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Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles
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Policy on regulation of obscene and indecent articles
The policy objective for regulating obscene and indecent articles is to protect public morals and young people from the harmful effects of obscene and indecent materials, while preserving the free flow of information and safeguarding the freedom of expression.
TThe publication (including distribution, circulation, and sale) and public display of obscene and indecent articles (including printed matters, sound-recordings, films, video-tapes, discs, and electronic publications) are regulated by the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (COIAO) (Cap. 390). However, the COIAO does not apply to films, film packaging and film advertising material covered under the FCO and television broadcasts governed by the Broadcasting Ordinance. The COIAO is enforced by the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration, the Customs and Excise Department, and the Police.
Under the COIAO, "obscenity" and "indecency" include violence, depravity and repulsiveness. An article may be classified as:
Class I : Neither Obscene nor indecent
Class II : Indecent
Class III : Obscene
Class I articles may be published without restriction. Class II articles must not be published to persons below 18. Publication of Class II articles must comply with certain statutory requirements, including the sealing of such articles in wrappers (completely opaque wrappers if the covers are indecent) and the display of a warning notice as prescribed by the COIAO (i.e. "This article contains material which may offend and may not be distributed, circulated, sold, hired, given, lent, shown, played or projected to a person under the age of 18 years.") on no less than 20% of the front and back covers of such articles. Class III articles are prohibited from publication.
The Obscene Articles Tribunal (OAT) set up under the COIAO has exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether an article is obscene, indecent or neither. The OAT comprises a presiding magistrate and two or more members of the public drawn from a wide spectrum of the community to serve as adjudicators. In determining whether an article is obscene or indecent, the OAT shall have regard to standards of morality generally accepted by reasonable members of the community, the dominant effect of the article as a whole, the class or age of the likely recipients, the location at which the article is displayed, and whether the article has an honest purpose.
Submission of articles to the OAT is entirely voluntary. Publishers, authors, printers, manufacturers, importers, distributors, and copyright owners may submit articles to the OAT for classification rulings if in doubt.
For further information and enquiries on the general procedural matters of the OAT, please visit the Judiciary’s website or contact the Tribunal Registry at 3916 6303.
Members of the public who have enquiries and complaints on the regulation of obscene and indecent articles may contact the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration through: Complaints Hotline: 2676 7676
39/F, Revenue Tower, 5 Gloucester Road, Wanchai
Application for Membership of the Panel of Adjudicators of the OAT
The Judiciary invites the public to apply for membership of the panel of adjudicators. Members of the panel of adjudicators are appointed by the Chief Justice. A person shall be eligible to be appointed to the panel of adjudicators if, in the opinion of the Chief Justice, he is -
(a) ordinarily resident in Hong Kong and has so resided for at least 7 years; and
(b) proficient in written English or written Chinese.
If you wish to become a member of the panel of adjudicators, please submit the completed application form, together with a copy of your Hong Kong identity card and/or other supplementary information, to the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau by post (Address: 23/F, West Wing, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar, Hong Kong). Applications may also be submitted through online e-Form.
For enquiries, please contact the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (telephone: 3655 5413, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).