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Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Zoom to refuse to honour Hong Kong data requests over new China law

The new law has resulted in protests in China

Adam Smith
Tuesday 07 July 2020 10:12 BST
Supporters of an arrested anti-law protester raise white paper to avoid slogans banned under the national security law
Supporters of an arrested anti-law protester raise white paper to avoid slogans banned under the national security law (Reuters)

Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Zoom have all said they are reviewing their presence in Hong Kong following the introduction of a new national security law from the Chinese government.

It follows Facebook, messaging platform Telegram, and TikTok taking similar action.

Google said that it would continue reviewing Hong Kong’s requests for removal of user-generated content from its services, but would not comply with data requests until it had reviewed the law.

According to the company’s figures, the Hong Kong government requested data from Google 105 times.

While Google is not available in China, it has a sales presence in Hong Kong working with Chinese companies to promote adverts outside of the country.

“Given the rapid pace at which the new National Security Law in China has been passed and that it was only published in its entirety for the first time last week, our teams are reviewing the law to assess its implications, particularly as some of the terms of the law are vague and without clear definition” a Twitter spokesperson said.

“Like many public interest organisations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law,” they continued.

Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn and the Bing search engine, is the only one of the major US technology companies to operate in China, but will nevertheless review its decisions under the law.

“As we would with any new legislation, we are reviewing the new law to understand its implications” Microsoft told The Independent.

“In the past, we’ve typically received only a relatively small number of requests from Hong Kong authorities, but we are pausing our responses to these requests as we conduct our review.”

Video conferencing software Zoom also said that it would be pausing data requests from the Chinese government.

“Zoom supports the free and open exchange of thoughts and ideas. We are proud to facilitate meaningful conversations and professional collaboration around the world. We’re actively monitoring the developments in Hong Kong SAR, including any potential guidance from the U.S. government” the company said.

Zoom had previously been criticised for complying with a request from the Chinese government which resulted in an activist outside of China having his account temporarily suspended.

The legislation in question is China’s new national security law. The law lists four categories of offences: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements.

However, the breadth of the law means that it can be used as a “euphemism for anything, or anyone, that the ruling Communist Party of China (CCP) disapproves of”.

One man has already been charged for “ramming” several police at a protest in Hong Kong. He was carrying a sign saying “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”. That slogan is illegal in Hong Kong as it connotes separatism and subversion under the law.

Books by pro-democracy writers in Hong Kong‘s public libraries have also been removed by authorities.

Additional reporting by agencies

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