The Obscene Articles Tribunal, consisting of a Presiding
Magistrate and two or more adjudicators, carries out
two main tasks with respect to articles and matter -
classification and determination.
It classifies articles submitted by such parties as authors, printers, manufacturers, publishers, importers, distributors, copyright owners or any person who commissions the design, production or publication of the articles concerned. The Secretary for Justice or any authorized public officer may also submit any article for classification.
Additionally a court or magistrate may, in the course
of proceedings, refer an article or matter to the Tribunal,
asking it to determine whether:
- the article is obscene or indecent;
- the matter is indecent; or
- the publication of the article or the public display
of the matter is intended for the public good.
Films and broadcasting material, etc are not classified
by the Tribunal, but are dealt with under the Film
Censorship Ordinance and the Broadcasting Ordinance respectively.
Under the Control
of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, the
Tribunal's power to classify articles effectively provides
society with an effective means of interpreting in practice
the notions of obscenity and indecency. Indecency is
here deemed to include violence, depravity and repulsiveness.
In arriving at the determination and classification
of an article, the Tribunal is called upon by law to
take account of:
- the standards of morality, decency, language or
behaviour and propriety that are generally accepted
by reasonable members of the community;
- the dominant overall effect of an article or matter;
- the persons, classes of persons, or age groups
intended or likely to be targeted by an article's
- in the case of matter publicly displayed, the location
of such display and the persons, classes of persons,
or age groups likely to view it; and
- whether the article or matter has an honest purpose
or whether instead it seeks to disguise unacceptable
The Tribunal can classify an article as follows:
- Class I – neither obscene nor indecent;
- Class II – indecent; or
- Class III – obscene.
The Tribunal may impose conditions or restrictions
relating to the publication of a Class II article. Class
III articles are prohibited from being published.