At least two reporters from media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying’s Next Magazine, who allegedly acquired and published birth certificate details of the son of Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi in 2019, have been prosecuted and will appear in court next Monday (Feb 22).
Police said on early Saturday (Feb 20) that they had sent summons to a 47-year-old man and two Hong Kong companies for disclosing personal data without user consent. Another summon was issued to a 40-year-old man for alleged conspiracy to disclose personal data obtained without user consent under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.
Police also said the suspects would appear in Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Courts on Monday, adding the case arose from a complaint from an organisation in January 2019.
Local media reported that the suspects were reporters from Next Magazine, who had gained access to the birth certificate of Cheung’s youngest son, Marcus Cheung, by searching records under the Immigration Department. They then published the details in January 2019.
Under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, it is an offence to disclose one’s personal data without consent if the individual behind the act has an intent to obtain gain or cause loss, including psychological harm, to the data subject.
The offence carries a penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$1 million ($171,000).
Cheung, an award-winning actress, gave birth to her third son in November 2018 but did not reveal the identity of the father. She was previously married to local pop singer Nicholas Tse Ting-fung between 2006 and 2011. Cheung has two sons with Tse.
In January 2019, Next Magazine published the birth certificate of Marcus Cheung, the actress’ third son. Details disclosed included the boy’s Chinese and English names, date of birth, the name of the mother and her address, while the father’s name was left blank.
The 40-year-old actress lodged a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, which later passed the case to police for further investigation.
The Immigration Department has tightened searches for birth, death or marriage records in 2019 after the complaint. Applicants need to seek an authorisation from the data owner. In processing an applicant’s request, the department will also consider the purpose and intended use of the search result.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.