Supplementary note to the Easy Finder Incident

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When there could hardly be any criminal sanction available to Gillian at this stage, she may have to rely on civil action. As discussed earlier if she could rely on the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance Cap 486, the crucial matter is whether her photo is a personal data according to the law. According to Eastweek Publisher Ltd v Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data CACV331/1999, Ribeiro JA disagreed with Mr John Griffiths QC SC submission that a photograph could not be personal data. In fact, whether it could be personal data depends on circumstances. The court was of the view that “if someone’s photograph is taken with a view to its inclusion as part of a dossier being compiled about him as an identified subject, the act of photography would clearly be an act of personal data collection”, and then the second hurdle that Gillian would have to come through is to prove the collection of personal data is done by unfair means in the circumstances of the case. It is never the case that taking pictures of actors or film stars is against the ordinance so long as they are taken openly instead of an illegal mean as in the present case. Another essential element for proving personal data is whether the identity of the subject in the picture could be identified or sought to be known by the press or magazine, Easy Finder in the present. In the “Eastweek” case, the victim was phothgraphed with the intention to criticize her hairstyle and fashion taste, her identity was of no interest to the reporter. The court further ruled that “her identity would remain as secret had she not been lodging an action with the Commissioner for Personal Data. But in the present case, Gillian’s identity was of interest to both the magazine and the data user, so legally speaking, the picture of Gillian is personal data.

However, the court in this case stressed that the legislative intent of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance is to protect “privacy of individuals in relation to personal data, and to provide for matters incidental thereto or connected therewith”. It does not intend to establish general privacy rights against all possible forms of intrusion into an individual’s private sphere. In fact when the HK Law Reform Commission drafted this piece of legislation, they did not intend to extend the scope of the law to things like “interest in freedom from interference with one’s person or personal privacy”, “interest in freedom from surveillance and from interception of one’s communication” etc. Therefore when other actors like Nicholas Tse, Jacky Chan etc, bullshitting their loss of personal privacy owing to the press surveillance or disturbance of the paparazzi, this law is of no assistance to them. The present law is is not suggesting the press or other media organizations fall outside the scope of the Ordinance but it would strike a balance between freedom of press, journalistic value and offensive way of reporting.


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本地的傳媒良莠不齊,以下流手法揭露私隱以圖利早已屢見不鮮,但萬料不到該雜誌社居然是一名受陳樞機愛護有加的天主教徒所有。一點也沒錯,黎智英是天主教徒,這好像親眼看到一名身披袈裟的高僧去嫖妓一般讓我感到驚訝。因為任何一位受聖言感化的天主教徒亦不會縱容下屬幹此令人髮指的事,更不消說此人是陳樞機身邊的「紅人」了。想到這個賤肉橫生的肥佬前陣子才隨陳樞機到梵帝岡謁見教皇,真歎沒有比此更褻瀆His Holiness了。黎智英的所為根本是「天主教徒之耻」,諸位主內的兄弟姊妹應鄙與為伍,因為以其品格而論,他甚至不配稱為「人」!







In the present case, any reasonable person would ask whether our criminal law could sanction Easy Finder Magazine and Jimmy Lai who always poses as a warrior of freedom of speech but is in fact a good-for-nothing pig talking nonsense all the time. In case of criminal law, we have to first consider the problem of jurisdiction and to divide the incident into two stages: the photo-taking in Malaysia and the publication of this picture in Hong Kong. Publication of this photo in HK is only against the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance Cap 390 which only results in the penalty of fine if found guilty, it is not even a criminal sanction. Regrettably there is no relevant criminal law prohibiting this act.

Concerning the photo-taking that happened in Malaysia, unless it could be proved that it was the agent of Jimmy Lai or the Easy Finder paparazzi who took the picture of Gillian Chung in the changing cubicle, the HK court has no criminal jurisdiction in this case. But even if the blackguard who took the picture concerned was Jimmy Lai’s agent, with reference to the Territorial Principle (the place where the offence takes place), Nationality Principle (the nationality of the offender) and Universality Principle (the custody of the offender), only the Malaysian court has the jurisdiction since the crime took place in their country, at most they may try to arrest the head of the Easy Finder Branch in Malaysia, if any. Otherwise, Jimmy Lai would easily get off the hook.


Now if this happened in HK, what course to be taken depends on whether Gillian Chung was aware of being photographed. If she was aware throughout that she had been pictured, it may be the case of Indecent Assault(section 122 of Crimes Ordinance). Of course it is the settled law in Hong Kong that taking nude photos of the victim amounts to indecent assault. And the four essential elements for indecent assault are namely actus reas(assault), absence of the victim’s consent, indecency and mens rea of the offender, which is his recklessness to the victim’s absence of consent. Knowledge is important since when it concerns assault (actus reas of the crime), the victim must have apprehension of imminent physical contact or violence. Apprehension is very abstract according to an English case R v Ireland, R v Burstow[1997] 4 All ER 225, even phoning the victim and making strange sounds (of course there must be sufficient indecency) or remaining silent that causes psychiatric illness on the victim may amount to assault because court ruled a thing said is a thing done. However, it could not be assault, not to mention indecent assault, if the victim doesn’t know her half nude body was being photographed by a camera. It would be otherwise if there is real body contact. If there is body contact with the victim, Gillian in our case, it would still amount to indecent assault even if she is asleep.


That’s why in HK, people who are caught with using pin-hole camera with the intent of taking indecent pictures in public place like shopping mall will only be prosecuted with breach of peace which is only a common law sanction, instead of indecent assault. Because how would a girl be aware of someone using a pin-hole camera to shoot pictures at her buttocks or puberty, however grossly indecent they are. Some guy may suggest the charge of loitering. Because of the enactment of the Bill of Rights Ordinance in 1991, loitering alone is not an offence, unless someone loiters in public place with intent to commit an arrestable offence, there is no offence of loitering. If a man is found loitering inside a female toilet, then he may be charged of loitering.

你的私處,不一定算是你的私隱 (personal data)

Since Gillian can have no recourse to our criminal law, some people may suggest she may take civil action against the magazine and the unscrupulous Jimmy Lai may be held responsible by means of vicarious liability. The first thing crossing the mind of everyone would be whether there is an infringement of personal data privacy. The first question to ask is whether Gillian’s picture is a personal data. According to Hong Kong Court of Appeal in the case of Eastern News Group v Commissioner of Personal Data Privacy HKCA (2000), only information or material that enable a third party to recognize the data owner would be regarded as personal data. In this case, a lady was photographed by the Eastern Magazine and under her picture, the reporter commented her hairstyle in a very mean manner, calling it a “Japanese Mushroom head”. The Court of Appeal said only by the picture itself, nobody is able to recognize this lady except her closest friends and family. The majority public would not know who she is even by looking at the picture itself and the harsh remarks on her hairstyle, so that could not be personal data and not protectable. The situation is akin to pictures on the newspaper or news report on TV, many pedestrians are photographed or shot by the reporters. But they could not argue their personal data privacy have been violated since nobody would recognize who they are. And if the above examples are seen as breach to the ordinance, then the freedom of press as well as the circulation of news would be greatly hindered. And The Court further explained that in the case of a public figure, it would be more difficult to establish their personal data in the form of photograph as they are already celebrities. The case would have been otherwise if Gillian’s body figures like the size of her bra, her waist etc are disclosed, and through which people could identify her. In our present case, the picture of her body is not personal data.


When the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance (PDPO) Cap 486 could not enable the victim to bring any cause of action, neither could she sue Jimmy Lai and the Easy Finder Magazine for sexual harassment by virtue of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) Cap 480. It is because it is only in 3 prescribed circumstances that there is cause of action on sexual harassment. Either it happens in an ordinary course of employment relationship (boss sexually harasses his employee or vice versa), education sphere or in the course of providing goods and services (like a 70 years old man sexually harasses a young waitress in a Chinese restaurant by saying “I dreamt of having sex with you last night sweetie”, the waitress would then have cause of action against the old man), other than these three prescribed circumstances, no action on sexual harassment could be brought under this ordinance. It is therefore so patent that Gillian is not going to succeed on any claim by reliance on the PDPO or SDO.


Earlier it has been suggested by a practicing solicitor whose name I would not mention, saying that Gillian may bring an action on defamation. I really can’t help laughing out because I rather doubt this solicitor’s professional qualification. For an action of defamation, the plaintiff, Gillian in this case, must prove that there has been a defamatory statement referred to her and that this defamatory statement has been published. While a cartoon drawn may be defamatory by means of innuendo (statement alone is not defamatory but in light of the facts and circumstances known to the parties for whom the statement is published, it becomes defamatory), a photograph itself is hardly a defamatory statement. First of all, it is a photograph instead of a statement that has been published. Secondly, this photograph would not result in Gillian being shunned and avoided (being the classical definition in Clark & Lindsel on Tort) by the public, in fact she has earned more sympathy from the public than ever throughout her career as a singer. Thirdly, the photograph itself does not undermine her reputation as a pop singer. So there is no case on defamation and I strongly recommend the solicitor who makes such an absurd suggestion should go back to Law School and study his LLB again.


It has recently been reported that Gillian has suffered nervous shock as a result of this report and perhaps she may want to claim damages against Jimmy Lai as the principal of the Easy Finder on the ground of nervous shock. As far as I know, nervous shock is a category in the Law of Negligence which is an eminent part of the Tort Law. When we talk about negligence, it means the defendant does not intend to do the act in question but owing to his negligence or omission, a wrong is done as a result and having a proximity with the plaintiff, like a medical surgeon and his patient, a lawyer and his client, a surveyor and his client or even a bus-driver and his passengers etc, he could foresee as a reasonable man (reasonable man on the omnibus as described by Lord Akin in Donoghue v Stevenson {1932}AC 562) that the plaintiff would be in jeopardy. But in the present case, the photograph was taken intentionally, so I could not see how the Law of Negligence steps in. Besides nervous shock as explained in the English case law, provides that mere emotional grief or upset is not nervous shock. Unless the emotional grief is accompanied by personal injury, no action on nervous shock could be brought. The English House of Lords found in Page v Smith [1995] 1 AC 155 that “shock by itself is not a subject of compensation … it is only shock is followed by recognizable psychiatric illness that there can be a claim on nervous shock.” So in my opinion, any claim for damages on the ground of nervous shock is as hopeless as the claim on defamation.






a) 軍曹佢地本身係地球侵略者,係奸角,喂喂你冇聽錯,係一班奸角做主角。