Records are vital resources of an organization and they document the policies, decisions, and activities, etc. Government records may contain importance information of governance and civil rights. For such records to maintain their value, they must be properly created and managed to ensure their authenticity and usability. Most of the countries or jurisdictions have archives legislation, and in contrast Hong Kong Government has been using administrative directives, guidelines and publications to regulate the management of Government. In response to the social urge of archives law legislation in recent years, the Archives Law Sub-committee of the Law Reform Commission was setup in 2013 to review the situation and make recommendation.
The Sub-committee has just released (6 December) the consultation paper to invite public views on whether reform of the current public records management regime is needed, and, if so, what kind of reform is to be preferred. The Sub-committee has studied the laws and practices of a number of jurisdictions, in particular, Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Singapore, and has set out its observations and provisional views, as well as asked 12 consultation questions for instance the governance of the Government Records Service, and transfer of records to archival authority, and coverage of public records management regime, etc., to engage as much of the public as possible.
The Sub-committee’s provisional views are that there are considerations in favour of the enactment of an archives law in Hong Kong, but there are also practical concerns over its implementation, such as shortage of archives management professionals, workload pressures on civil servants, challenges of electronic records management, etc. The consultation paper does not mention the penalties for unauthorized destruction of public records. As regards the scope of public bodies to be covered, the Sub-committee considers a "bespoke" approach and to “enumerate from time to time specific bodies that should be subject to the public records management regime” since there is no universal approach on the definition of public bodies, and the individual circumstances of the public bodies must be carefully considered before imposing on them any uniform mandatory records management regime.
The consultation period will end on 5 March 2019.