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), 21 Jan 2021 @ 2:13am

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

    "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."

    It's an unfortunate fact that the time to loudly object to being pitched to the lions in circus Maximus is before you've been thrown to the arena. Once there your best chance of survival - for both you and your loved ones still in the stands - will be to not look delicious.

    In order to "fight for the future" you need there to be some window of opportunity. In Hong Kong the future is nailed down. Barring world war 3 there is no chance this generation that China will be slowed down or hindered by anything the populace can do. The choices now are to leave, to bend their head, or to be quietly shipped off for "re-education".
    China isn't in danger of an uprising. The vast majority of the citizenry openly support the government. A revolution or chance to make the body politic blink, does not exist.

    "Sure. What percentage of population was that?"

    Irrelevant in this context, since to the percentage of the population not well enough off to go higher in the maslow hierarchy of needs than food and security, Hong Kong or Chinese rule doesn't matter. They'd be treated the same by either type of leadership. "Freedom" is an intangible if your job is as an MTR "sanitation engineer" or professional street stall vendor.

    Exceptions exist, as we've seen in the US where extreme fears and doubt mobilized a great many of the normally politically inactive poor, but that's an exception rather than the rule.

    "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."

    I'm a fan of both as well. By any accounts Jackie Chan is a pretty decent guy - except for that blind spot where he truly believes in the benevolence of the PRC which, apparently, he has held for a very long time. John Woo I have never even seen come out with a single political comment. Although, to be fair, I don't read celebrity interviews that much. For all I know he may have lead all his interviews with the Gettysburg Address.

    "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."

    Not to be all Chomsky or Ockham about it but there's a razor to be swung there, and it has to do with the likelihood of funding which you imply; on Chinese soil both Chan and Woo will be swamped with scripts written by Hengdian World Studios and funding courtesy of the People's Cultural Arts Committee, or whatever it's called.
    After that, for the film to pass the chinese censors it either has to toe a VERY fine line of neutrality visavi the government or come out in favor of it.

    "I don't recall many of their films being openly political or faux-patriotic before they returned to HK"

    If they had been, how well would that have flown with a largely western audience? Yes, your hypothesis isn't implausible but there is a case to be made that ANY good director or actor would fit their movie to the market they pitched it in. And that's already far more reasonable an assumption.

    "I do suspect something else behind the scenes motivating such things."

    Money and the likely market not being enough? In China movies which laud the government sell, because most of the chinese audience like and trust their government.

    My current hypothesis is that both Jackie and John have always been sympathetic to their government and that this hasn't surfaced as clearly simply because their movies up until lately haven't been pitched at a market receptive to chinese politics.


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