Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other major technology companies say they have suspended processing requests for user data from Hong Kong authorities after China’s new national security law come into force late June.
Provisions include police having more power to demand information or compel companies to take down information from the internet, as well as giving the government new ways to restrict social media.
The internet’s major players have long operated in the former British colony free from Chinese censors. Now many industry observers believe the new law – which has sparked many months of street protests in Hong Kong – will change how those companies operate.
“They will have to face increasing pressure from the government on aspects like censorship and access to private data in the name of national security,” Shan Wei, a research fellow specialising in Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore, was quoted as saying by the Nikkei Asian Review.
Fu King-wa, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center, commented: “It shows that the national security law has really touched on their worries about the freedom of expression … especially when there’s so much international attention on the law.”
Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying: “I think you’ve reached the point where the ‘Great Firewall’ has come to Hong Kong. And we’re in very new territory right now … people don’t know what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do, neither do companies know.”
Hong Kong police reportedly made 5,325 user-data disclosure requests and 4,175 information-removal requests to internet companies in 2019, respectively up from 3,440 and 38 in the previous year.
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