The company that approves Internet domains in Hong Kong said it will now reject any sites this could spur “illegal acts”, raising new freedoms concerns following Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on the Chinese-ruled city last year. .Hk domain owners were informed of the policy change on Thursday, sources told Reuters, hours after Internet service provider Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) said it blocked access to HKChronicles, a site web that offers information on anti-government protests.
The moves came just days after the arrest of more than 50 pro-democracy activists, and sources told Reuters that China is planning further crackdowns. HKBN said it blocked the website, which also publishes personal information about Hong Kong police officers, in accordance with the National Security Act, the first such censorship in the city of its kind.
Anti-government protests in 2019 relied heavily on social media channels like Telegram which allowed protesters to organize anonymously. Lot of sites it also arose in support of the protest movement, although one issue was closed after the security law was passed. Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of freedoms not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and assembly. Democracy activists complain that Communist Party rulers in China are now curtailing those freedoms, an accusation Beijing denies.
In the emails, the Hong Kong Domain Name Registration Company (HKDNR) warned holders of .hk domains of its parent company’s new “acceptable use” policy, Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited (HKIRC), which will take effect. on January 28, according to copies shared by recipients with Reuters. He said he may decline requests for the new .hk sites which it believes may incite criminal acts, abuse privacy or provide false or misleading information.
HKIRC stated that such acceptable use policy is very common in the Internet industry and in line with industry standards. “We would like to point out that the Acceptable Use Policy is intended to define a framework for .hk domain naming only. It does not intend to regulate the content of individual websites, ”a spokesperson for the HKIRC said.
“The implementation of the acceptable use policy is quite worrying,” said one website operator who declined to be identified, citing fears of repercussions. “Things like providing false or misleading information, who have to decide? Are these preventative measures for future fake news regulations? “
The moves are fueling concerns that a censorship mechanism similar to China’s “Great Firewall” is being put in place in Hong Kong. While the internet in mainland China is heavily censored and access to many foreign platforms such as news sites is frozen, Hong Kong residents have so far enjoyed greater freedoms under the “one country, two systems” framework that was promised when Britain returned it to China in 1997.
China Mobile and PCCW, Hong Kong’s other major Internet providers, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment. Wong Ho Wah, who was running for the Hong Kong legislature to represent the information technology sector before the elections were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, said he was deeply concerned that the freedom of Hong Kongers to accessing information on the Internet was beginning to be affected.
“The government has a responsibility to explain the justification and rationale for the action,” he said, referring to the blocking of the HKChronicles website.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)
- .Hk domain owners were informed of the policy change on Thursday, sources told Reuters, hours after Internet service provider Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) said it blocked access to HKChronicles, a site web that offers information on anti-government protests. The moves came just days after the arrest of more than 50 pro-democracy activists, and sources told Reuters that China is planning further crackdowns.
- Hong Kong censorship debate grows as internet company claims it can block “illegal acts”