Hello and welcome to TipsClear’s China Roundup, a summary of recent events that are shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean for people around the world.
This week, the unprecedented national security law descended on Hong Kong, changing the daily lives of people there, as well as businesses at all levels. The law has important implications for the technology sector, providing a litmus test of how companies feel about Chinese information regulations. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Zoom, Reddit among a list of companies came to express their position.
Resist, comply, avoid
Hong Kong’s national security law, which came into effect on July 1, is expected to tighten Beijing’s grip on the city. Some provisions of the law directly ask service providers to delete information or provide assistance to the police, as I wrote earlier. Here’s what the tech giants say in response:
Facebook confirmed that it had suspended the processing of data requests from the Hong Kong authorities until it could better understand the law, “including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts. ” His spokesperson said, “We believe freedom of expression is a basic human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”
Its suspension will also apply to WhatsApp, which it owns.
Twitter said it suspended data transfers from users subject to Hong Kong requests immediately after the law came into force, and its teams “are examining the law to assess its implications, especially as some terms of the law are vague and unclear “. He also said that he had “serious concerns about both the process of drafting and the full intention of this law”.
Google said it has suspended its review of authorities’ data requests. He added that he would continue to consider government requests for the removal of user-generated content from his services.
Zoom said it has suspended its compliance with the Hong Kong authorities’ requests for data. “Zoom supports the free and open exchange of thoughts and ideas … We actively monitor developments in the Hong Kong SAR, including any potential direction from the United States government. We have suspended the processing of all data requests from and related to the Hong Kong SAR. “
LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft and operates a separate mainland from Chinese regulations, said it was suspending responses to requests from local law enforcement while it studied the law.
Telegram said it does not intend to process requests for data relating to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached regarding the political changes taking place in the city. His spokesman said he had not released any data to the Hong Kong authorities in the past.
Signal, a Telegram competitor in the field of data encryption, tweeted a sarcastic comment: “We would announce that we are also stopping, but we have never started to hand over user data to the Hong Kong police. In addition, we have no user data to transmit. “
TIC Tac is in a dilemma. As a Chinese company, it cannot choose to challenge the Chinese government. On the other hand, it cannot afford more stories about the fact that it is a Chinese censorship tool. Instead of temporarily refusing requests for data from the police, like many foreign companies, which is seen as a gesture of opposition to Beijing’s grip, the short video application decided to leave Hong Kong. It’s an easy business decision, as the city was only a tiny part of the TikTok user base. Time will tell if ByteDance will deploy a censored version of TikTok – Douyin – or leave out the city of seven million people.
Apple has long been criticized for its proximity to the Chinese government, where it has important affairs. Last year, he drew up a map showing protests for democracy in Hong Kong.
Following the passing of the security law, Apple announced that it is evaluating the rules, adding that it does not receive requests for user content directly from the government of Hong Kong and requires the authorities to submit requests in under a legal aid treaty between the United States and Hong Kong.
Reddit, which views Tencent as an investor, provided a more elusive response: “All of Hong Kong’s legal claims are bound by careful examination of their validity and with particular attention to the implications for human rights.”
The list is not exhaustive, and many aspects of the national security law await further explanation. We will continue to monitor how other tech companies are dealing with the new city rules.
In response to tech companies suspending data compliance to the police, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tried to allay the concerns in a statement:
“I remember what Deng Xiaoping noted in 1982 when he met Margaret Thatcher after Hong Kong returned to the motherland,” the horses will continue to run, the stocks will still sizzle and the dancers will continue to dance ” We have every reason to believe that as the law is implemented, the foundation of a “country, two systems” will be further strengthened, the fundamental interests and the well-being of the residents of Hong Kong Kong will be better protected, there will be greater social stability and harmony. “The horses will run faster, the stocks will be more sizzling and the dancers will dance more happily.” We have full confidence in the future of Hong Kong. “
- US threatens to ban TikTok fearing that it would be used by the Beijing government as a tool for surveillance and propaganda.
- In a race to lead the global semiconductor industry, Chinese flea companies raised more than twice as much in 2020 as in 2019.
- UK to start phasing out Huawei technologies in the country’s 5G network this year due to security concerns. The decision overturned a previous plan to keep Huawei in the country’s telecommunications infrastructure subject to strict restrictions.
- Weibo becomes a closed ecosystem. The largest microblogging platform in China has announced that it will only accept shortened links that it will authenticate. Maintaining a white list, he said, will help eliminate dangerous sites such as illegal gambling and pornography. Meanwhile, users are concerned that this is a slippery slope that leads to another walled garden on the Internet. The platform provides four types of short links, including a shortlist of official websites operated by government agencies, media, news portals, as well as corporate websites controlled and approved by Weibo.