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Hong Kong: Concern over China's natl. security law met with mixed business reaction, casting doubts over city's freedoms

During its annual Two Sessions in May 2020, China proposed and approved a resolution to impose a national security law on Hong Kong. While the details of the legislation are yet to be set out, it is understood that such acts as secession, subversion and terrorism as well as activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong could be made criminal. The enactment of the new security law will bypass the legislature of Hong Kong and be implemented by the Hong Kong government upon its promulgation. 

China’s move has shocked both Hong Kong and the international community, as many are worried that it will not only pose significant threats to the freedoms of Hong Kong that have set the city apart from its sovereign, but also violate the principle of One Country Two Systems, upon which the Chinese and British governments agreed as an imperative part of the handover arrangements in 1997 and which has been specified in the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong that would expire in 2047. There are also widespread worries that the rule of law and autonomy of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region would be undermined when the new legislation is enacted.

Among other members of the society, the business sector has also voiced out their concerns. A few foreign business chambers have called for clarification of the details of the legislation and urged the government to explain how the integrity of the One Country Two Systems principle would be sustained upon the enactment of the national security legislation. Other companies, including HSBC, Standard Chartered, Jardine Matheson, however, have voiced support for the new law.

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10 August 2020

Israel: Cellebrite says it does not sell to areas sanctioned by US as activists urge it to stop exporting tech to Hong Kong police

Author: Jerusalem Post

“Hong Kong democracy activists to Israel: Stop exporting tech to police”, 31 July 2020

Hong Kong pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong joined a call for Israel to block a civilian technology company from selling products China used to spy on protesters.

Wong wrote a Facebook post saying a software developed by an Israeli company called Cellebrite, was used by the Hong Kong Police Forces to hack into his phone.

The activist shared a letter by Israeli human rights lawyer Eitay Mack calling on the Defense Ministry and Economy Ministry to block Cellebrite from exporting its product to Hong Kong.

The letter was cosigned by 37 Israeli human rights activists “who support the rights of the citizens of Hong Kong to life, liberty and personal safety under a democratic government which will uphold their civil and human rights.”…

… the activists state that the Cellebrite system was used to hack into 4,000 Hong Kong citizens’ phones…

Wong also shared an online petition started two weeks ago by another activist, Kwun Chung Law, with over 36,000 signatories, titled “calling upon Cellebrite to terminate phone hacking cooperations with Hong Kong Police.”…

“Cellebrite claims its technology is used to create a ‘safer world’. But... cooperation with this authoritarian regime are de facto imperiling the personal safety of all western nationals,” the petition reads…

Cellebrite said that it does not comment on specific customers, but that they have strict guidelines governing how the technology may be used. It also does not sell to countries on the Financial Action Task Force blacklist or that are under sanction by the US, Israel or "the broader international community."

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+ 日本語 - Hide

Author: Japan In-Depth


…衆議院議員会館で「対中政策に関する国会議員連盟(Japan Parliamentary Alliance on China:JPAC)」(仮称)が設立総会を開いた…

まず、香港の自決を掲げる政党「デモシスト(香港衆志(ほんこんしゅうし:Demosistō)」(現在は解散)初代主席の羅 冠聡(らかんそう:Nathan Law ネイサン・ロー)氏(現在英国滞在)によるビデオメッセージが上映された。



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21 July 2020

Hong Kong: ProtonVPN announces initiative to donate to civil rights organisations to support democracy and freedom

Author: ProtonVPN

“Help us defend democracy and freedom in Hong Kong”, 21 July 2020

… On July 6… Hong Kong’s governing body effectively destroyed the idea of an autonomous, democratic Hong Kong by imposing a series of measures designed to eliminate privacy, sharpen censorship, and curb freedom of speech…

… Today we’re announcing a new initiative to defend democracy, privacy, and freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

We will be donating 50% of our revenue from July and August 2020 from Hong Kong to support two local civil rights organizations: 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund and Stand With Hong Kong.

Over the course of this campaign, we hope to raise over HK$1,000,000 (about US$130,000) to help defend freedom in Hong Kong…

At Proton, we believe in freedom and democracy for all citizens of the world, and we have long been supporting the activist community in Hong Kong… We hope that through our financial support, the cause for freedom in Hong Kong can continue to burn brightly.

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17 July 2020

Hong Kong: Some VPN providers shut down servers in Hong Kong over security law concerns

Author: CNBC

“Some VPN firms shut down Hong Kong servers over security law concerns”, 17 July 2020

A number of virtual private network (VPN) providers in the U.S. and Canada have shut down their servers in Hong Kong, citing concerns over the national security law…

Technology companies are worried about provisions in the law, some of which give authorities powers to police online content, which could include requiring tech platforms and internet service providers to delete content that falls foul of the legislation.

Already, a number of major U.S. firms, including Google and Facebook, said they would pause handling requests for user data from authorities in response to the new legislation…

U.S.-based IPVanish said in a blog post that it had decommissioned its Hong Kong VPN servers and suspended operations there in order to protect “the freedoms of users in Hong Kong.”…

Located in Denver, Colorado, Private Internet Access, said… it will be “wiping and shutting down” its Hong Kong servers “because new national security laws in the region endanger the privacy of our users and all Hong Kong residents.”

… Canada-based TunnelBear said it would disable its Hong Kong servers. The VPN provider said the national security law has “led to widespread worry that this new law will hurt freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC via email.

Other VPN companies said they would continue keeping their Hong Kong servers online.

ProtonVPN said it is “outraged” by the new security law but it will keep its servers in the city “not only because we believe we can keep them secure, but also because we believe in fighting for Hong Kong.”…

SurfShark, another VPN firm, told CNBC by email that it will not be shutting down servers in Hong Kong as they do not contain any user information and should be safe.

But it added that if there are “requirements from authorities to start logging user activity, we would immediately shut down our VPN servers in Hong Kong.”…

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8 July 2020

Hong Kong: More major internet and social media platforms stop processing requests for user data while conducting assessment of security law

Author: CNN Business

“Facebook, Google and Twitter won't give Hong Kong authorities user data for now”, 7 July 2020

Most of the world's major internet and social media platforms have stopped processing requests for user data made by Hong Kong law enforcement authorities while they carry out an assessment of a controversial security law imposed by China on the city…

Facebook and its messaging service WhatsApp said in statements… that they would "pause" the review of information requests from the Hong Kong government "pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts."

Facebook (FB) said the company believes "freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions."

Twitter (TWTR) confirmed to CNN Business that it has also paused all requests from Hong Kong authorities for data and information while it reviews the law. "Like many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law," a spokesperson said.

A Google (GOOG) spokesperson told CNN Business that when the law took effect, it "paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities, and we'll continue to review the details of the new law."

Popular video conferencing platform Zoom (ZM) followed suit… saying in a statement that it will pause processing data requests from and related to the Hong Kong government. The company said it is "actively monitoring the developments in Hong Kong SAR, including any potential guidance from the US government."

A spokesperson for LinkedIn also confirmed it is pausing responses to local law enforcement requests in Hong Kong…

… the Hong Kong government said police would be given new powers to investigate offenses related to the law, including demanding publishing platforms and internet service providers remove content that authorities believe undermines national security.

Service providers who fail to comply with the requirement to remove such messages or provide assistance to law enforcement would be liable to a maximum fine of $12,903 ($100,000 Hong Kong dollars) and six months' imprisonment…

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8 July 2020

Hong Kong: Tiktok withdraws from city's app stores while Apple assesses security law

Author: The Guardian (UK)

“Apple under pressure to act after TikTok pulls out of Hong Kong”, 7 July 2020

TikTok is to withdraw from Hong Kong app stores and Zoom will stop complying with city authorities’ data requests as technology companies react to the sweeping new national security laws imposed on the city by Beijing.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Telegram have already said they are “pausing” cooperation with requests for user information, putting pressure on Apple, which says it is “assessing” the new law, to do the same.

TikTok, a video-sharing social-networking platform owned by the China-based ByteDance, has consistently denied sharing any user data with the Beijing authorities, and was adamant it did not intend to agree to such requests. The company expected to take several days to wind down its app operations in Hong Kong... 

Apple remains the largest US-based company to continue cooperation with law enforcement in Hong Kong…

In a statement an Apple spokesman said: “Apple has always required that all content requests from local law enforcement authorities be submitted through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in place between the United States and Hong Kong. As a result, Apple doesn’t receive content requests directly from the Hong Kong government. Under the MLAT process, the US Department of Justice reviews Hong Kong authorities’ requests for legal conformance. We’re assessing the new law, which went into effect less than a week ago, and we have not received any content requests since the law went into effect.”

[Also referred to Whatsapp]

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7 July 2020

Hong Kong: Facebook, Whatsapp and Telegram pause processing of requests for user data following passage of national security law

Author: The Guardian (UK)

“Facebook and WhatsApp pause Hong Kong user data requests”, 6 July 2020

Facebook and WhatsApp have said they have “paused” the processing of government requests for user data in Hong Kong. The encrypted messenger Telegram has also halted cooperation with law enforcement.

WhatsApp said it was pausing such reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the national security law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts”.

Its parent company, Facebook, followed soon afterwards. “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a spokesperson said. “We have a global process for government requests, and in reviewing each individual request, we consider Facebook’s policies, local laws and international human rights standards.”…

The decision by the social networks to suspend law enforcement cooperation suggests they see themselves on a collision course with the Chinese state following the passage of the national security law.

Telegram said it would not process “any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city”…

[Also referred to Apple]

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2 July 2020

Federated Hermes raises concerns over HSBC's public support of national security law in Hong Kong

Author: South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)

“Asset manager Federated Hermes raises concerns over HSBC’s public support of national security law for Hong Kong”, 29 June 2020

HSBC is facing more questions over its public support of a controversial national security law for Hong Kong.

Federated Hermes is the latest organisation to raise concerns about HSBC’s backing of the legislation after Aviva Investors publicly rebuked the London-based lender and its rival Standard Chartered earlier… over the new law.

The asset manager, which has a long history of focusing on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, said it was “engaging” with HSBC to “fully understand” the bank’s position as part of its EOS stewardship service…

“We have questions on the bank’s statement amid concerns that the new law may have an adverse impact on human rights in Hong Kong,” Roland Bosch, the lead engager for financial services EOS at Federated Hermes, said in a statement. “We expect companies to support improvements in protections for citizens and not back their removal.”

Federated Hermes previously told the South China Morning Post that it actively screens for allegations of human rights violations as part of its investment process…

A HSBC spokeswoman declined to comment…

[Also referred to Jardine Matheson Group, Mandarin Oriental hotel, Cathay Pacific]

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29 June 2020

UN experts say Hong Kong security law would undermine businesses' ability to respect human rights under Guiding Principles and call for withdrawal of law draft

Author: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

“UN experts call for decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China”, 26 June 2020

UN independent experts have repeatedly communicated with the Government of the People’s Republic of China their alarm regarding the repression of fundamental freedoms in China…

They have also raised their concerns regarding a range of issues of grave concern… [including] the broadly worrying anti-terrorism and sedition laws applicable in Hong Kong…

Most recently, the National People’s Congress took a decision to draft a national security law for the Hong Kong SAR – without any meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong – which would, if adopted, violate China’s international legal obligations and impose severe restrictions on civil and political rights in the autonomous region…

The draft law would deprive the people of Hong Kong, who constitute a minority with their own distinctive history, cultural and linguistic and even legal traditions, the autonomy and fundamental rights guaranteed them under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ governance framework… The national security law would also undermine the ability of businesses operating in Hong Kong to discharge their responsibility to respect human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The independent experts urge the Government of China to abide by its international legal obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and withdraw the draft national security law for Hong Kong…

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29 June 2020

US government to impose sanctions on companies and banks that back efforts to restrict Hong Kong's autonomy

Author: Al Jazeera

“US imposes new sanctions on Chinese leaders over Hong Kong laws”, 27 June 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said… the United States was imposing visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for restricting freedoms in Hong Kong.

The move comes in advance of a meeting of China's parliament… that is expected to enact new national security legislation for Hong Kong that has alarmed foreign governments and democracy activists in the special administrative region…

… President Donald Trump responded to China's new legislation by announcing a process to eliminate special economic treatment that has allowed Hong Kong to remain a global financial centre…

The Chinese embassy in Washington insisted in a statement that "no one has any legal grounds or right to make irresponsible comments on Hong Kong affairs…

… the Republican-majority US Senate passed bipartisan legislation that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that back efforts to restrict Hong Kong's autonomy.

The measure includes secondary sanctions on banks that do business with anyone backing any crackdown on the territory's autonomy, potentially cutting them off from American counterparts and limiting access to US dollar transactions.

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