Hong Kong leader brushes off big tech fears around new privacy law

 

Following reports on big tech companies expressing their concern over Hong Kong’s evolving data-protection laws and mulling an exit, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has briskly brushed off the concerns.

Lam told reporters that the law would be targeted at “illegal doxxing” will “empower the privacy commissioners to investigate and carry out operations. She also likened the new data privacy move to that of national security law which was imposed in Hong Kong last year after the 2019 protests.

Lam also said that the privacy commission would be willing to meet with tech industry players to address their anxieties but added that sometimes effectiveness of a law needs to be demonstrated via implementation.

The statements comes shortly after global tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet's Google have reportedly told the Hong Kong government that they might stop offering their services in Hong Kong should the government continue to change data-protection laws, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The report said that these three companies have privately told the Hong Kong government that the laws could make them "liable for the malicious sharing of individuals’ information online". They are also worried about the planned amendments to the city’s data-protection laws aimed at address doxing, which they say could put their employees at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the companies’ users post online.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a letter from the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition dated 25 June said that the tech companies thought that the only way to avoid sanctions would be to stop investing and offering services in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, according to the South China Morning Post, the Asia Internet Coalition said the legislation was too vague and broad. It added that it was unfair to hold local staff accountable and responsible if their overseas-based companies did not remove content on their platforms as required by the authorities.

Reuters, meanwhile, reported that in the letter, the companies said that introducing sanctions aimed at individuals "is not aligned with global norms and trends".