A slew of technology providers have temporarily suspended any co-operation with Hong Kong police following the introduction of a regressive national security law.
WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Zoom have all announced a pause on the processing of data requests from the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China until an international consensus is formed on how to react.
“We understand the importance of protecting the right to privacy of our Hong Kong users under these circumstances,” Mike Ravdonikas of Telegram told the Hong Kong Free Press on Sunday. “Accordingly, Telegram does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city.”
A spokesperson for Zoom said the firm was actively monitoring the developments “including any guidance from the US government” and had paused data access requests in the meantime.
“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a Facebook statement read. “We have a global process for government requests and in reviewing each individual request, we consider Facebook’s policies, local laws and international human rights standards.”
Widely criticized by governments around the world, the legislation was secretly drafted in Beijing in blatant violation of the “one country two systems” agreement signed between China and Britain which enabled the former colony to retain a semi-autonomous criminal justice and political system following the 1997 handover.
The law will now give the Chinese authorities the power to punish acts of “terrorist activities,” “secession,” “subversion” and “collusion with a foreign country” with life imprisonment or even death.
The vague wording of the legislation is said to be such that it is likely to be used to stifle free speech in the SAR, while police have been granted the power to search premises for evidence without a warrant.
The law can also be applied outside Hong Kong and China, which many see as an attempt to muzzle any kind of criticism of the regime from commentators abroad.
Source: Infosecurity Magazine