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Hong Kong’s new anti-doxxing proposal could put tech companies at risk, says new letter

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Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are all members of the Asia Internet Coalition, which sent the letter

A crowd of people wearing facemasks hold up signs in support of Hong Kong.
Supporters of democracy in Hong Kong protest outside the Chinese embassy in London on July 1st
Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A new letter from a tech industry group is driving home the risks of Hong Kong’s proposed anti-doxxing rules.

Sent to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data by the Asia Internet Coalition (which counts Google, Apple and Facebook as members), the letter argues that the new measures will have an extreme impact on due process in Hong Kong, and could result in major US tech companies ceasing operations there. The letter was first obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

The letter comes in response to series of amendments to Hong Kong’s Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO), proposed by the privacy commissioner in response to concerns around online doxxing. Once in effect, the amendments would require swift compliance with any government takedown requests — and ambiguous wording in the text of the bill has spurred concerns that tech employees could be prosecuted as individuals if they do not comply.

“Introducing severe sanctions and especially personal liability in relation to assessing requests for taking down content has the consequence of encouraging online platforms to conduct little to no review of requests and over-block content,” the letter reads. “The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong.”

The letter raises new questions about the future of US tech company employees in Hong Kong. The Journal estimates that Google, Facebook and Twitter alone keep hundreds of staff in Hong Kong, all of whom could be at risk under the new legislation. Amazon, Apple, Yahoo and Rakuten are also members of the Asia Internet Coalition.

The new amendments come after years of mounting pressure on civil liberties in Hong Kong, as the central Chinese government seeks to exert more influence over the city’s politics. Last year, the passage of a new security law caused Google, Facebook and Twitter to halt all data production requests while the law could be reviewed. TikTok (which does not operate in China) ceased its operations in the city entirely.