanding that it would not be further disclosed, but a civil servant considers that the public interest may require disclosure, he will so advise the third party and invite the latter to consent to, or make representations against disclosure. The third party will be asked to respond within thirty days or such reasonable longer period as he may be granted on request.
  2. On receipt of consent from the third party, the information may be disclosed.
  3. If the third party makes representations against disclosure, or fails to respond within the stipulated time, a decision will be taken as to whether the information should be disclosed on the ground that the public interest in disclosure outweighs any harm or prejudice that would result. The third party will be advised of the decision.
  4. If the decision is that the information should be disclosed, the third party will be notified that disclosure will be made at the expiry of thirty days from the date of the notification.

CHARGES

  1. Processing requests for information uses resources and departments may therefore require payment for this service. Any charges levied will reflect the cost of providing the information, and the information will not be released until the requisite payment has been made.

    Standard Fee for Photocopying Services

    The cost of providing the requested information may include the cost of reproducing the required documents. The prevailing standard photocopying charge is $1.3 per copy (A4 size) and $1.5 per copy (A3 size).

    This fee is to apply unless otherwise provided by enactment or approved by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.

    Last revision date: 10 September, 2018

REVIEW

  1. Any person who believes that a department has failed to comply with any provision of the Code may ask the department to review the situation. The target response times set out in paragraphs 1.16 to 1.19 above also apply to requests for review.
  1. Any person who believes that a department has failed to properly apply any provision of the Code may also complain to The Ombudsman. The Ombudsman's address is -

    30/F, China Merchants Tower
    Shun Tak Centre
    168-200 Connaught Road Central
    Hong Kong

    Telephone : (852) 2629 0555
    Fax : (852) 2882 8149