Facebook Turned Down Hundreds of User Data Requests From Hong Kong

The requests showed a sharp spike after China imposed a draconian security law on the city, the company says.
Facebook Turned Down Hundreds of User Data Requests From Hong Kong Pro-democracy protesters take photos of a 'Free HK' light display at a gathering in Edinburgh Place in the Central district of Hong Kong, Dec. 30, 2019.

Social media platform Facebook said it had turned down more than 200 requests for user data from authorities in Hong Kong after the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a draconian national security law on the city from July 1, 2020.

Facebook received 223 requests from the Hong Kong authorities for user or account data between July and December 2020, and had declined all of them, the company said in its transparency report.

It also received 201 "legal process" requests, as well as one emergency disclosure request, the report said.

The figures compare with 63 Hong Kong government data requests sent to Facebook in the first half of 2020, 24 percent of which resulted in the disclosure of some data.

The imposition of the national security law ushered in an ever-widening crackdown on public dissent and political opposition, including the prosecution of 47 democracy activists and former opposition lawmakers on "subversion" charges for taking part in a democratic primary election for the Legislative Council (LegCo), in a bid to maximize the number of opposition seats.

Hong Kong and Chinese officials say fresh restrictions on elections, public speech -- the law bans speech that is critical of the Hong Kong government or the CCP -- and media activities were necessary to restore "public order" following the mass protests of 2019 against the erosion of the city's traditional freedoms.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam warned on Tuesday that Hong Kong's universities should beware of "external forces with ulterior motives", who may seek to lead their students into "illegal activity."

"Based on the events that we have seen in the latter half of 2019 until the enactment and implementation of the National Security Law, I hope there is now no doubt in the minds of many people that there are external forces quite active in Hong Kong for their ulterior motive[s]," Lam told reporters on Tuesday.

"Either they want to undermine the Chinese government, or they have ideological prejudices against China," she said.

"These external forces are at work, and how they are acting, penetrating into various institutions in Hong Kong including the universities, is something that everyone in position should be very sensitive to," Lam said.

Lam was responding to a report that students taking part in a 2017 social science experiment had showed a higher turnout for an annual protest march after being offered H.K.$350 to take part, compared with a control group who were offered nothing.

A court in Hong Kong on Tuesday denied bail to a 45-year-old woman and a 17-year-old boy held on charges of distributing leaflets considered "seditious," local media reported.

Chloe Cho and Wong Chun-wai have been charged with "conspiring to produce and distribute seditious publications" under colonial-era sedition laws. However, their cases are being handled by the national security police, a department set up to enforce the national security law.

Reported by Chan Yun Nam and Lee Ying for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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