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
    PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 8:27am

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

    "If you read the writing on the wall and have over 20 years worth of early warning that's quite enough time to move away from the slopes of mount Vesuvius"

    Or, it's enough time to try and fight to change the future. Whether the writing is on the wall or not, the tendency for caring human beings is to fight for their families until such a time as that is not possible, not to abandon them. Now, that might be a mistake and they're biting off more than they can chew by making a stand, but that's a very different thing from not understanding what was coming.

    "The average privileged HK resident was little worse off than the average western white collar worker"

    Sure. What percentage of population was that?

    "I found nothing at all about John Woo's political beliefs, so again, if you have any information, please share."

    I don't have any handy links available, and they might take some time to dig up since the Chinese probably don't like them being found easily. I'm largely going off my memory of being a fan of both men since the late 80s, so this may be faulty but I'm sure I can find some documentation somewhere if I'm inclined to look through my old magazines and DVDs, and maybe use that to locate an online source.

    My recollection is that part of the reason why both men (and, indeed, a great many notable names in the HK movie industry) pursued Hollywood careers in the early 90s was due to fears over post-97 Chinese rule. The entire film industry was petrified of it. Both men have since returned and have been making very pro-Chinese movies, sometimes obnoxiously propaganda tinged.

    Now, it's certainly possible that they returned to HK of their own volition and the naked propaganda is due to rules around financing. But, I don't recall many of their films being openly political or faux-patriotic before they returned to HK, and I do suspect something else behind the scenes motivating such things.


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