'New police powers may scare off web providers' - RTHK
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'New police powers may scare off web providers'

2020-07-07 HKT 12:53
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  • 'New police powers may scare off web providers'
IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok warned on Tuesday that new police powers to compel internet platforms to remove online materials deemed to be possible national security threats could prompt international firms to consider pulling out of Hong Kong.

Mok told reporters in Legco that the new state of affairs effectively means China’s ‘great firewall’ has been extended to cover the SAR.

The government had on Monday announced ‘implementation rules’ detailing the powers given to law enforcement under Article 43 of the new national security law.

The rules state that publishers and various service providers can be asked to remove online messages deemed a likely national security offence by the Commissioner of Police.

They can also be asked to restrict access to the offending material, or prevent people from reading them.

Such orders must also be approved by the Secretary for Security.

But Mok warned that these rules could cause major concerns for international firms here, noting that maximum penalties for offences are six months in prison, and a HK$100,000 fine.

“It is deeply worrying that these companies may have to reassess the risk of doing business in Hong Kong, and – similar to some of these companies decision previously to exit from the Chinese mainland market – will they have to make that kind of decision for Hong Kong?" Mok queried.

He added that it remains to be seen whether the government would implement a complete ban on online message platforms, “but I think by now we cannot rule out any possibility.”

“That's deeply worrying for Hong Kong as a communications centre… as a financial service centre, because the key previous selling point of Hong Kong was Hong Kong has free flow of information and obviously we don’t have that anymore after last night.”

He was speaking as mainland-based short form video app TikTok told the Reuters news agency it would be pulling out of the Hong Kong market within days, “in light of recent events.”