Tech Warns of Withdrawals Over Hong Kong Laws

Published · Jul 14, 2021

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) has warned that changes in Hong Kong privacy law could see big tech firms pulling out of the territory.

Big tech firms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple Inc, and LinkedIn make up the AIC. It issued the warning via a letter to the territory’s privacy commissioner for personal data, Ada Chung Lai-ling.

The letter stressed that the proposed changes could see individuals being hit with “serve sanctions.” It continued by pointing out that sanctions aimed at individuals were “not aligned with global norms and trends.”

It went on to say that “The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong.”

Laws as a Response Doxxing

The proposed changes would give the Hong Kong government the power to order social media platforms and website operators to take down information posted by doxers.

“Doxing,” which is the posting of a target’s personal information online to incite harassment, became widespread during the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Supporters on both sides were doxing each other. Targets included police, activists, court staff, protesters, and journalists. In some instances, the family members of targets were doxed as well.

The point of contention about the law changes lies in the fact that specific individuals in an organization can be held criminally liable if a platform, like Twitter, for example, fails to remove doxing information.

Jeff Paine, AIC managing director, did stress that the Asia Internet Coalition understands that “doxing is a matter of serious concern.” However, the AIC calls for the “real operating entity of the online services platform outside of Hong Kong,” and not the local branches, to be the target of legal action.

This would place the risk on corporate bodies rather than personnel. It would also make it inter-jurisdictional, a longer and costlier process, at a time when governments are growing increasingly litigious towards big tech firms.

Hong Kong-based tech, on the other hand, finds itself at a crossroads between increasing oversight from Beijing and retaining its access to Western technology and partners.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.