Michael Tien slams 'sneaky' vehicle database change - RTHK
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Michael Tien slams 'sneaky' vehicle database change

2020-11-04 HKT 18:22
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  • Michael Tien slams 'sneaky' vehicle database change
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien has accused the Transport Department of sneakily introducing changes to a database of vehicle licence plates, effectively making it illegal for reporters to access the register for work purposes.

Tien's comments come after RTHK producer Bao Choy was charged on Tuesday with violating the Road Traffic Ordinance, after the public broadcaster searched for information on the owners of cars spotted carrying suspected perpetrators of the Yuen Long gang attack on July 21 last year.

The Journalists Association said the department changed the relevant declaration form at the end of last year, removing the option for people searching the database to state their own reasons for doing so.

As well as accessing the register in relation to legal proceedings, traffic-related matters, or the buying or selling of a vehicle, users had previously been able to select an "other" purpose category.

Tien, from the group Roundtable, said being as the current options don't include "reporting", the new declaration form represents a "massive change" when it comes to press freedom in the territory.

"To protect the public interest, and to have so-called press freedom, checking on something like the registration of licence plates is probably the simplest thing that any jurisdiction in the world would allow," Tien said.

"But more importantly, Hong Kong has always provided that."

Tien accused the department of making the change in an "unnoticeable" way, saying despite being a lawmaker he did not know about the move until he read newspaper reports about it this week.

He said he doesn't know the motive or background behind the change, but the problem it presents the media could easily be resolved by adding a "reporting" category.