Reuters File Photo: Hong Kong flag falls behind a pair of surveillance cameras outside the Hong Kong Central Government Office in China on July 20, 2020.
By Pak Yiu
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday passed a privacy law dealing with “doxing” – disclosing information identifying an individual or organization – which critics say could be used to protect those in power and target civil society.
Proponents say the law has long been delayed since the pro-democracy protests in 2019. Some officials’ home addresses and children’s schools were exposed by anti-government protesters, resulting in threats.
But some technology companies are concerned that the law is so broad and vague that it could disrupt operations in Hong Kong. Human rights and pro-democracy groups fear it could be used to stifle dissent.
“It’s a fight against doxing behavior that divides society, as soon as possible,” said Eric Sang, secretary of constitutional and mainland affairs in the legislature, who has no opposition.
“Foreign platforms have their own company policy so that the content on their platform does not violate relevant local laws. That’s why we are confident that most foreign internet platforms will comply with the notice to stop publishing under the new law.”
The law gives the privacy commissioner’s office the power to investigate and prosecute doxing for personal information. Violators include anyone who discloses a person’s personal information “with the intent to cause certain harm or to be reckless” without their consent.
“Specific harm” includes harassment, threats, intimidation, physical harm, mental harm, victim safety concerns, and others. Violators could face fines of up to HK $ 1 million ($ 129,000) and up to five years in prison.
The commissioner may apply for a warrant and search the premises and seize materials for investigation and access electronic devices without a warrant. It can issue notices to remove content or block access to that content anywhere in the world.
The Asia Internet Coalition, an advocacy group that includes Google (NASDAQ :), Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 and Twitter (NYSE :), wrote to the commissioner in a June 25 letter saying the technology companies could stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the authorities go. Moving forward with change.
The coalition said the measures were “not in line with global norms and trends” and that any law that could integrate freedom of speech “must be based on the principle of necessity and proportionality”.
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