Legislative Council Meeting Motion – Setting up an information database on the conduct of police officers

MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):

President, Dr CHENG Chung-tai moved a motion today, saying that police officers committing criminal offences may become potential hazards to law and order in society, thus requesting the Government to set up an information database on the conduct of police officers for public access. As far as I know, the Hong Kong Police Force has maintained information on persons arrested or convicted, but such information is kept in a confidential way to facilitate future crime investigation. The relevant name lists have never been made public. As a matter of fact, persons of any nationality and occupation may be convicted for breaking the law, but the motion today proposes to set up an information database on conduct that only covers police officers, and even information on their faults and complaints against them will be made public. In fact, there are at present different databases of various natures for employers or credit providers to consider matters concerning employment or loans. The objectives of such databases are clear and specific. On the contrary, regarding the setting up of an information database on the conduct of police officers as proposed by today’s motion, people who have access to the information are members of the public, and the purpose of obtaining the information is not clear, so I will not support this motion. Take for example the credit reference agency for the financial industry. The agency enables credit providers to consider the financial position of borrowers before deciding on the provision of loans. Under the mechanism, financial institutions must first obtain the permission of borrowers before applying to the agency for obtaining information on the indebtedness and credit history of the borrowers. Not all Hong Kong people can have access to the credit data. Only credit providers which have a credit business relationship with borrowers or have the intent to provide credit service can have access to the data on borrowers. The data can only be used for the purpose of credit assessment and debt collection. President, some people may opine that the provision of loans is only a commercial activity between the borrower and the lender, and therefore should not be made public. As such, let me cite the example of the Sexual Conviction Record Check Scheme for child protection, a matter of great social concern, for further elaboration. The Scheme enables prospective employers to check the sexual convictions record of persons who intend to undertake child-related work as an important reference for offering employment. Since December 2011, persons seeking child-related jobs can apply to the Police for allowing prospective employers to check their sexual convictions record. However, prospective employers must obtain the permission of prospective employees before filing the application. At the same time, positions for which prospective employees apply must involve frequent or regular contacts with children or mentally incapacitated persons, such as teachers, social workers, health care workers, librarians and school bus drivers. In recent years, the Scheme has even been extended to cover employees of private tutorial centres and institutions offering interest classes. In short, this database, though having a great bearing on public interests, is not fully available to the public. The objectives of the aforesaid two databases are clear and specific, and the operation of the database can meet the actual need by striking a balance between confidentiality and information disclosure. On the contrary, the positioning of the information database on the conduct of police officers as proposed in the motion is not clear. In future, whenever members of the public seek help from police offices, do they have to first obtain the permission of police officers, obtain information from the database on the conduct of the police officers in question, and then decide whether or not to seek help from them or allow them to discharge their duties? Is this a feasible practice?  On the other hand, President, the amendment to the motion requests on-duty or off-duty police officers not to support or participate in any political activities, so as not to affect enforcement actions taken by police officers with professionalism, impartiality and selflessness. In this connection, I think any people committed to professional ethics will uphold their professionalism when discharging their duties. Just as we believe that doctors will not give up saving the lives of patients due to their differing political views, and teachers will not give up teaching students due to their differing political views, I also believe that given the professionalism of the Police Force nowadays, police officers will not be affected by their political stances in enforcing the law. According to statistics from the Police, in 2017 the overall crime figure of Hong Kong dropped to 56 017 cases, a decrease of 4 629 cases or 7.6% when compared with that in 2016, and this was a record low since 1975. As law and order in Hong Kong is almost the best in the world, the professional ethics and efficiency of the Hong Kong Police Force are trustworthy. I will therefore not support the amendment.

President, I so submit. Thank you.