Don't get knickers in twist over law

Editorial | Mary Ma 3 May 2019

The Law Reform Commission's proposal to make upskirting a criminal offense is timely after the Court of Final Appeal plugged a loophole in a current law on computer access that government prosecutors have used for years to target cases not intended by legislators.

While there may be a standard procedure to follow before the Security Bureau can produce a bill for lawmakers to scrutinize, the matter should be given high priority.

Admittedly, it's tempting to broaden legislation to cover all imaginable scenarios. Policymakers are advised to resist the temptation, however, since yielding to it would, first, delay the progress; second, make the legislation unnecessarily complicated; and third, lead to new controversies.

I agree with commission member Eric Cheung Tat-ming that there is a pressing need to turn its proposal into law, after the CFA clarified that the criminal charge of "obtaining access to a computer for criminal or dishonest gain" wasn't intended to apply to situations where suspects used their own phones or computers while committing the acts.

The profuse use of the charge as a one-size-fits-all instrument by prosecutors over the years has led to criticisms in the profession that law enforcers had been exploiting the provision so much it was sometimes used as a legal short cut.

The CFA's clarification has put an end to that undesirable convenience.

However, the widespread vulgar instances of upskirting still need to be tackled, and it's only legitimate for society to expect the security chief to act promptly on the commission's report published this week.

The commission proposed two offenses be created to deal with voyeurism and upskirting. According to the report, it would be an offense if non-consensual upskirting is committed - either for sexual gratification or other reasons like monetary gains, or for humiliation of the victims.

Should the scope of the legislative proposal be broadened to include taxis in light of the circulation of video footage revealing a clandestine affair between married actor Andy Hui Chi-on and TVB starlet Jacqueline Wong Sum-wing in a taxi?

Since the scandal came to light, Hui's megastar wife Sammi Cheng Sau-man has forgiven him for the transgression.

Hui and Wong have yet to complain over the leaked video to the privacy commissioner.

As mentioned earlier, it would be tempting to ask for the scope of the proposal on upskirting to include what may happen inside a taxi, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if some lawmakers find it irresistible to demand that.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu should resist, since there are alternative ways to protect privacy.

A similar law on upskirting has existed in Britain since 2003, and it shouldn't take the SAR administration a long time to draft a bill to provide protection from peeping Toms. It's amazing to hear pro-government lawmaker Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan expressing no problem with expecting the legislation to be passed by 2021.

Compared to the extradition legislative proposal to hand over fugitives to the mainland, there is obviously a more pressing need for an upskirting law.

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