LCQ13: Handling of postal items by Hongkong Post
Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, to a question by the Hon Elizabeth Quat in the Legislative Council today (November 20):
It has been reported that a press group posted a number of letters on August 29 this year, but two months later, the Hongkong Post (HKP) returned to the sender nine of those letters in a document envelope. All of the returned letters had postage fully paid, with only one of them bearing incomplete recipient address and another two suspectedly having been opened and then sealed again. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the circumstances under which HKP officers will open or allow other people to open postal items; whether HKP has, at present, put in place any monitoring mechanism to ensure that the opening of postal items will not lead to the leakage of personal privacy; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) of the circumstances under which HKP will refuse to deliver a postal item with complete recipient address and postage fully paid; the channel(s) through which senders may lodge complaints about the refusal of HKP to deliver such postal items, and how the authorities follow up such a complaint;
(3) of the circumstances under which HKP will return to a sender in a document envelope postal item(s) bearing incomplete recipient address(es) together with other postal item(s) bearing complete recipient address(es) mailed by the same sender;
(4) of the number of working days it normally takes for HKP to go through the procedure of returning an undelivered postal item to the sender; and
(5) whether HKP will explain to the senders the reasons for returning their postal items; if HKP will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Hongkong Post is committed to providing reliable postal services to the community while protecting the privacy of personal data. Hongkong Post is following up on the case mentioned in the question in a serious manner and investigation is underway. My reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:
(1) Hongkong Post only opens postal items under the following circumstances:
(a) Undeliverable postal items without a return address are handled by the Dead Letter Office in the department. All letters will be disposed of and will not be opened. Small packets and parcels would be opened under the supervision of officers-in-charge. Any saleable items found in the small packets and parcels will be sent to the Government Logistics Department for auction while other contents will be disposed of; and
(b) All airmail items are required to undergo X-ray screening for aviation security. Postal items which fail the security check may be opened by the staff of Hongkong Post for inspection. Any postal item that has been opened will be sealed with special adhesive tape, and will be marked and signed by the officer who has opened it.
Hongkong Post has stringent mechanism and procedures for the opening of postal items to protect the privacy of personal data. Under the relevant procedures, opening of postal items for inspection must be conducted by designated officers under the supervision of an officer-in-charge in a designated area which is under CCTV surveillance and is subject to access control.
(2) Hongkong Post delivers, as addressed, all postal items bearing complete recipient addresses and sufficient postage.
Hongkong Post has set up a number of complaint channels. Customers may lodge complaints through post office counters, customer hotlines or in writing. Hongkong Post has an established mechanism for handling public complaints. All complaints received will be duly followed up and investigated.
(3) In accordance with the established procedures for handling postal items, Hongkong Post does not put postal items bearing incomplete recipient addresses and other postal items bearing complete recipient addresses mailed by the same sender in the same document envelope and return it to the sender.
(4) Under normal circumstances, Hongkong Post returns undeliverable postal items bearing clear and complete return addresses to the senders within a week upon receipt of the returned postal items. It may take longer during peak periods.
(5) Hongkong Post applies the "Return" stamp or affixes a "Return" adhesive label on all undeliverable postal items, and indicates the reason (e.g. "addressee unknown", "refused", "incomplete address" or "no such address").
Ends/Thursday, November 20, 2014
Issued at HKT 11:10