The Newspaper and Article Administration Division enforces the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap. 390).
The Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap. 390) (COIAO) deals with the publication and display of obscene and indecent articles. Its spirit is to protect young people’s well-being by preventing their access to indecent materials.
The COIAO has established the Obscene Articles Tribunal (OAT) that adjudicates on the offensiveness of the articles voluntarily submitted to it by publishers and law enforcement agencies, or referred to it by magistracies in the course of proceedings.
Under the COIAO, articles are classified into three classes:
The interpretation of “obscenity” and “indecency” in the COIAO include violence, depravity and repulsiveness. Indecent articles cannot be published to persons under the age of 18, and must carry a statutory warning notice. Obscene articles are banned.
We monitor the articles available on the market, and, where necessary, submit articles to the OAT for classification and refer articles to the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) for investigation. We pay periodic visits to retail outlets, including bookshops, newspaper stalls, video shops and computer shops, to check whether obscene or indecent articles are sold or rented. The Customs and Excise Department and HKPF are also designated enforcement agencies under the COIAO.
To enhance public awareness of the COIAO, we carry out a variety of public education activities. Details are available here.
According to the COIAO, a person publishes an article if he or she, whether for gain or not:
According to the COIAO, in determining whether an article is obscene or indecent, the OAT has to take into account:
There is no such requirement, although a publisher may on his or her own accord submit relevant articles to the OAT.
The restrictions and penalties stipulated in the COIAO are as follows:
Whether or not the publisher knows that an article is indecent, if he or she is found guilty of publishing an indecent article, then he or she is liable to a maximum penalty of a HK$400,000 fine and 12 months' imprisonment for the first conviction and to a HK$800,000 fine and 12 months' imprisonment on the second or subsequent conviction.
The COIAO applies to articles published in Hong Kong, including materials published on the Internet. Both articles in print and internet-based publications are subject to the provisions of the COIAO, which is in place primarily to control the dissemination of obscene or indecent articles. Articles likely to be classified as Class II (indecent) according to the COIAO should be preceded by an entry page on the Internet carrying the required statutory warning. Those likely to be classified as Class III (obscene) are prohibited from publication.
To provide guidance for Internet Service Providers, the Government has, together with the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association (HKISPA), developed a self-regulatory “Code of Practice”.