The government has said it will continue using Microsoft Exchange as its email system and will not use a Chinese email service, although a contract for a system integrator was granted to a Shenzhen company.

The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) said it invited tenders for a system integrator to provide an email solution for the new Centrally Managed Messaging Platform (CMMP) through an open tender exercise last year.

The tenders were vetted by the Central Tender Board and a HK$237 million contract was awarded to Shenzhen-based Richinfo Technology Co Ltd in late February 2018. The OGCIO said tenders from local, overseas and Mainland companies are normally accepted in open tendering.

Allen Yeung
Government Chief Information Officer Allen Yeung. Photo: GovHK.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok asked the OGCIO on Wednesday to explain whether confidential data will be transferred to the mainland, and reveal who would be managing sensitive information such as user data and the content of communications.

The OGCIO has denied there were any security concerns about allowing the Chinese authorities access to the Hong Kong government’s internal information. It said Richinfo is a member of the Microsoft Partner Network.

“As the system integrator, Richinfo adopted the Microsoft Exchange email solution instead of using its self-developed RichMail system as rumoured,” a statement from OGCIO said.

It said Richinfo will roll out the installation, integration and maintenance of Microsoft Exchange and provide assistance to the government with system migration.

Richinfo Technology Company Limited
Richinfo Technology Company Limited. Photo: Screenshot.

“The contractor has no access to any emails or user data in the systems in carrying out system integration, migration and maintenance work. Actual system operation and execution of system migration will only be performed by OGCIO personnel,” it said.

“All government emails are managed by government personnel and stored in government-owned data centres located in Hong Kong. They are also protected by multiple layers of security defence, including encryption of sensitive emails, to avoid data leakage.”

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.