Tech Firms May Be Forced to Quit Hong Kong Because of Privacy Law Changes, Asia Industry Group Warns


An Asian industry group that includes Google, Facebook, and Twitter has warned that tech companies could stop offering their products and services in Hong Kong whether the Chinese territory proceeds with plans to change privacy laws.

The warning came in a letter sent by the Asia Internet Coalition, of which all three companies, along with Apple, LinkedIn, and others, are members.

Proposed amendments to privacy laws in Hong Kong could see individuals hit with “severe sanctions”, said the June 25 letter to the territory’s privacy commissioner for personal data, Ada Chung Lai-ling, without specifying what the sanctions would be.

“Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals isn’t aligned with global norms and trends,” added the letter, whose contents were first reported by the Wall Road Publication.

“The only way to keep away from these sanctions for technology companies would be to chorus from making an investment and offering their products and services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to business.”

In the six-page letter, The main points of a few officers’ home addresses were shared online and personal data privacy of individuals. “Alternatively, we want to stress that doxxing is an issue of serious concern,” he wrote.

All the way through anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, doxxing – or publicly releasing private or identifying information approximately an individual or organisation – came under scrutiny when police were targeted after their details were released online.

The main points of a few officers’ home addresses and children’s schools were also exposed by anti-government protesters, some of who threatened them and their families online.

“We … consider that any anti-doxxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, will have to be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality,” the AIC said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for remark, while Twitter referred questions to the AIC.

Google declined to remark.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the warranty of continued freedoms. Pro-democracy activists say those freedoms are being whittled absent by Beijing, particularly with a national security law introduced final year cracking down on dissent. China denies the charge.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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