The government has proposed barring the public from accessing some personal information about executives through company registry searches – a move that a journalists’ group says would seriously undermine press freedom.
In a proposal submitted to the Legislative Council on Monday, the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said companies should at first be given the option to withhold information such as the residential address and full identification numbers of directors and secretaries.
Then, starting from October 2022, all company documents submitted to the registry that contains ‘protected information’ such as residential addresses could be hidden from public view.
Only specified groups of people, including the executives themselves, their companies, officials, and members of ‘public organisations’ would have access to the privileged information.
Finally, all companies could apply to withhold ‘protected information’ from the registry by late 2023.
Only correspondence address and partial identification numbers of the executives would remain open to public scrutiny through the registry.
The government is planning to submit the relevant legislation to Legco in May.
It says the new restrictions will strike a balance between adequate public access to information and concerns over misuse of personal data.
However, the Hong Kong Journalists Association says it is strongly opposed to the proposal, and called for its immediate withdrawal.
It says the new restrictions would “seriously undermine press freedom”, as well as the rights of minority shareholders and labour groups.
Such information is routinely used by journalists as part of their research.
The association said the government instead should enact a freedom of information law – as well as an archives law – to protect the public's right to know.
The association had also previously raised concerns over the prosecution of RTHK producer Bao Choy, who has been accused of violating the Road Traffic Ordinance by making false statements to obtain vehicle licence records.
The information was used in an investigative report on the 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks.