New Chinese security law fallout: Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram suspend taking user data requests from Hong Kong authorities
We had reported how Chinese Communist Party leadership had signed in a new security law for Hong Kong which could enable the protestors to be extradited to mainland China and be imprisoned for life. After Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s signature on the night of July 1, 2020, the new Security law gives total dictatorial powers to pro-Chinese Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and her officials.
After the law was enacted, the United States immediately announced an embargo on the transfer of weapons and sensitive tech to Hong Kong authorities. In the same vein, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram have stopped taking in user data requests from Hong Kong authorities.
Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram have announced that they will not hand over user data to Hong Kong authorities. This will cover the official government demands from Carrie Lam’s office for user takedown or data requests.
Telegram and WhatsApp are hugely popular among Hong Kong citizens and have been used by the pro-independence protestors to arrange meetings and protests. Since both of these offer end-to-end encryption, they provide the most secure way for the protestors to communicate. However, protestors feared that the Chinese backed local Hong Kong government force WhatsApp owner Facebook and Telegram to divulge user data about the protestors making them liable to be extradited to mainland China for punishment.
The WSJ reports that both messaging services will be refusing any such requests from the Chinese government for the time being.
Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service has suspended its processing of requests for user data from Hong Kong law-enforcement agencies following China’s imposition of a national-security law on the city. The company is “pausing” such reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts,” a WhatsApp spokeswoman said in response to a Wall Street Journal query on Monday […]
Telegram Group Inc. said in a statement that was earlier reported by the Hong Kong Free Press that it doesn’t intend to process “any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city.” A Telegram representative said in a statement that the company “has never shared any data with the Hong Kong authorities in the past.”
These actions would direct put Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Pavel Durov of Telegram in direct confrontation with the Chinese authorities. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are blocked in China by the Great Firewall of China while Telegram is officially unavailable for download but Chinese citizens use Telegram through VPNs. All these services available to Hong Kong citizens as of now but now that both Zuckerberg and Durov have stopped sending user data to the authorities, their future in Hong Kong seems uncertain.