Hong Kong to enhance and potentially expand sexual conviction record check scheme amid concerns for child and MIP safety

Chris Tang

29th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) Secretary for Security, Chris Tang Ping-Keung, addressed the Legislative Council today in response to questions from Hon Nixie Lam regarding the existing Sexual Conviction Record Check (SCRC) Scheme. The SCRC Scheme allows employers to request a check of potential or renewing employees who work with children or mentally incapacitated persons (MIPs) to see if they have any sexual conviction records.

Hon Lam highlighted concerns that the current scope of the SCRC Scheme might not offer sufficient protection for vulnerable groups and questioned whether the government was considering broadening the scheme to include all tutors, coaches, and volunteers who work with children and adolescents.

In response, Mr Tang affirmed the government’s commitment to protecting children and MIPs from sexual abuse, citing the implementation of the SCRC Scheme by the Hong Kong Police Force in 2011 as part of these protective measures. He also noted the need to balance the protection of the vulnerable with the needs of employers and the practical operation of the scheme.

The Secretary revealed that the SCRC Scheme has been incrementally expanded since its inception, with eligible applicants now including prospective and contract renewal employees, as well as staff assigned by outsourced service providers to organisations or enterprises.

As of the end of October 2023, over 580,000 new applications and 120,000 renewal applications have been received by the Police, with more than 680,000 enquiries made about the check results. Mr Tang sees the rising trend in applications as an indication of the scheme’s effectiveness and wide use, offering employers valuable information for making hiring decisions.

The Secretary shared that following a public consultation, the Law Reform Commission (LRC) published a report in 2022 recommending that the SCRC Scheme should cover all existing employees, self-employed individuals, and volunteers, a recommendation the government agrees with. However, Mr Tang stressed the need to ensure there is sufficient capacity to handle the increased volume of checks, given the limitations of the current electronic system and constraints on the Police’s resources.

The Secretary revealed that the SCRC system can currently process about 60,000 applications annually, with results made available within five working days. To cater for the anticipated increase in applications, the Police are working on enhancing the SCRC system and establishing an online application platform, which is expected to be able to handle at least 210,000 new applications annually from September of next year.

In response to the suggestion of making the SCRC Scheme mandatory, Mr Tang agreed with the LRC that the immediate priority is to expand the scheme to its fullest extent before considering making it compulsory at a later date. He explained that mandatory checks may not be appropriate in all situations, and emphasised the need to maintain a balance between protecting children and facilitating rehabilitation.

On the topic of disclosing details of an applicant’s sexual conviction records, the Secretary stated that while the Government doesn’t disclose this information to employers, an applicant with a sexual conviction is given a written record detailing their offences. Employers can request this record from the applicant if necessary, providing a balance between protecting children and MIPs from sexual abuse and protecting privacy.