According to an industry group representing some of the top tech companies worldwide, Hong Kong could see changes in its data protection laws that will force some companies out of Hong Kong.
In a letter published publicly by the Asia Internet Coalition, a Singapore-based organization that includes Facebook (FB), Twitter(TWTR), and Google (GOOGL), the possibility of a retreat from Hong Kong was mentioned.
The group sent the memo, dated June 25, to Ada Chung Lailing, Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner. It rebuffs a recently introduced bill that seeks to crackdown on doing.
The sharing of personal information online is known as the practice of . This is usually done to expose individuals to harassment.
This has been an issue in Hong Kong since 2019 when it was hit by mass demonstrations. Officials claim this can result in people’s photos, identities card information, and addresses being released without their consent.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner in Hong Kong handled over 5,700 cases relating to doxxing between June 2019 and May 2020. , the privacy watchdog says that incidents have declined since 2019. According to the privacy watchdog, it stated that 1,036 doxxing complaints were received in 2020. This is a drop of 76% from the previous year.
The bill proposes that any person providing services in Hong Kong can serve a notice to an online platform directing it to “rectify” the “doxxing material.” The bill also proposes that the privacy commission be empowered to prosecute those who fail to comply with these requests.
The legislation was introduced by Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in May. It also provides for a maximum fine of 1 million Hong Kong dollars (about $128,000.700) and a maximum of five years imprisonment.
“If it is the [government’s] intent to hold employees of local subsidiaries or entities liable in respect of doxxing content,” the AIC stated in its memo.
“The only way to avoid the sanctions against technology companies is to not invest or offer their services in Hong Kong. This will deprive Hong Kong consumers and businesses, and create new trade barriers. The possibility of prosecuting subordinate employees will cause uncertainty for businesses and impact Hong Kong’s growth as an innovation and tech hub.
When asked for comments, Facebook, Twitter, and Google referred CNN Business directly to the AIC.
The coalition stressed the fact that the letter was a collective view of more than 15 companies and not just one company. The coalition stated that it was incorrect to claim certain firms were planning to leave Hong Kong and expressed its desire to work with government officials on the legislation.
“We want to stress that doxxing [is] a matter of serious concern,” AIC stated in a memo. It also requested a virtual meeting between Chung and Chung. The bill could pose a threat to freedom of expression or communication, the AIC stated.
The Wall Street Journal reported the first news about the letter.
Concerns about data protection
Monday’s statement by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data in Hong Kong (PCPD), stated that doxxing has become rampant and had “tested the limits of morality” and the law.
The agency also rebutted suggestions that the changes would affect free speech.
It stated that the amendments do not cover illegal doxxing acts. The amendments will clearly define the scope of the doxxing offense.
The PCPD stated that they “strongly refute any suggestion that the amendments could in any way impact foreign investment in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong has been asked about its future as a global hub for business as the former British colony struggles with a historical political crisis.
For decades, the city has been a vital hub for foreign companies looking to connect with China. Although Beijing regulates how foreign companies do business on the mainland, Hong Kong allows them to continue their operations without restrictions.
Residents of the city can also access the internet more freely than in mainland China thanks to the use of Western platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
These companies expressed concerns about legislative changes in Hong Kong in recent months.
Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Twitter all started last July that they would suspend the review of user data requests from the city government following the China-imposed national security law. This law prohibits any activity Beijing considers to be sedition, subversion, or sedition and allows Chinese state security personnel to operate on the territory.
The companies stated last month that they had not experienced any change in their position.
CNN Business was informed by the PCPD that they sought to present the anti-doxxing legislation for consideration by the city’s legislators during this legislative session which ends in October.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, acknowledged the latest concerns and said that there was widespread support for legislation against doxxing.
She stated that “all pieces of legislation…will attract concern.” “If online businesses express concern, I’m sure the privacy commissioner will be more than happy to meet with them and listen to their concerns.”
Monday’s statement by the office of commissioner stated that they would soon meet with representatives from the coalition “to better understand their viewpoints.”