July 9, 2020

NOT FOR THE BETTER: The internet is changing drastically for Hong Kong’s citizens.

The big picture: It’s only been one week since China passed a controversial national security law that gives it vast new powers over Hong Kong, but the internet has already changed dramatically for people in the semi-autonomous city.

What sort of powers? The law lets mainland Chinese officials operate in Hong Kong for the first time. It also gives Beijing the power to overrule local laws, and it creates a series of vaguely worded new crimes: for example, making it illegal to incite “hatred” toward the Chinese government. Hong Kong police can censor internet content and track citizens online. They can now conduct searches without a warrant, force web platforms to take down or block posts, seize electronic records, and conduct surveillance of suspects without court oversight. Companies that don’t comply with these orders can be fined up to HK$100,000 ($12,903), and employees can face jail terms of up to six months.

The fallout: Effectively, this brings Hong Kong into China’s Great Firewall, a tightly controlled and censored version of the internet that blocks most foreign internet tools and mobile apps. Foreign companies are permitted to operate only if they comply.

It’s time to start shutting Communist Chinese surveillance apps out of Western markets.

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