Hong Kong Abandons Attempt to Push through Privacy Law

Hong Kong’s government has abandoned plans to introduce a controversial privacy law, in the face of a media campaign which attacked the proposals and claimed that the move would infringe on press freedoms.

The government was attacked for its bid to restrict access to information about company directors, after such details were used in a series of investigative reports to expose the hidden wealth of Chinese officials. Several business groups also claimed that the proposal would be detrimental to the Asian financial hub’s transparency and could encourage fraud.

The government agreed to shelve the proposal, which would have allowed company directors to have their residential address and identity card number blocked from public view, to allow time for consultation and improve the chances of reaching consensus.

The government stressed that the proposed law was intended to protect directors’ privacy but critics retorted that it was an example of Beijing’s meddling in local affairs and after a number of reports focusing on the wealth and assets of China’s ruling elite grabbed headlines.

Financial newswire
Bloomberg
said that it used Hong Kong and Chinese identity card numbers from corporate filings to chart business ties and a list of investments made by the extended family of China’s incoming president Xi Jinping in a report published in June 2012.

The
New York Times
also reported that it used such information from Hong Kong over a story in October that showed outgoing premier Wen Jiabao’s relatives had control of assets worth at least US$2.7bn, a report that Beijing branded as a smear.

The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club welcomed the government’s decision. In a statement its president, Douglas Wong, said: “We believe the government should withdraw the changes all together to maintain Hong Kong’s corporate transparency and reputation as a world financial centre.”

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