The Department of Justice (DoJ) will launch a new electronic legislation database known as Hong Kong e-Legislation (HKeL) at 7pm on February 24 to provide convenient and free public access to the Laws of Hong Kong. A DoJ spokesperson said on February 20 2017, “Access to law is a fundamental element of the rule of law. In the age of information technology, the availability of an updated, reliable and searchable online consolidated legislation database with legal status is a must.”
“HKeL (www.elegislation.gov.hk) is available in English and Chinese versions. It will deliver a better user experience for members of the public, including more advanced viewing functions and accessibility on mobile devices,” the spokesperson added. The hard copy loose-leaf edition of the Laws of Hong Kong with legal status has been the official source of consolidated legislation for over 25 years. However, its updating lead time is no longer adequate in today’s technological world. The Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) has been available to the public on the Internet since 1997, but is for information only.
The spokesperson explained that legislation published on HKeL will be progressively verified in the coming years and HKeL users will be able to print copies of verified legislation with legal status given under the Legislation Publication Ordinance (Cap. 614). HKeL will therefore transform access to legislation by replacing the BLIS and gradually phasing out the loose-leaf edition. When developing HKeL, the DoJ consulted a users’ liaison group and many of the group’s suggestions have been adopted. In January this year, the DoJ submitted an information paper to the Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services of the Legislative Council.
After the launch of HKeL, there will be an automatic redirect to the new website when a user accesses the BLIS website. Multimedia clips will also be uploaded to assist HKeL users. As there is a transitional period for verification of legislation in HKeL, users will still need to refer to the loose-leaf edition for the official consolidated version of not-yet-verified legislation. However, until an item of legislation is made available in HKeL in verified form, users will have electronic access to it in HKeL for information (similar to the BLIS).