Official Secrets Ordinance


Published: 1997-06-30

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Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 1

Chapter: 521 OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE Gazette Number Version Date

Long title 30/06/1997


An Ordinance to control the unauthorized obtaining or disclosure of official information.


[27 June 1997] L.N. 369 of 1997


(Originally 62 of 1997)

Part: I PRELIMINARY 30/06/1997




Section: 1 Short title 32 of 2000 09/06/2000


(1) This Ordinance may be cited as the Official Secrets Ordinance.
(2) (Omitted as spent)


Part: II ESPIONAGE 30/06/1997




Section: 2 Interpretation 30/06/1997


(1) In this Part-
"document"(文件) includes part of a document;
"model" (模型) includes design, pattern and specimen;
"munitions" (軍火 ) includes the whole or any part of any vessel, aircraft, tank or similar engine, arms and

ammunition, torpedo or mine, intended or adapted for use in war, and any other article, material or device,
whether actual or proposed, intended for such use;

"offence under this Part" (本部所訂罪行) includes any act, omission or other thing that is punishable under this Part;
"office under Her Majesty" (女皇陛下轄下職位) includes any office or employment in or under any department of

the Government of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong or any British possession;
"prohibited place" (禁地) means-

(a) any work of defence, arsenal, naval or air force establishment or station, factory, dockyard, mine,
minefield, camp, vessel or aircraft belonging to or occupied by or on behalf of Her Majesty;

(b) any telegraph, telephone, wireless or signal station or office so belonging or occupied;
(c) any place belonging to or occupied by or on behalf of Her Majesty and used for the purpose of

building, repairing, making or storing any munitions, vessel, aircraft, arms or materials or instruments
for use in time of war, or any sketches, models, plans or documents relating thereto, or for the purpose
of getting any metals, oil or minerals of use in time of war;

(d) any place not belonging to Her Majesty where any munitions, or any sketches, models, plans or
documents relating thereto, are being made, repaired, got or stored under contract with, or with any
person on behalf of, Her Majesty or otherwise on behalf of the United Kingdom;

(e) any place belonging to or used for the purposes of Her Majesty that is for the time being declared by
order of the Governor to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section on the ground that
information with respect thereto, or damage thereto, would be useful to an enemy;

(f) any railway, road, way or channel, or other means of communication by land or water (including any
works or structures being part thereof or connected therewith), that is for the time being declared by
order of the Governor to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section on the ground that
information with respect thereto, or the destruction or obstruction thereof, or interference therewith,
would be useful to an enemy;

(g) any place used for gas, water or electricity works or other works for purposes of a public character that
is for the time being declared by order of the Governor to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 2

section on the ground that information with respect thereto, or the destruction or obstruction thereof, or
interference therewith, would be useful to an enemy; and

(h) any place where any munitions, or any sketches, models, plans or documents relating thereto, are being
made, repaired, or stored otherwise than on behalf of Her Majesty that is for the time being declared by
order of the Governor to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section on the ground that
information with respect thereto, or the destruction or obstruction thereof, or interference therewith,
would be useful to an enemy;

"sketch" (圖片) includes any photograph or other mode of representing a place or thing;
"superintendent of police" (警司級人員) includes any police officer of a like or superior rank and any person upon

whom the powers of a superintendent of police are for the purposes of this Part conferred by the Governor.
(2) References in this Part to the Commissioner of Police shall be construed as including references to any

police officer expressly authorized by him to act on his behalf for the purposes of this Part when by reason of illness,
absence or other cause he is unable to do so.

(3) In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires-
(a) a reference to a place belonging to Her Majesty includes a place belonging to a department of the

Government of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong or any British possession, whether or not the place is
actually vested in Her Majesty;

(b) expressions referring to communicating include any communicating, whether in whole or in part, and
whether the sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information itself or the substance, effect,
or description thereof only be communicated;

(c) expressions referring to obtaining or retaining any sketch, plan, model, article, note or document
include copying or causing to be copied the whole or any part of a sketch, plan, model, article, note or
document; and

(d) expressions referring to the communication of any sketch, plan, model, article, note or document
include the transfer or transmission of the sketch, plan, model, article, note or document.

[cf. 1911 c. 28 ss. 3 & 12 U.K.; 1920 c. 75 s. 6(3) U.K.]

Section: 3 Spying 23 of 1998 01/07/1997


Remarks:
Adaptation amendments retroactively made - see 23 of 1998 s. 2


(1) A person commits an offence if he, for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United
Kingdom or Hong Kong-

(a) approaches, inspects, passes over or is in the neighbourhood of, or enters, a prohibited place;
(b) makes a sketch, plan, model or note that is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or

indirectly useful to an enemy; or
(c) obtains, collects, records or publishes, or communicates to any other person, any secret official code

word or password, or any sketch, plan, model or note, or other document or information, that is likely
to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.

(2) In any proceedings against a person for an offence under this section, it shall not be necessary to show that
he was guilty of any particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United
Kingdom or Hong Kong and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the
circumstances of the case, or his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose
prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong.

(3) In any proceedings against a person for an offence under this section, the fact that he has been in
communication with, or attempted to communicate with, a foreign or Taiwan agent in Hong Kong or elsewhere, shall
be evidence that he has, for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong,
obtained or attempted to obtain information that is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or
indirectly useful to an enemy.

(4) For the purpose of subsection (3) but without prejudice to the generality of that subsection-
(a) a person shall, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, be deemed to have been in communication

with a foreign or Taiwan agent if he has, in Hong Kong or elsewhere-
(i) visited the address of a foreign or Taiwan agent or consorted or associated with a foreign or



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 3

Taiwan agent;
(ii) been found in possession of the name or address of, or any other information regarding, a foreign

or Taiwan agent; or
(iii) supplied to any other person, or obtained from any other person, the name or address of, or any

other information regarding, a foreign or Taiwan agent; and
(b) any address, in Hong Kong or elsewhere, reasonably suspected of being an address used for the receipt

of communications intended for a foreign or Taiwan agent, or any address at which a foreign or
Taiwan agent resides, or to which he resorts for the purpose of giving or receiving communications, or
at which he carries on any business, shall be deemed to be the address of a foreign or Taiwan agent,
and communications addressed to such an address to be communications with a foreign or Taiwan
agent.

(5) In this section "foreign or Taiwan agent" (外國或台灣特工) includes a person who-
(a) is or has been or is reasonably suspected of being or having been employed by a foreign state or

Taiwan either directly or indirectly for the purpose of committing an act, in Hong Kong or elsewhere,
prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong; or

(b) has or is reasonably suspected of having, in Hong Kong or elsewhere, committed or attempted to
commit such an act in the interests of a foreign state or Taiwan.

(Amended 23 of 1998 s. 2)
[cf. 1911 c. 28 s. 1 U.K.; 1920 c. 75 s. 2 U.K.]


Section: 4 Harbouring 30/06/1997


A person commits an offence if he-
(a) knowingly harbours another person whom he knows, or has reasonable grounds for supposing, to be a

person who is about to commit or who has committed an offence under section 3;
(b) knowingly permits any such persons to meet or assemble in any premises in his occupation or under

his control; or
(c) having harboured any such person, or having permitted any such persons to meet or assemble in any

premises in his occupation or under his control, wilfully omits or refuses to disclose to a
superintendent of police any information that it is in his power to give in relation to any such person.

[cf. 1911 c. 28 s. 7 U.K.]

Section: 5 Unauthorized use of uniforms, forgery, etc. 30/06/1997


(1) A person commits an offence if he, for the purpose of gaining admission or of assisting any other person to
gain admission to a prohibited place, or for any other purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United
Kingdom or Hong Kong-

(a) uses or wears, without lawful authority, any naval, military, airforce, police or other official uniform,
or any uniform so nearly resembling the same as to be calculated to deceive, or falsely represents
himself to be a person who is or has been entitled to use or wear any such uniform;

(b) orally or in writing, in any declaration or application, or in any document signed by him or on his
behalf, knowingly makes or connives at the making of any false statement or any omission;

(c) forges, alters or tampers with any passport or any naval, military, airforce, police, or official pass,
permit, certificate, licence or other document of a similar character (hereinafter in this section referred
to as an official document), or uses or has in his possession any such forged, altered or irregular
official document;

(d) impersonates, or falsely represents himself to be a person holding, or in the employment of a person
holding, office under Her Majesty, or to be or not to be a person to whom an official document or
secret official code word or pass word has been duly issued or communicated, or with intent to obtain
an official document, secret official code word or pass word, whether for himself or any other person,
knowingly makes any false statement;

(e) uses, or has in his possession or under his control, without the authority of the Government department
or the authority concerned-
(i) any die, seal or stamp of or belonging to, or used, made or provided by any Government



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 4

department or by any diplomatic, naval, military or airforce authority appointed by or acting
under the authority of Her Majesty; or

(ii) any die, seal or stamp so nearly resembling any die, seal or stamp mentioned in subparagraph (i)
as to be calculated to deceive; or

(f) counterfeits any die, seal or stamp mentioned in paragraph (e)(i), or uses, or has in his possession or
under his control, any such counterfeited die, seal or stamp.

(2) In the case of any proceedings against a person for an offence under this section involving the proof of a
purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong, section 3(2) applies in like manner
as it applies to proceedings under that section.

[cf. 1920 c. 75 s. 1(1) & (3) U.K.]

Section: 6 Unauthorized use of official documents, etc. 30/06/1997


(1) A person commits an offence if he-
(a) retains for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong any

official document, whether or not completed or issued for use, when he has no right to retain it or when
it is contrary to his duty to retain it, or fails to comply with any directions issued by any department of
the Government of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong or any person authorized by such department
with regard to the return or disposal thereof;

(b) allows any other person to have possession of any official document issued for his use alone, or
communicates any secret official code word or pass word so issued, or, without lawful authority or
excuse, has in his possession any official document or secret official code word or pass word issued for
the use of any person other than himself, or on obtaining possession of any official document by
finding or otherwise, neglects or fails to restore it to the person or authority by whom or for whose use
it was issued, or to a police officer; or

(c) without lawful authority or excuse, manufactures or sells, or has in his possession for sale any die, seal
or stamp mentioned in section 5(1)(e) or (f).

(2) In the case of any proceedings against a person for an offence under this section involving the proof of a
purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong, section 3(2) applies in like manner
as it applies to proceedings under that section.

[cf. 1920 c. 75 s. 1(2) & (3) U.K.]

Section: 7 Obstruction 30/06/1997


A person commits an offence if he, in the vicinity of a prohibited place, obstructs, knowingly misleads or
otherwise interferes with or impedes-

(a) the Commissioner of Police or a superintendent of police or other police officer; or
(b) a member of Her Majesty's forces engaged on guard, sentry, patrol or other similar duty in relation to

the prohibited place.
[cf. 1920 c. 75 s. 3 U.K.]


Section: 8 Duty to give information 30/06/1997


(1) The Commissioner of Police may apply to the Governor for permission to exercise the powers conferred by
subsection (2) where the Commissioner is satisfied that there is-

(a) reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under section 3 has been committed; and
(b) reasonable ground for believing that any person is able to furnish information as to the offence or

suspected offence.
(2) If the Governor grants the permission mentioned in subsection (1), the Commissioner of Police may

authorize a superintendent of police, or any police officer not below the rank of inspector, to require the person
believed to be able to furnish information-

(a) to give any information in his power relating to the offence or suspected offence; and
(b) on tender of his reasonable expenses, to attend at such reasonable time and place as may be specified

by the superintendent or officer.
(3) The Commissioner of Police may exercise the powers mentioned in subsection (2) without applying for the



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 5

permission of the Governor where he has reasonable ground to believe that the case is one of great emergency and in
the interest of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong immediate action is necessary, but if he does so he shall forthwith
report the circumstances to the Governor.

(4) A person required in pursuance of an authorization under subsection (2) to give information or to attend as
mentioned in that subsection who fails to comply with the requirement commits an offence.

(5) A person required in pursuance of an authorization under subsection (2) to give information who knowingly
gives false information commits an offence.

(6) A person is not excused from giving information required in pursuance of an authorization under subsection
(2) on the ground that to do so-

(a) might tend to incriminate him; or
(b) would breach an obligation as to secrecy or another restriction upon the disclosure of information

imposed by enactment or otherwise.
(7) A statement by a person in response to a requirement imposed by virtue of this section may not be used

against him in criminal proceedings against him except as follows-
(a) in evidence in proceedings under subsection (5) or section 36 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap 200); or
(b) for the purpose of impeaching his credibility in proceedings in respect of any offence where in giving

evidence he makes a statement inconsistent with it.
[cf. 1920 c. 75 s. 6 U.K.]


Section: 9 Provisions as to trial of offences L.N. 362 of 1997 01/07/1997


(1) Proceedings for an offence under this Part shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the
Secretary for Justice.

(2) No offence under this Part shall be dealt with summarily except with the consent of the Secretary for
Justice.

(3) In addition and without prejudice to any powers that a court may possess to order the exclusion of the
public from any proceedings, if, in the course of proceedings before a court against any person for an offence under
this Part or the proceedings on appeal, or in the course of the trial of a person for an offence under this Part,
application is made by the prosecution, on the ground that the publication of any evidence to be given or of any
statement to be made in the course of the proceedings would be prejudicial to the safety of the United Kingdom or
Hong Kong, that all or any portion of the public shall be excluded during any part of the hearing, the court may make
an order to that effect, but the passing of sentence shall in any case take place in public.

(Amended L.N. 362 of 1997)
[cf. 1911 c. 28 s. 8 U.K.; 1920 c. 75 s. 8 U.K.]


Section: 10 Penalties 30/06/1997


Expanded Cross Reference:

4,5,6,7,8



(1) A person who commits an offence under section 3 is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for
14 years.

(2) A person who commits an offence under any of sections 4 to 8 is liable-

(a) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for 2 years;
(b) on summary conviction to a fine at level 4 and to imprisonment for 3 months.

[cf. 1920 c. 75 s. 8 U.K.]

Section: 11 Search warrants 30/06/1997


(1) If a magistrate is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an
offence under this Part has been or is about to be committed, he may grant a search warrant authorizing any police
officer to-

(a) enter at any time any premises or place named in the warrant, if necessary by force;



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 6

(b) search the premises or place and every person found therein;
(c) seize any sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or anything of a like nature or anything that is

evidence of an offence under this Part having been or being about to be committed, that he may find on
the premises or place or on any such person, and with regard to or in connection with which he has
reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this Part has been or is about to be committed.

(2) Where it appears to a superintendent of police that the case is one of great emergency and that in the
interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong immediate action is necessary, he may by a written order give to any
police officer the like authority as may be given by the warrant of a magistrate under subsection (1).

[cf. 1911 c. 28 s. 9 U.K.]

Part: III UNLAWFUL DISCLOSURE 30/06/1997




Section: 12 Interpretation 30/06/1997


(1) In this Part-
"armed forces" (武裝部隊) means the armed forces of the Crown;
"British national" (英國國民) means a British citizen, a British Overseas citizen, a British Dependent Territories

citizen, a British National (Overseas) or a British protected person;
"defence" (防務) means-

(a) the size, shape, organization, logistics, order of battle, deployment, operations, state of readiness and
training of the armed forces;

(b) the weapons, stores or other equipment of the armed forces and the invention, development, production
and operation of such equipment and research relating to it;

(c) defence policy and strategy and military planning and intelligence;
(d) plans and measures for the maintenance of essential supplies and services that are or would be needed

in time of war;
"disclose" and "disclosure" (披露), in relation to a document or other article, include parting with possession of it;
"Hong Kong permanent resident" (香港永久性居民) has the meaning assigned to that term by section 2(1) of the

Immigration Ordinance (Cap 115);
"international relations" (國際關係) means the relations between States, between international organizations or

between one or more States and one or more such organizations and includes-
(a) any matter relating to a State other than the United Kingdom or to an international organization that is

capable of affecting the relations of the United Kingdom with another State or with an international
organization; and

(b) any matter relating to the relations between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong or the external
relations of Hong Kong;

"prescribed" (訂明) means prescribed by an order made by the Governor;
"public servant" (公務人員) means-

(a) any person who holds an office of emolument under the Crown in right of the Government of Hong
Kong, whether such office is permanent or temporary;

(b) any person employed in the civil service of the Crown in right of the United Kingdom, including Her
Majesty's Diplomatic Service and Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service;

(c) any member of the armed forces;
(d) any person who is a member or employee of a prescribed body or a body of a prescribed class and

either is prescribed for the purposes of this paragraph or belongs to a prescribed class of members or
employees of any such body;

(e) any person who holds a prescribed office or who is an employee of such a person and either is
prescribed for the purposes of this paragraph or belongs to a prescribed class of such employees;

"State" (國家) includes the government of a State and any organ of its government;
"territory" (地區) means any territory, not being a State, outside Hong Kong.

(2) In this Part, "government contractor" (政府承辦商) means, subject to subsection (3), any person who is



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 7

not a public servant but who provides, or is employed in the provision of, goods or services-
(a) for the purposes of the Crown in right of the Government of Hong Kong, of any of the services, forces

or bodies mentioned in subsection (1) or of the holder of any office prescribed under subsection (1); or
(b) under an agreement or arrangement certified by the Governor as being an agreement or arrangement to

which the Government of a territory, the Government of a State, other than the United Kingdom, or an
international organization is a party or which is subordinate to, or made for the purposes of
implementing, any such agreement or arrangement.

(3) Where an employee or a class of employees of any body, or of any holder of an office, is prescribed by an
order made for the purposes of subsection (1), the following persons shall be deemed not to be a government
contractor for the purposes of this Part-

(a) any employee of that body, or of the holder of that office, who is not prescribed or is not within the
prescribed class of employees; and

(b) any person who does not provide, or is not employed in the provision of, goods or services for the
purposes of the performance of those functions of the body or the holder of the office in connection
with which the employee or prescribed class of employees is engaged.

(4) In this Part, "international organization" (國際組織 ) means, subject to subsections (5) and (6), an
organization of which only States or States and territories are members and includes a reference to any organ of such
an organization.

(5) In subsection (4) the reference to an international organization includes a reference to any such organization
whether or not one of which only States or States and territories are members and includes a commercial organization.

(6) In determining for the purposes of this section whether only States or States and territories are members of
an organization, any member that is itself an organization of which only States are members, or that is an organ of
such an organization, shall be treated as a State.

(7) In this Part, "security or intelligence" (保安或情報) means the work of, or in support of, the security or
intelligence services or any part of them, and references to information relating to security or intelligence include
references to information held or transmitted by those services or by persons in support of them, or any part of them.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 ss. 1(9), 2(4), 3(5), 12 & 13 U.K.]

Section: 13 Security and intelligence information-members of services

and persons notified
30/06/1997



(1) A person who is or has been-
(a) a member of the security and intelligence services; or
(b) a person notified that he is subject to the provisions of this subsection,

commits an offence if without lawful authority he discloses any information, document or other article relating to
security or intelligence that is or has been in his possession by virtue of his position as a member of any of those
services or in the course of his work while the notification is or was in force.

(2) The reference in subsection (1) to disclosing information relating to security or intelligence includes a
reference to making any statement that purports to be a disclosure of such information or is intended to be taken by
those to whom it is addressed as being such a disclosure.

(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that, at the time of the
alleged offence, he did not know and had no reasonable cause to believe that the information, document or article in
question related to security or intelligence.

(4) Notification that a person is subject to subsection (1) shall be effected by a notice in writing served on him
by the Governor, and such a notice may be served if, in the Governor's opinion, the work undertaken by the person in
question is or includes work connected with the security or intelligence services and its nature is such that the interests
of the national security of the United Kingdom or the security of Hong Kong require that he should be subject to that
subsection.

(5) Subject to subsection (6), a notification for the purposes of subsection (1) shall be in force for the period of
5 years beginning with the day on which it is served but may be renewed by further notices under subsection (4) for
periods of 5 years at a time.

(6) A notification for the purposes of subsection (1) may at any time be revoked by a further notice in writing
served by the Governor on the person concerned and the Governor shall serve such a further notice as soon as, in his
opinion, the work undertaken by that person ceases to be such as is mentioned in subsection (4).



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 8

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 1 U.K.]

Section: 14 Security and intelligence information-public servants and

contractors
30/06/1997



(1) A person who is or has been a public servant or government contractor commits an offence if without
lawful authority he makes a damaging disclosure of any information, document or other article relating to security or
intelligence that is or has been in his possession by virtue of his position as such but otherwise than as mentioned in
section 13(1).

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a disclosure is damaging if-
(a) the disclosure causes damage to the work of, or any part of, the security or intelligence services;
(b) the information, document or article in question is of such a nature that its unauthorized disclosure

would be likely to cause such damage; or
(c) the information, document or article in question falls within a class or description of information,

documents or articles the unauthorized disclosure of which would be likely to have that effect.
(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that, at the time of the

alleged offence, he did not know and had no reasonable cause to believe that-
(a) the information, document or article in question related to security or intelligence; or
(b) the disclosure would be damaging within the meaning of subsection (2).

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 1 U.K.]

Section: 15 Defence information 23 of 1998 01/07/1997


Remarks:
Adaptation amendments retroactively made - see 23 of 1998 s. 2


(1) A person who is or has been a public servant or government contractor commits an offence if without
lawful authority he makes a damaging disclosure of any information, document or other article relating to defence that
is or has been in his possession by virtue of his position as such.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a disclosure is damaging if-
(a) the disclosure damages the capability of, or any part of, the armed forces to carry out their tasks;
(b) the disclosure leads to loss of life or injury to members of the armed forces or serious damage to the

equipment or installations of those forces;
(c) otherwise than as mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b), the disclosure endangers the interests of the

United Kingdom or Hong Kong elsewhere, seriously obstructs the promotion or protection by the
United Kingdom or Hong Kong of those interests or endangers the safety of British nationals or Hong
Kong permanent residents elsewhere; or (Amended 23 of 1998 s. 2)

(d) the information, document or article in question is of such a nature that its unauthorized disclosure
would be likely to have any of the effects described in paragraphs (a) to (c).

(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that, at the time of the
alleged offence, he did not know and had no reasonable cause to believe that-

(a) the information, document or article in question related to defence; or
(b) the disclosure would be damaging within the meaning of subsection (2).

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 2 U.K.]

Section: 16 Information related to international relations 23 of 1998 01/07/1997


Remarks:
Adaptation amendments retroactively made - see 23 of 1998 s. 2


(1) A person who is or has been a public servant or government contractor commits an offence if without
lawful authority he makes a damaging disclosure of-

(a) any information, document or other article relating to international relations; or
(b) any confidential information, document or other article that was obtained from a territory or a State,

other than the United Kingdom, or an international organization,



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 9

being information or a document or article that is or has been in his possession by virtue of his position as a public
servant or government contractor.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a disclosure is damaging if-
(a) the disclosure endangers the interests of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong elsewhere, seriously

obstructs the promotion or protection by the United Kingdom or Hong Kong of those interests or
endangers the safety of British nationals or Hong Kong permanent residents elsewhere; or (Amended
23 of 1998 s. 2)

(b) the information, document or article in question is of such a nature that its unauthorized disclosure
would be likely to have any of the effects described in paragraph (a).

(3) In the case of information or a document or other article mentioned in subsection (1)(b)-
(a) to establish as a fact that it is confidential; or
(b) to establish its nature or contents,

may be sufficient to establish for the purpose of subsection (2)(b) that the information, document or article is of such a
nature that its unauthorized disclosure would be likely to have any of the effects described in that subsection.

(4) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that, at the time of the
alleged offence, he did not know and had no reasonable cause to believe that-

(a) the information, document or article in question was such as is mentioned in subsection (1); or
(b) the disclosure would be damaging within the meaning of subsection (2).

(5) For the purposes of this section, any information, document or article obtained from a territory, State or
organization is confidential at any time while the terms on which it was obtained require it to be held in confidence or
while the circumstances in which it was obtained make it reasonable for the territory, State or organization to expect
that it would be so held.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 3 U.K.]

Section: 17 Information related to commission of offences and

criminal investigations
20 of 2006 09/08/2006



(1) A person who is or has been a public servant or government contractor commits an offence if without
lawful authority he discloses any information, document or other article to which this section applies and that is or has
been in his possession by virtue of his position as such.

(2) This section applies to-
(a) any information, document or other article the disclosure of which-

(i) results in the commission of an offence;
(ii) facilitates an escape from legal custody or the doing of any other act prejudicial to the

safekeeping of persons in legal custody; or
(iii) impedes the prevention or detection of offences or the apprehension or prosecution of suspected

offenders;
(b) any information, document or other article the nature of which is such that its unauthorized disclosure

would be likely to have any of the effects mentioned in paragraph (a);
(c) any information, document or article which is interception product within the meaning of the

Interception of Communications and Surveillance Ordinance (Cap 589); or (Replaced 20 of 2006 s.
68)

(d) any information relating to the obtaining of any interception product described in paragraph (c).
(Replaced 20 of 2006 s. 68)

(e) (Repealed 20 of 2006 s. 68)
(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section in respect of a disclosure falling

within subsection (2)(a) to prove that, at the time of the alleged offence, he did not know and had no reasonable cause
to believe that the disclosure would have any of the effects mentioned in that subsection.

(4) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section in respect of any other disclosure to
prove that, at the time of the alleged offence, he did not know and had no reasonable cause to believe that the
information, document or article in question was information or a document or article to which this section applies.

(5) In this section "legal custody" (合法羈押) includes detention in pursuance of any enactment or any
instrument made under an enactment.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 4 U.K.]




Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 10

Section: 18 Information resulting from unauthorized disclosures or
information entrusted in confidence

30/06/1997



Expanded Cross Reference:

13, 14, 15, 16, 17



(1) A person who comes into possession of any information, document or other article in circumstances
mentioned in subsection (2) commits an offence if he discloses it without lawful authority and knowing, or having
reasonable cause to believe, that-

(a) it is protected against disclosure by any of sections 13 to 17; and

(b) it has come into his possession as mentioned in subsection (2).
(2) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1) are where any information, document or other article

protected against disclosure by any of sections 13 to 17 has come into a person's possession as a result of it having
been-

(a) disclosed (whether to him or another) by a public servant or government contractor without lawful
authority;

(b) entrusted to him by a public servant or government contractor on terms requiring it to be held in
confidence or in circumstances in which the public servant or government contractor could reasonably
expect that it would be so held; or

(c) disclosed (whether to him or another) without lawful authority by a person to whom it was entrusted as
mentioned in paragraph (b).

(3) In the case of information or a document or article protected against disclosure by sections 13 to 16, a
person does not commit an offence under this section unless-

(a) the disclosure by him is damaging; and
(b) he makes it knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that it would be damaging.

(4) The question whether a disclosure of information or of a document or other article is damaging shall be
determined for the purposes of subsection (3) as it would be determined in relation to a disclosure of that information,
document or article by a public servant in contravention of section 14, 15 or 16.

(5) A person does not commit an offence under this section in respect of information or a document or other
article that has come into his possession as a result of it having been disclosed-

(a) as mentioned in subsection (2)(a) by a government contractor; or
(b) as mentioned in subsection (2)(c),

unless that disclosure was by a British national or Hong Kong permanent resident or took place in Hong Kong.
(6) For the purposes of this section, information or a document or article is protected against disclosure by any

of sections 13 to 17 if-
(a) it relates to security or intelligence, defence or international relations or is such as is mentioned in

section 16(1)(b); or
(b) it is information or a document or article to which section 17 applies,

and information or a document or article is protected against disclosure by sections 13 to 16 if it falls within paragraph
(a).

(7) No person shall be convicted for both an offence under this section and an offence under any of sections 13
to 17 in relation to the disclosure by him of any information or document or other article.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 5 U.K.]

Section: 19 Information resulting from spying 30/06/1997


A person commits an offence if without lawful authority he discloses any information, document or other article
that he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, to have come into his possession as a result of a contravention of
section 3.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 5(6) U.K.]




Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 11

Section: 20 Information entrusted in confidence to territories, States
or international organizations

30/06/1997



Expanded Cross Reference:

13,14,15,16,17,18



(1) A person who comes into possession of any information, document or other article in circumstances
mentioned in subsection (2) commits an offence if he makes a damaging disclosure of it knowing, or having
reasonable cause to believe, that-

(a) it has been communicated in confidence as mentioned in subsection (2)(a);
(b) it has come into his possession as mentioned in subsection (2)(b); and
(c) its disclosure would be damaging.

(2) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1) are where any information, document or other article
relating to security or intelligence, defence or international relations-

(a) has been communicated in confidence by or on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom or
Hong Kong to a territory or State or an international organization; and

(b) has come into a person's possession as a result of it having been disclosed (whether to him or another)
without the authority of that territory, State or organization or, in the case of an organization, of a
member of it.

(3) A person does not commit an offence under subsection (1) if the information, document or article-
(a) is disclosed by him with lawful authority; or
(b) has previously been made available to the public with the authority of the territory, State or

organization concerned or, in the case of an organization, of a member of it.
(4) For the purposes of this section, the question whether a disclosure is damaging shall be determined as it

would be determined in relation to a disclosure of the information, document or article in question by a public servant
in contravention of section 14, 15 or 16.

(5) For the purposes of this section, information or a document or article is communicated in confidence if it is
communicated-

(a) on terms requiring it to be held in confidence; or
(b) in circumstances in which the person communicating it could reasonably expect that it would be so

held.
(6) No person shall be convicted for both an offence under this section and an offence under any of sections 13

to 18 in relation to the disclosure by him of any information or document or other article.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 6 U.K.]

Section: 21 Authorized disclosures 30/06/1997


Expanded Cross Reference:

13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20



(1) For the purposes of this Part, a disclosure by-
(a) a public servant; or
(b) a person, not being a public servant or government contractor, in whose case a notification for the

purposes of section 13(1) is in force,
is made with lawful authority if, and only if, it is made in accordance with his official duty.

(2) For the purposes of this Part, a disclosure by a government contractor is made with lawful authority if, and
only if, it is made-

(a) in accordance with an official authorization; or
(b) for the purposes of the functions by virtue of which he is a government contractor and without

contravening an official restriction.
(3) For the purposes of this Part, a disclosure by any other person is made with lawful authority if, and only if,

it is made-
(a) by a public servant for the purposes of his functions as such; or



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 12

(b) in accordance with an official authorization.
(4) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under any of sections 13 to 20 to prove that at the time

of the alleged offence he believed that he had lawful authority to make the disclosure in question and had no
reasonable cause to believe otherwise.

(5) In this section "official authorization" (正式授權) and "official restriction" (正式限制) mean, subject to
subsection (6), an authorization or restriction duly given or imposed by a public servant or government contractor or
by or on behalf of a prescribed body or a body of a prescribed class.

(6) In relation to section 20, "official authorization" (正式授權) includes an authorization duly given by or on
behalf of the territory, State or organization concerned or, in the case of an organization, a member of it.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 7 U.K.]

Section: 22 Safeguarding of information 30/06/1997


Expanded Cross Reference:

13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21



(1) Where a public servant or government contractor, by virtue of his position as such, has in his possession or
under his control any document or other article which it would be an offence under any of sections 13 to 21 for him to
disclose without lawful authority, he commits an offence if-

(a) being a public servant, he retains the document or article contrary to his official duty; or
(b) being a government contractor, he fails to comply with an official direction for the return or disposal of

the document or article,
or if he fails to take such care to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of the document or article as a person in his
position may reasonably be expected to take.

(2) It is a defence for a public servant charged with an offence under subsection (1)(a) to prove that at the time
of the alleged offence he believed that he was acting in accordance with his official duty and had no reasonable cause
to believe otherwise.

(3) In subsections (1) and (2) references to a public servant include any person, not being a public servant or
government contractor, in whose case a notification for the purposes of section 13(1) is in force.

(4) Where a person has in his possession or under his control any document or other article that it would be an
offence under section 18 or 19 for him to disclose without lawful authority, he commits an offence if-

(a) he fails to comply with an official direction for its return or disposal; or
(b) where he obtained it from a public servant or government contractor on terms requiring it to be held in

confidence or in circumstances in which that servant or contractor could reasonably expect that it
would be so held, he fails to take such care to prevent its unauthorized disclosure as a person in his
position may reasonably be expected to take.

(5) Where a person has in his possession or under his control any document or other article that it would be an
offence under section 20 for him to disclose without lawful authority, he commits an offence if he fails to comply with
an official direction for its return or disposal.

(6) A person commits an offence if he discloses any official information, document or other article that can be
used for the purpose of obtaining access to any information, document or other article protected against disclosure by
sections 13 to 21 and the circumstances in which it is disclosed are such that it would be reasonable to expect that it
might be used for that purpose without authority.

(7) For the purposes of subsection (6), a person discloses information or a document or article that is official if-
(a) he has or has had it in his possession by virtue of his position as a public servant or government

contractor; or
(b) he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a public servant or government contractor has or has

had it in his possession by virtue of his position as such.
(8) Section 18(6) applies for the purposes of subsection (6) of this section as it applies for the purposes of that

section.
(9) In this section "official direction" (正式指示) means a direction duly given by a public servant or

government contractor or by or on behalf of a prescribed body or a body of a prescribed class.
[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 8 U.K.]



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 13


Section: 23 Acts done abroad 30/06/1997


Any act done by a British national, a Hong Kong permanent resident or a public servant outside Hong Kong
shall, if it would be an offence by that person under any provision of this Part other than section 22(1), (4) or (5) when
done by him in Hong Kong, be an offence under that provision.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 14 U.K.]

Section: 24 Provisions as to trial of offences L.N. 362 of 1997 01/07/1997


(1) Proceedings for an offence under this Part shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the
Secretary for Justice. (Amended L.N. 362 of 1997)

(2) In addition and without prejudice to any powers that a court may possess to order the exclusion of the
public from any proceedings, if, in the course of proceedings before a court against any person for an offence under
this Part, other than an offence under section 22(1), (4) or (5), or the proceedings on appeal, or in the course of the trial
of a person for an offence under this Part, application is made by the prosecution, on the ground that the publication of
any evidence to be given or of any statement to be made in the course of the proceedings would be prejudicial to the
safety of the United Kingdom or Hong Kong, that all or any portion of the public shall be excluded during any part of
the hearing, the court may make an order to that effect, but the passing of sentence shall in any case take place in
public.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 ss. 9 & 11(2) U.K.]

Section: 25 Penalties 30/06/1997


(1) A person who commits an offence under any provision of this Part other than section 22(1), (4) or (5) shall
be liable-

(a) on conviction on indictment to a fine of $500000 and to imprisonment for 2 years;
(b) on summary conviction to a fine at level 5 and to imprisonment for 6 months.

(2) A person who commits an offence under section 22(1), (4) or (5) shall be liable on summary conviction to a
fine at level 4 and to imprisonment for 3 months.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 10 U.K.]

Section: 26 Search warrants 30/06/1997


If a magistrate is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence
under this Part, other than under section 22(1), (4) or (5), has been or is about to be committed, he may grant a search
warrant authorizing any police officer to-

(a) enter at any time any premises or place named in the warrant, if necessary by force;
(b) search the premises or place and every person found therein;
(c) seize any sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or anything of a like nature or anything that is

evidence of an offence under this Part having been or being about to be committed, that he may find on
the premises or place or on any such person, and with regard to or in connection with which he has
reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this Part has been or is about to be committed.

[cf. 1989 c. 6 s. 11(1) U.K.]

Part: IV REPEALS AND CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS 30/06/1997




Section: 27 Repeal of Official Secrets Acts, etc. 30/06/1997


(1) The provisions of the Official Secrets Acts as applied in or extended to Hong Kong immediately before the
commencement of this section are hereby repealed so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this
Ordinance.

(2) The Official Secrets Act 1989 (Hong Kong) Order 1992 (S.I. 1992 No. 1301) is repealed.



Cap 521 - OFFICIAL SECRETS ORDINANCE 14

(3) Sections 23 to 25 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap 1) apply in relation to the repeal
of a provision of a United Kingdom enactment effected by subsection (1) or (2) as they apply in relation to the repeal
of a provision of an Ordinance.

(4) In this section, "Official Secrets Acts" (《官方機密法令》) means the Official Secrets Acts 1911 to 1989
of the United Kingdom and any regulations or orders made thereunder.

Section: 28 (Repealed 32 of 2000 s. 48) 10/06/2000

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