Access to Information Policy and Practices
- This Policy is based upon the fundamental principles of -
which help to define the standard of good corporate governance for public bodies such as the Equal Opportunities Commission ("EOC").
- Public access to information held by the EOC develops/facilitates -
- understanding of policies and decisions
- accountability for decisions and actions
- awareness of the EOC's services
- participation by the EOC's stakeholders
- confidence in the administration and the work of the EOC
- This policy has been developed in accordance with principles set out in Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants' "Corporate Governance for Public Bodies – A Basic Framework", and with reference to the Hong Kong Government's “Code on Access to Information”.
- The Policy shall at all times be construed in a positive manner, so as to allow for the release of information unless there is good reason to refuse disclosure of all or part of the information pursuant to Part 4 of the Policy.
2 Scope of the Policy
- This Policy applies to all requests for information, except for those requests for information which fall within section 2.2 of the Policy.
- Requests for access to personal data shall be dealt with pursuant to the EOC’s Policy on Privacy and Data Protection Policy and Practices, and not under the provisions of this Policy.
- This Policy does not affect any statutory rights of access to information, nor does it affect any legal restrictions on access to information whether they may be statutory prohibitions or obligations arising under common law.
- Nothing in this Policy is intended to prevent or discourage the EOC from publishing or giving access to information (including requests which may be refused), otherwise than set out in the Policy, where it can properly do so or is required by law to do so.
- Information which may be requested pursuant to this Policy shall comprise documents and records which are already in existence and in possession of the EOC. This Policy does not oblige the EOC to create a document or record which does not exist or acquire information not in its possession.
3 Requests for Access
- Requests for information must be made in writing and should be addressed to the Executive Director (Operations). The Application for Access to Information Form may be used to make a request for information.
- The request must –
(i) provide such information concerning the document(s) and/or record(s) the subject of the request as is reasonably necessary to enable the EOC to identify the document(s) and/or record(s);
(ii) specify a contact point or an address at which the document(s) and/or record(s) and/or any notification may be sent to the applicant by the EOC; and
(iii) be accompanied by the processing fee payable to the EOC.
- Responses to requests for information will be provided by the EOC as soon as practicable and, in any event, within 21 days of receipt of the written request where the information is readily available. Where the information is not readily available, the applicant will be advised by an interim reply within 14 days of the receipt of the request. Requests should be complied with within 40 days from receipt. These target response times may be extended in exceptional circumstances, which should be explained to the applicant. Any deferral should not normally exceed a further 21 days.
- If a request is to be refused the applicant is to be informed within the time-frame set out in 3.3 above.
- Where the request cannot be complied with within the time-frame set out in 3.3 above, the delay and the reason(s) for it should be explained to the applicant.
- So far as possible information will be provided in the form it exists, unless a reasonable alternative form is available. If the requested information is recorded in the form of a document in a single language, that will be the form in which will be provided.
- Where the EOC receives a written request for information which is held by another organisation, body or department, the EOC will transfer the request to that organisation, body or department and advise the applicant accordingly.
4 Information which may be Refused
- The EOC may refuse to disclose information, or may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of information, in the categories and for the reasons set out below, which will normally be referred to if a request is refused.
- Where disclosure of information in part of a document or record is to be refused pursuant to one or more of the categories set out below, access will normally be provided to the remaining part.
- The EOC will consider disclosure of information taking into account the public interest factors as weighed against any possible risk of harm or prejudice. References to “harm” and “prejudice” include both actual harm and prejudice and the risk or reasonable expectation of harm and prejudice. In such case, the EOC will determine whether the public interest in disclosure of the information outweighs any harm or prejudice that could result.
(a) Information cannot be found or does not exist
- The EOC may refuse a request where all reasonable steps have been taken to find the record or document, but it cannot be found or does not exist.
(b) Information Relates to Business Affairs
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to its business, commercial or financial affairs and its disclosure would harm or prejudice or otherwise adversely affect such affairs or related negotiations, commercial or contractual activities or the EOC's interests in or related to such affairs or activities (including intellectual property).
(c) Information Relates to Management and Operations of EOC
- The EOC may refuse a request where the disclosure of the information would harm or prejudice or otherwise adversely affect the proper and efficient conduct of the operation of the EOC, including the discharge of its statutory functions.
- The EOC may refuse a request where the disclosure of information would harm or prejudice the employment and management of EOC staff, and / or the appointments under the EOC’s purview.
- The EOC may also refuse a request where the information could only be made available by unreasonable diversion of the EOC's resources.
(d) Internal Discussion, Papers and Advice
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to papers prepared for, or records of meetings and deliberations of, the EOC or any of its committees (including staff meetings) and its disclosure would inhibit the frankness and candour of discussion within the EOC.
- The EOC may also refuse a request for the reason set out in 4.9 above, where the request relates to opinions, advice, recommendations, consultations and deliberations by EOC staff, members, consultants or advisers.
(e) Information Relating to Complaints or Enquiries
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to complaints lodged with, or enquiries made of, the EOC and the disclosure of such information would harm or prejudice or otherwise adversely affect the investigation and/or the remedying of such matters by the EOC.
(f) Privacy of the Individual
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to the personal data of a person and the disclosure of which is prohibited other than in accordance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, Cap. 486.
(g) Legal Restrictions and Proceedings
- The EOC may refuse a request where the disclosure of the information would constitute a contravention of any law which applies in Hong Kong, or a breach of any obligation arising under common law.
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in law.
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to legal proceedings and the disclosure of the information would amount to contempt of court or would harm or prejudice or otherwise adversely affect the proceedings.
(h) Premature Requests
- The EOC may refuse a request for information which will soon be published, or whose disclosure would be premature in relation to a planned announcement or publication.
(i) Enforcement of Law and Protection of Public Safety
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to the conduct of an investigation of a breach, or a possible breach, of the law and the disclosure of such information would harm or prejudice or otherwise adversely affect such investigation or the administration of law.
- The EOC may also refuse a request for information where the disclosure of such information would be likely to cause serious harm to the physical or mental health or safety of a person.
(j) Research, Statistics and Analysis
- The EOC may refuse a request where the information relates to incomplete analysis, research or statistics and the disclosure could be misleading or deprive the EOC or any other person of priority of publication or commercial value.
- The EOC may refuse a request for information which relates to individuals, companies, organisations or products which is held only for the purposes of preparing statistics or carrying out research and was obtained confidentially on the understanding it would not be identified in reports of that research or in published statistics.
(k) Third Party Information
- The EOC may refuse a request for information held for, or provided by, a third party under an explicit or implicit understanding that it would not be disclosed, where the EOC does not have that party's consent or where the public interest in disclosure does not outweigh any harm or prejudice that would result.
- The applicant will be charged a fee for providing the information, including the cost of reports or tape-recordings as applicable. The fee for providing written information will be charged at HK$2.50 per page. The EOC may not release the information until the requisite payment has been made.
6 Authority to Handle Requests for Information
- All requests for information received shall be referred to the Executive Director (Operations) who shall seek directive from the Chairperson of the EOC, including designating responsible staff to assist in the handling of the requests, if necessary.
- Any person who believes that the EOC has failed to properly apply any provision of this Policy may complain to the Ombudsman.
Number of Access Request received for the period January 2021 to June 2021: 0
Revised in November 2020