The Office of the Ombudsman in Hong Kong has decided to launch a full investigation into HKFP‘s complaint against police for refusing to disclose how much money was spent producing a promotional video.
HKFP wrote to the Ombudsman last month after police declined to answer questions about the cost of its video “Guarding Our City.” The complaint alleged that police breached the Code on Access to Information because the production of the video involved public funds.
“This Office has decided to conduct a full investigation into your complaint. In general, we would require three to six months to process your complaint,” a letter from the Ombudsman to HKFP read.
The 15-minute video – released on January 23 – featured officers countering fictional acts of terror in Hong Kong. It was produced to “project the positive and professional image of the force,” police said.
In response to HKFP enquiries about the production cost and related expenses, police only said the production was contracted out to local director Dante Lam. It involved over 600 officers from more than 15 police units, with the support of other government departments and organisations, the force said.
Police chief Chris Tang also briefly appeared.
“[T]here are practical difficulties in calculating the total cost of the video,” police said in an email.
The force said the cost of production and dissemination was set by contractors, who objected to the disclosure of cost information. Police also cited the Code on Access to Information, saying disclosure of the cost may “harm or prejudice” future negotiations with contractors.
Police told HKFP their overall spending would be scrutinised by a finance and internal audit division, while they must file a report to the legislature’s finance committee each year: “The Police would ensure the proper use of public money,” they said.
Kenneth Kwok, head of the police public relations branch, told public broadcaster RTHK in January the production fulfilled the government’s standard procedures with an internal audit.
He did not reveal the production cost but said the force would inform the Legislative Council about police spending on the video.
Kwok added that the promotional video was not directly linked to the enactment of the national security law last June 30, which criminalises secession, subversion, collusion with foreign powers and terrorist acts.