As Beijing Continues To Creep Into Hong Kong, Internet Censorship Begins

from the democracy-on-decline dept

As we've written about recently, Beijing's creep into Hong Kong control has turned into nearly a dash as of late. What started with July's new "national security" law that allowed the mainland to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs led to arrests of media members in July, the expulsion and arrest of pro-democracy politicians in November, and then expanded arrests of members of the public who have said the wrong things in January.

And as that mad dash to tighten its grip before a new American administration takes office continues, Beijing appears to be starting the process of censoring the internet in Hong Kong as well. In a move likely designed to make this all look reasonable, the first reports revolve around a website used to post information about Hong Kong police.

Hong Kong’s biggest mobile telecom companies appear to have severed access to a website that listed the personal information of police officers, setting off fears that the authorities may use a new national security law to adopt censorship tactics widely used in mainland China.

Users attempting to access the site, called HKChronicles, on their mobile devices first noticed the disruption on Wednesday evening, according to the site’s owner, Naomi Chan, an 18-year-old high school student. Disruption came without any warning or explanation, she said.

Now, I can write the comments from some of you here to save you the trouble: if this is a site dedicated to doxxing police officers, how is blocking it unreasonable? Your desire to write that comment is almost certainly precisely why this site is the first to have gotten the mainland censorship treatment. But that's entirely besides the point.

Instead, frame it in your mind this way: a site that had previously been accessible by Hong Kong citizens no longer is as a result of the desires of mainland China. In other words, don't get lost in the details, just realize that this is likely the start of a trend. I don't think anyone really wants to suggest in the comments that Beijing will censor this site and stop there, do they? I hope not, because nobody thinks this is anything other than the first domino to fall on its way to internet censorship.

The disruption raised the prospect that the city, long a bastion of online freedom, could begin to fall under the shadow of the tight censorship system that separates mainland Chinese internet from the rest of the online world. On Hong Kong social media, many people worried that the authorities could eventually bring the city’s overall access to the open internet to an end.

“Their talking point has been the national security law will only target a small group of people,” said Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who specializes in online communication.  “In practice it hasn’t been limited to a small group of people,” Mr. Tsui said. “My concern is that internet censorship similarly won’t be limited to a small group of websites.”

It's worth noting that, for now, the method for censorship is different than the mainland's Great Firewall, but the end result is the same. I suppose the questions that remain are just how much more action Beijing is going to take prior to January 20th and what the Biden administration intends to do about any of this once it is in office.

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Filed Under: censorship, china, hkchronicles, hong kong, naomi chan, protests, site blocking


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  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 7:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

    "OK. What percentage of the HK population is that and why should the voices of those who didn't have the choice be ignored?"

    Are you seriously interested in an answer or just being facetious?

    The well educated middle and upper classes certainly had the option to leave - the same way most western europeans or americans will find little issues emigrating to another nation in the G20.
    And since many of them did not their children are now the ones who were raised according to western ideals in a nation which, as a whole, do not believe in or accept those ideals and principles.

    Most of those who did not have the same choice will be facing the exact same situation under Chinese rule that they would under Hong Kong's previous government.
    That's less a question of "which politics are the best" and more an assertion that the poor have never had either a voice nor much of an inclination to make use of higher principles of individual liberty when they barely have food and shelter covered. Maslow's hierarchy of needs in action.

    "On the HK side, I'm not so sure. I only have vague ties there due to family having been stationed there and some of what I gathered was due to a general interest in HK cinema rather than actual experience there. But, my understanding is that it was an extremely important issue that a lot of the locals didn't buy. "

    Your understanding would be correct. A lot of locals didn't buy it and as you yourself noted, a lot of them left. The ones who didn't made a choice, then and there, to remain on board the train when the conductor hollered "Next Stop; Imperial China!".
    A choice I might note that their children are now paying for, because I doubt it's the senior citizens in HK in the streets today.

    Hong Kong was - in an all too appropriate fit for this saying, sold down the river. For anyone to whom freedom of speech and freedom of information is at all important, that city is now lost. That's the reality. China will have no qualms, as last resort, to simply round up every dissident and send them for a five year "reeducation" stint. While making a very public demonstration how well those who make no fuss and know how to kowtow to Beijing are treated.

    Protests and demonstrations are, in the end, exhortations to the body politic. How they are received depends entirely on whether those exhortations could move enough of the population to put pressure on the government, or awaken enough foreign interest for other nations to pressure the government.
    In the case of China neither is happening, because the vast majority of the chinese citizenry are happy with things the way they are, and the only foreign actors big enough to exert pressure have lost every semblance of moral authority and can't even bring themselves to complain about the Xinjiang concentration camps without sounding hypocritical.

    The moral principle has no chance of winning in HK. No matter what happens. Realpolitik will carry the day.
    And by now it's a bit late in the game to advise running for the hills or uproot and leave, for the vast majority of people in HK. Yet the options are grim; Bend your head, go to jail, or leave. That's what's on offer, in reality.


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