Hospitals urged to leak records, not ‘back rioters’

Legislators on Wednesday accused the Hospital Authority (HA) of supporting “rioters” by failing to make public people’s medical records to help dispel “rumours” in society.

Councillors urged the government to tell the HA to start disclosing patients’ records if this helps the authorities, citing in particular an incident involving a woman who suffered an eye injury during the protests two years ago.

Many suspected the woman had been hit by a bean bag round fired by the police in Tsim Sha Tsui on August 11, 2019 and there were claims her eyeball had been ruptured.

In this case the police did obtain a warrant to get hold of the woman’s medical records. But with pro-Beijing media recently reporting that her eye seemed fine when she was spotted at the airport last year, lawmakers said the HA should have gone further.

At a Legco meeting, DAB councillor Gary Chan alleged that the opposition had exploited the incident to incite people to take to the streets in 2019.

He demanded the government speed up its plan to introduce legislation to tackle “fake news” and asked whether the HA could be told to change its information dissemination policy to allow limited disclosure of patients’ medical conditions to “quash rumours”.

Wong Kwok-kin, from the Federation of Trade Unions, questioned whether a patient’s privacy trumps tackling social unrest, while his colleague Kwok Wai-keung asked why the HA didn’t clarify the eye saga to help the government, by telling the public the extent of the woman’s injuries.

“Let’s not forget on the following day of the incident, the airport was paralysed and there was a spread of rumours inciting hatred towards the government as well as the police,” Kwok said.

“The HA has got the first-hand information about this, and yet the HA failed to come forward to clarify the situation. That means the HA is standing on the side of the black-clad violence,” he continued.

In response, Undersecretary for Health Chui Tak-yi said the HA had assisted the police’s investigation into the case and provided officers with her medical records in accordance with a court warrant.

Chui added that since there were ongoing legal procedures, the HA couldn’t comment further on the case.

Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui, meanwhile, said the government was aware of allegations surrounding the eye incident and police would be looking into the matter.

Tsui also said officials are studying how other countries tackle disinformation, but reiterated that existing legislation, including the national security law, can be used to tackle messages that endanger national security.