LEGCO QUESTIONS

Reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes

24 Jan 2018
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LCQ20: Reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes
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Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Leung and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Joseph Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 24):

Question:

Under section 103 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200), a person who, without the consent in writing of the Monetary Authority (MA), reproduces on any substance whatsoever, and whether or not to the correct scale, any Hong Kong currency note or any part of a Hong Kong currency note, commits an offence. Currency notes include notes which have been lawfully issued in Hong Kong or elsewhere than in Hong Kong. It has been reported that in the year before last, the police found in a props company 223 000 reproduced notes which were claimed to be used as film props, and subsequently instituted prosecution by invoking section 102 of the Ordinance against the owner of the company for possessing counterfeits of currency notes. Trial of the case commenced early this month. Some members of the film industry have indicated that a vast majority of the members of the industry have all along been unaware of such legal requirements for years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the procedure for making applications to MA for reproducing banknotes;

(2) of the respective numbers of applications for reproducing banknotes received by, consented to and rejected by MA in each of the past five years; the average processing time for such applications; the major type of the applicant organisations; if there were rejected applications, of the reasons for that;

(3) whether MA publicised, in the past five years, among the practitioners and organisations in the film industry and related industries the application procedure and the relevant legal requirements for reproducing banknotes; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) whether it has plans to discuss with the practitioners and organisations in the film industry and related industries matters such as the reproduction of banknotes and the use of such replicas as props, and draw up a more flexible and simpler application procedure in light of the actual circumstances; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

As the matters pertaining to the Hon Leung’s question are relevant to a case under criminal proceedings, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is unable to comment on the case. The following are the general requirements and procedures for processing applications for reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes.

To prevent counterfeit notes from going into circulation and misleading the public, any person who wants to reproduce on whatsoever substance the whole or any part of any Hong Kong currency note must in advance obtain the consent in writing of the Monetary Authority pursuant to section 103 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap 200 of the Laws of Hong Kong), without which that person will have committed an offence under the law. Besides, as the note-issuing banks and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region own the copyrights of their respective currency notes, applicants must seek their consent before the reproduction to avoid infringing their intellectual property rights.

Applicants should provide information such as name, contact information, purpose of the intended reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes, the denomination and number of copies to be reproduced, and name of the note-issuing bank. To prevent the replica notes from falling into a wrongdoer’s hand to deceive the public, applicants must comply with stringent reproduction conditions, including insertion of easily identifiable elements in the replicas to differentiate them from genuine notes. For example, the replicas shall be at least 20% smaller or larger than the actual size of the notes and the words “Stage Money” shall be printed prominently at the centre and on both sides. The Police’s presence may be required during the printing of these replicas. All plates, negatives, films, electronic files and other materials used for producing the replica notes shall be surrendered to the Police for retention and disposal. In addition, each replica shall be printed with an individual serial number to record movement and such register shall be readily available for inspection by the Police. All the replicas shall be surrendered to the Police for destruction after filming. Applicants shall undertake in writing to exercise due care to fulfil the relevant conditions and to ensure that the public is protected from economic loss and to preserve public confidence in Hong Kong currency. Other jurisdictions have similar stringent requirements for overseeing the reproduction of banknotes.

In the past five years, the Monetary Authority received a total of 265 applications for reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes, of which five cases were rejected, 10 cases were withdrawn by the applicants, and the remaining 250 cases were given consent in writing by the Monetary Authority. Generally speaking, the Monetary Authority will respond to applicants within seven working days and complete the approval in about two weeks. The vast majority of the applications are for the purpose of production of textbooks, advertisements, television programmes or movies. Very few applications were rejected, for reasons such as the banknotes being reproduced were not Hong Kong currency notes.

Through the HKMA web-site and education seminars, members of the public can access information about the security features of Hong Kong currency notes and the legislation and offences associated with the reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes. In the past three years, the HKMA jointly hosted with the Police 80 seminars for the public, including bank cashiers, retailers and students, to remind them of the security features of Hong Kong currency notes and the legislation relating to reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes.