Internet Censorship in Hong Kong
Internet Censorship in Hong Kong pertains to the legality involved in the restriction and access of content on the Internet in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, despite being a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China, maintains its own bill of rights which protects freedom of expression in such a way that limits PRC's governmental powers of censorship.
Hong Kong Bill of Rights
Article 16 in Part 2 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights states:
- Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
This "right to freedom of expression" allows for more leniency with censorship on the Internet in relation to other countries that do not stress such freedoms within their governmental charters.
On February 11, 2021, China banned the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), from broadcasting throughout the entire country for its role in reporting about the COVID-19 pandemic. This came a week after the U.K.’s Office of Communications stripped a Chinese media company of their broadcasting license after finding that they had no editorial control over the state-owned China Global Television Network. China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) released a statement saying that the BBC World News’ China-related reports “seriously violated the requirements that news should be truthful and fair, harming China’s national interests and undermining China’s national unity,” and as such would not accept its application for a broadcasting license the following year.
However, the BBC is not the first media outlet to have been restricted by the Chinese government. In August of 2020, a few weeks after Hong Kong’s controversial new national security laws went into effect, the offices where the newspaper Apple Daily is produced and published, were raided by police. This happened just a few hours after the founder of Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, was arrested by National Security police as part of a larger operation that saw several of his senior executives arrested as well. In 2021, an article was published in the state-run newspaper Ta Kung Pao, accusing “some media organizations of using their status as the so-called fourth estate to engage in collusion with foreign forces, incite violence and produce fabrications.” The article called out the Apple Daily newspaper especially, accusing it of being the “worst offender”, and further saying that Apple Daily “should be shut down because of its slandering reporting and its incitement of Hong Kong independence.”
Differences with PRC
In 2014, the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement and protests addressed issues concerning a national-security bill that restricted freedom of speech. Due to backing from Beijing, many Hong Kong people turned to the internet to criticize the bill. Thousands of protests, primarily comprised of youth, led to wide international coverage. However, many posts concerning the movement were censored on Weibo, a PRC based application which has many users in Hong Kong. Twitter, however, did not have the same censorship issues. Users were able to bypass this censorship by turning to other applications to help organize for the cause.
Google's Presence in Hong Kong
Google is one of the first corporations to publicly challenge the People's Republic of China on the issue of internet censorship. In 2010, Google decided to stop censoring its search portal in China, and move its servers to Hong Kong which stirred controversy among the tech community. Only a corporation with the influence of Google, and over 100 million users in China, could put any significant pressure on the Chinese government to reconsider their censorship policies, and it was their intent to do so. While Google originally censored its search results in 2006 when the popular search engine was introduced in China, series of events have forced them to take another look at China's unethical stance on internet censorship. After the Chinese government censored and shut down many of their YouTube and BlogSpot sites, Google engineers discovered unidentified Chinese hackers attempted to gain access to Gmail and read accounts of Chinese dissidents. This was the defining point for Google, and they moved their servers and operations to Hong Kong where they could operate more independently of Chinese government policy. Clearly, Google sought to maintain users' rights and interests in expressing their opinions, accessibility to information, and communicating with others without government restriction. Despite Google’s valiant stand, they still lost a significant amount of revenue in their move from mainland China to Hong Kong, but the advances in popularity of Google in Hong Kong are contributing to a substantial financial recovery. Many analysts claim when Google pulled out of China in 2010 it resulted in losses of over $300 million in revenue, and as many as $600 million in revenue when including losses in the Google Android phone market.
Ethical Concerns and Issues
Due to Hong Kong's conflicting policies from the PRC and their own protected freedoms, this becomes an area with many concerns. Many individuals and businesses feel the need to self sensor in order to maintain a positive relationship with Mainland China companies. As a result, their images and online practices follow the stricter laws outlined by Mainland China in order to maintain a better relationship. In addition, press freedom has significantly declined over the past five years, reflecting this shift in China's economic growth and development.  Many news outlets have suffered cyberattacks due their anti-Mainland content.
- Hong Kong Bill of Rights
- China: Statement by the Spokesperson on the BBC ban. EEAS - European External Action Service - European Commission. (2021). Retrieved 20 April 2021, from https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/93092/China:%20Statement%20by%20the%20Spokesperson%20on%20the%20BBC%20ban.
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