Internet Censorship in Hong Kong
There’s worries in Hong Kong after the government dealt its first ruling censoring the internet, after a court order was issued issuing an interim injunction against platforms including LIHKG (a forum similar to Reddit) and messaging app Telegram.
It’s one of the ways that Beijing’s influence has begun to impact politics, freedom of the press and education — and a result of the protests that started this year.
It was in June 2019 that millions took to the streets calling for greater democracy — including universal suffrage. There’s also a call for independent inquiry to investigate instances of police violence against the protestors.
Similar to many political movements around the world, the internet has become a critical tool for protestors who use online forums and messaging to mobilise and spread the word. Unlike mainland China, which already experiences restrictions on internet access, Hong Kong has maintained very little online censorship.
The start of censorship
On 31 October, Hong Kong’s High Court granted an induction order, banning people from “disseminating, circulating, publishing or re-publishing” online “any material or information that promotes, encourages or incites the use or threat of violence”.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok criticised the move, stating: “The temporary injunction sets an extremely dangerous precedent for introducing internet censorship of online speech… it is a serious breach of citizens’ freedom of expression and Hong Kong’s supposed free flow of information.”
Should further laws be made, it will have a massive impact on the protests. Apps and various platforms online have been the most effective way for protestors to communicate; . There’s also the effect censorship will have on the economy — especially when it comes to the innovation and technology industries. The oppressive measures could also damage Hong Kong’s international reputation; blocking freedom of speech would be seen as an attack against democracy and a human right.
The Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association of internet services, warning that “given the complexity of the modern internet including technologies like VPN, cloud and cryptographies, it is impossible to effectively… block any services” adding that the only option would be to “put the whole internet of Hong Kong behind large scale surveillance firewall.”
More bans already in place
Fears around potential internet censorship have only heightened since the the Emergency Regulations Ordinance — used by the protestors during mass peaceful demonstrations. In October 2019, a male university student and woman were charged with illegally wearing face masks — the first charge of its kind since the law was invoked. Demonstrators saw the charge as an indication of more censorship to come.