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Administration and Assignment of Internet Domain Names and Internet Protocol Addresses in Hong Kong

The need to internationalise the governance of the Internet led the US Government to recommend the establishment of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as a non-profit corporation with global participation to manage the systems and protocols that keep the Internet going. In October 1998, ICANN was formed as a non-profit-making corporation that takes over, by September 2000, the responsibility for IP address allocation, protocol parameter management, domain name system (DNS) management and root server system management currently undertaken by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and others. It is hoped that through the input from the broad and growing community of Internet users, ICANN will continue to facilitate the development of sound, fair and widely accepted policies for the management of DNS.

In October 1999, the Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IIAC) decided that a Task Force should be set up with the objective to identify a framework which best suits Hong Kong for administering and assigning Internet domain names and Internet protocol addresses, having regard to the initiatives and directions set by ICANN.

The Task Force completed its review on the administration and assignment of Internet domain names and Internet protocol addresses in Hong Kong in May 2000 and subsequently submitted a list of proposals to the IIAC. A consultation paper PDF file format was issued on 5 June 2000 to invite comments from the public. The consultation paper covered issues in respect of the proposed institutional arrangements for the administration of Internet domain names and Internet protocol addresses in Hong Kong, and the registration policy and dispute resolution mechanism for ".hk" domain names. The consultation period ended on 16 July 2000.

The result of the consultation recommended new registration policies such as multiple domain names, transfer of domain names to be allowed; and that a new non-profit making, non-statutory and self-financing corporation to be established for assuming the overall responsibility for Internet domain name administration in Hong Kong.

The new policies have been implemented in June 2001 with the establishment of Hong Kong Domain Name Registration Company Limited (HKDNR).

In June 2001, a Preparatory Committee comprising representatives from the JUCC, the IT, commercial and legal sectors, the Consumer Council and the Government, was set up to prepare for the establishment of the new corporation as recommended in the Consultation Paper.

The new corporation is named as the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited (HKIRC). The HKIRC was incorporated on 14 December 2001 and its Board of First Directors was formed on 22 January 2002.

The transfer of the domain name administration functions was effected in March 2002 through the transfer of shares of the HKDNR from the JUCC to the HKIRC. An Inauguration Ceremony of the HKIRC was organised on 22 April 2002 marking the successful completion of the transfer of the Internet domain name administration functions from the local universities to a non-profit making corporation, the HKIRC, as proposed in the public consultation exercise conducted in June 2000. In the Inauguration Ceremony, the Government and the HKIRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) PDF file format for the Management and Administration of Internet Domain Names in Hong Kong through which the Government designated the HKIRC to manage and administer all Internet domain names under the ".hk" country-code top level domain (ccTLD).

Having regard to international and regional developments, the Government commissioned a consultancy study in 2006, followed by a public consultation in mid 2007, to review the institutional framework and corporate governance for the administration of ".hk" Internet domain names.

With the general support received during the public consultation, the Government engaged the HKIRC to take forward the recommendations on institutional framework and corporate governance. At an extraordinary general meeting on 23 August 2008, the HKIRC members passed the special resolutions to amend the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the HKIRC to adopt the new institutional framework. At the Annual General Meeting on 15 December 2008, a smaller Board of directors was formed that will focus on strategic and operational governance. A new consultative and advisory panel was formed in June 2009 to involve stakeholders to advise the Board on major issues related to the administration of Internet domain names. The Government and the HKIRC signed a new MOU documentation on 17 March 2010, that comprises a Designation Agreement PDF file format (Chinese translation) PDF file format and an MOU PDF file format (Chinese translation) PDF file format, to reflect the new institutional arrangements with enhanced corporate governance, openness and transparency in the management and administration of Internet domain names in Hong Kong.

To enable the Chinese-speaking people to access websites of Hong Kong-related organisations using Internet addresses wholly in their mother language, the Government supported the HKIRC to introduce “.香港” (the Chinese equivalent of “.hk”) domain names in Hong Kong.  Full Chinese “.香港” domain names were launched in March 2011.