Author: Antonio Da Roza

Date: 5/8/10

The Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO) came into force on 1 October, 1983, replacing the old air pollution law in Hong Kong, the Clean Air Ordinance. [1]

Chronology of legislative developments
Date Legislative development
1935 Public Health (Sanitation) Ordinance - one section on smoke control
1955 Air Navigation (Abatement of Smoke Nuisances) Ordinance - adopts nuisance-based approach
1960 Clean Air Ordinance - continues the nuisance-based approach
1983 Air Pollution Control Ordinance - based on Clean Air Ordinance, continues the nuisance-based approach
1987 Air Quality Objectives formulated
1991 Air Pollution Control Ordinance amended to include motor vehicles and unleaded petrol
1993 Air Pollution Control Ordinance amended to include asbestos, use of technical memoranda, licensing and appeals, and penalty provisions. Definition of air pollution amended to include health effects
1994 Air Pollution Control Ordinance amended to transfer motor vehicle fuel provisions to regulations
2008 Air Pollution Control Ordinance amended to include regulation of air pollutants from electricity works

Like many of Hong Kong’s laws, the Clean Air Ordinance was based on English statute – the Clean Air Act 1956. [2] Many features of APCO, such as the concept of abatement notices and air control zones, can be traced back through the Clean Air Ordinance to the Clean Air Act.

Before the Clean Air Ordinance was enacted in 1960, air pollution control was concerned with visibility rather than its effect on health; specifically, under the Air Navigation (Abatement of Smoke Nuisances) Ordinance, air pollution was controlled to ensure that pilots could navigate aircraft safely to Hong Kong. [3]

Both the Clean Air Ordinance, and APCO after it, continued to deal with air pollution on a nuisance-basis – that is, triggered by a problem or complaint after it arises. The approach does not lend itself to dealing with the incremental and long-term nature of the damage air pollution causes to health. [3]

In 1993, the phrase ‘air pollution nuisance’ was repealed and replaced by the current term, ‘air pollution', which includes prejudice to health as part of its definition – grafted onto laws that traditionally were not concerned with health. [4]

APCO may be described as fragmented: Part IVA, on unleaded petrol and emissions from motor vehicles, was added in 1991 and then removed to separate regulations in 1994; Parts VIII and IX, on asbestos control, were added in 1993; and Part IVB, on licensing for electricity works, was added in 2008 – this has led to inconsistencies in APCO. [5]


  1. Long Title, Chapter 311, Laws of Hong Kong - last accessed 7/8/10
  2. Introduction, Annotated Ordinances of Hong Kong, Air Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap 311), Antonio M. Da Roza, 2009, LexisNexis
  3. 3.0 3.1 ‘APCO – 101 A Review of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance’, Andrew Lawson, February 2009 - last accessed 7/8/10
  4. 'Objective: Clean Air’, Antonio M. Da Roza, Hong Kong Lawyer magazine, November 2009 – last accessed 7/8/10
  5. ‘A Review of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance for Legal Professionals’, Antonio M. Da Roza, February 2009 - last accessed 7/8/10

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