Hong Kong authorities may decide to block popular messaging app Telegram, fearing the city is moving steadily towards mainland-style internet censorship.
Privacy Commissioner Ada Chung told a Legislative Council (LegCo) committee on Monday that the government remains concerned about doxxing and other breaches of personal data privacy, and that his office is considering blocking Telegram to address the issue.
Chung’s office issued 227 takedown orders on 12 online platforms between October 8, 2021 and December 31, 2021, requesting the removal of posts that revealed people’s personal details, which was criminalized in an amended order on the Privacy Protection last October.
She said around 80% of the 1,111 posts had been deleted.
Chung said his office has also been involved in arresting people for publishing information about LegCo members – all of whom were elected from a list of candidates strictly selected for their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). in power – and their family members. in line.
Such information, if it led to knowledge of the business interests and political connections of legislators, might otherwise be considered in the public interest.
Chung said his office is in an ongoing battle to prevent the publication of personal information online, as people often repost the information after the takedown order is implemented. She said it was much harder to enforce when it came to overseas-based online platforms.
Chung said the newly amended law gives his office the power to restrict access to platforms that violate the city’s privacy laws, adding that his officials are compiling a blacklist of non-compliant platforms. .
Forum for Social Activism
The pro-China newspaper Singtao Daily identified Telegram – which was widely used to coordinate civil disobedience and other actions during the 2019 protest movement – as the government’s main concern.
“Since 2019, the Privacy Commissioner noticed that many messages from Hong Kong were sent by a few groups on Telegram, and most of them were political in nature or involved the pursuit of the social activism,” the newspaper said. . “Those targeted included government officials, LegCo members and even ordinary citizens.”
Telegram says Wednesday he was “surprised” by allegations of doxxing made by Hong Kong officials.
“Doxxing content is banned on Telegram and our moderators routinely remove this content from around the world,” spokesperson Remi Vaughn said in a statement emailed to RFA.
He said that while doxxing, illegal pornography or calls for violence would be removed, the company would not engage in political censorship.
“Any requests related to political censorship or limitation of human rights such as the rights to freedom of expression or assembly are not and will not be considered,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, exiled Hong Kongers in the UK are using public spaces to escape political censorship that would be meted out to them at home under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP, banning public dissent. and the political opposition.
Art curator and former pro-democracy district councilor Clara Cheung moved to the UK with her family after it became clear opposition politicians were increasingly targeted by security law national, which entered into force from 1st of July2020.
Now in Manchester, Cheung has set up an exhibition called “The 24,901 Mile Wide Red Line”, featuring works by Hong Kong artists who can no longer be publicly displayed in their hometown.
Milk Tea Alliance
She has also invited artists from Thailand and Myanmar, whose own protest movements have been supported by Hong Kong protesters as part of the Milk Tea Alliance, to exhibit.
The 24,901 miles refers to the circumference of the Earth and to Beijing’s attempts to extend censorship far beyond China’s borders to the entire planet.
Many works in the exhibition would have posed no problem in Hong Kong just a few years ago, Cheung said.
She said the exhibition aims to encourage Hong Kong artists to continue testing the limits of government censorship.
“Otherwise, the creative space will become smaller and smaller, and the red line will be more and more ingrained,” Cheung said.
“Everyone will be more and more squeezed by white terror,” she said, using a term originating in Taiwan to describe the political crackdown on dissent under the authoritarian Kuomintang rule, which ended in the 1990s.
“Hong Kong officials are giving us the impression … that the restrictions are actually tougher than those in mainland China,” Cheung said. “It’s as if the different departments of the Hong Kong government, like the State Security Police, Procuratorate, etc., are fighting each other to see who is more loyal. [to Beijing].”
A Hongkonger who saw the exhibit and only went by the nickname A Chin said dissidents in Myanmar seemed to have it even worse, though.
“An artist in Myanmar died after being tortured for 12 hours…I don’t even know what to say to that; it weighs heavily on me,” A Chin said.
“But it’s important for those of us who are still alive to see what we can do…you can’t stay in the pain of the past forever.”
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.