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Google, Facebook, Twitter ‘pause’ requests from Hong Kong authorities for user data


July 7 (UPI) — Google, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp announced they have stopped processing requests from Hong Kong authorities for user data in the wake of a sweeping new national security law Beijing imposed last week on the city while TikTok said it would no longer operate in the former British colony.

Tech giants Google and Facebook said in statements to UPI that they have stopped fielding such requests as they review the new controversial national security law that went into effect at 11 p.m. on June 30 despite critics and Western countries condemning it as all but ending the former British colony’s autonomy from mainland China.

“We are pausing the review of government requests for user data from Hong Kong pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts,” a Facebook company spokesman said in the statement.

In a single-sentence statement, a Google spokesman said it “paused production of any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities” on Wednesday after the law went into effect.

Twitter and WhatsApp also issued similar statements and have been contacted by UPI for further comment.

Meanwhile, TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, said in a statement Tuesday to UPI that “in light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong.”

The moves were made by the tech giants as Hong Kong late Monday revealed a slew of new rules under the draconian national security law that allows police to force service providers to delete messages they say threaten national security and to imprison employees at those companies for up six years if they do not follow their orders.

Facebook said as little was known about the law prior to its imposition, it was now reviewing the details to understand the implications for the company and its users.

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” the Facebook spokesman said.

On Sunday, Telegram, a messaging application that was popular with Hong Kong protesters, told the Hong Kong Free Press it would temporarily refuse data requests from Hong Kong authorities until an international consensus was agreed to on the new law.

The law criminalizes acts of secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign agencies to undermine the national security of the People’s Republic of China in Hong Kong. Since its imposition, protesters have been arrested for waving flags espousing Hong Kong independence or for possessing similar material.

The law followed a year of pro-democracy protests and was met with widespread condemnation. Western countries and rights groups chastised Beijing for failing to live up to the commitments it made in a U.N.-filed declaration that returned Hong Kong from British rule to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Under the agreement, China was to maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy from the mainland for 50 years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Beijing’s “Orwellian censorship” of Hong Kong on Monday, accusing the Chinese Communist Party of continuing its “destruction” of the financial hub.

“With the ink barely dry on the repressive National Security Law, local authorities — in an Orwellian move — have now established a central government national security office, started removing books critical of the [ruling Chinese Communist Party] from library shelves, banned political slogans and are now requiring schools to enforce censorship,” he said in a statement on Monday.


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