Hong Kong Bankers and Lawyers Obtain Right to Request Access to Company Register
HONG KONG: Hong Kong bankers and lawyers will be able to search the city’s company register for proposed exemptions to plans to restrict public access to the database, the Financial Services Secretary said on Saturday (June 12). Christopher Hui.
Business and governance experts have criticized a government plan to restrict access to personal information of business executives, introduced this year, saying it will reduce transparency in the city’s corporate sector.
Negotiators working during the due diligence phase of corporate transactions regularly consult the database to search and verify the history and identity of officers and directors.
Hui told an RTHK radio show on Saturday that lawyers, bankers and accountants can now apply to the company registry to gain access to documents for business purposes.
“But the premise is that they really have to do the proper checking and work, because we have to strike a balance and protect privacy,” Hui said on the RTHK website.
“For example, lawyers, accountants and banks should conduct research for know-your-client checks or work related to compliance and anti-money laundering.”
The proposed exemptions were confirmed to Reuters by Hui’s spokeswoman.
The registry changes announced earlier included a first phase that gave companies the immediate ability to withhold information about directors, such as their addresses and ID or passport numbers.
A second phase would deprive the public of all documents containing such information.
The Hong Kong government had argued that the reforms were necessary to protect privacy.
The information in the database is also commonly used to trace the inter-party and business-to-business ownership structures that feature in Hong Kong’s sometimes opaque corporate system.
(Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; editing by Robert Birsel)