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Second round of public consultation on Review of the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance launched

The Government today (April 16) launched the second round of public consultation on the review of the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (COIAO). The consultation will last for three months until July 15.

The Government commenced a comprehensive review of the COIAO and completed the first round of public consultation in 2009. The first round of consultation confirmed general support for retaining the COIAO regulatory regime and imposition of heavier penalties for breaches to enhance the deterrent effect of the Ordinance.

The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, said, "In this second round of consultation, we wish to hear from the community on two outstanding issues: first, how to reform the institutional set-up of the Obscene Articles Tribunal (OAT) and, secondly, the extent to which the maximum penalties under the current regime should be raised.

"We would like to invite comments on two options to reform the OAT institutional set-up. Both involve removing the administrative classification function from the OAT. These reform options seek to address the Judiciary's fundamental concerns of requiring the OAT to perform both administrative classification and judicial determination functions."

The first reform option is for the Government, instead of the Judiciary, to set up a statutory classification board and a statutory appeal panel to carry out the administrative classification function. This model is practised in Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

The second option is to abolish the administrative classification function. Classification matters would rest with the courts. This model is practised in the UK, the US and Canada.

"There are different considerations for the two options. We require a broad consensus within the community in order to take the proposal forward," Mr So said.

Noting that the majority of the public supported the imposition of a heavier penalty to enhance the deterrent effect as well as fresh concerns generated by the recent distribution of free newspapers containing indecent articles, Mr So said the public would be invited to give their views on the proposal to increase the maximum penalty level under the COIAO.

The consultation document is available at the thematic website Comments can be sent to the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau by mail to 21/F, West Wing, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar, Hong Kong; by fax to 2511 1458; or by email to