Hong Kong ISPs Hit Back at Government Censorship

Hong Kong’s ISPs have hit back at suggestions the regional government could force them to block certain applications in a desperate bid to quell long-running protests in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR).

The Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association (HKISPA) released an urgent statement on Wednesday in response to local reports claiming that under-fire CEO of the SAR, Carrie Lam, was planning to issue executive orders to ISPs.

The Emergency Regulations Ordinance, a British colonial-era law last used in the 1960s during riots which killed over 50 people, could be used by the executive to impose censorship on the city-state without the need to consult the legislature (LegCo) first.

Protestors are thought to be using apps like Telegram to organize and share information.

However, the HKISPA argued that Hong Kong’s citizens are too tech savvy for partial blocking to work, as they could simply use VPNs to stay hidden or switch to other apps. This could lead to an escalation where eventually all websites and apps are put “behind a large scale surveillance firewall,” it warned.

Any moves to do so would seriously impact Hong Kong’s reputation as an Asian business hub and in turn, cost society dear if firms flee to countries with a more open internet, HKISPA added.

“The lifeline of Hong Kong’s Internet industry relies in large part on the open network. Hong Kong is the largest core node of Asia’s optical fiber network and hosts the biggest internet exchange in the region, and it is now home to 100+ data centers operated by local and international companies, and it transits 80%+ of traffic for mainland China,” it explained.

“All these successes rely on the openness of Hong Kong’s network. Such restrictions imposed by executive orders would completely ruin the uniqueness and value of Hong Kong as a telecommunications hub, a pillar of success as an international financial center.”

CEO Carrie Lam is under intense pressure from Beijing to tackle the pro-democracy protests, which began in earnest in June, ahead of October 1: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

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