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Hong Kong legislature passes controversial anti-doxxing privacy bill By Reuters


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: The Central Government Offices, Hong Kong (China), July 20, 2020. A Hong Kong flag was seen behind surveillance cameras. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Pak Yiu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday passed a privacy law tackling “doxxing” – the public release of information identifying an individual or organisation – that critics say could be used to protect those in power and target civil society.

The legislation, according to supporters, was needed in order to address a long-standing problem that has been plaguing the city since its 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations. Protesters exposed some of the homes and schools of officers, which led to serious threats.

However, technology companies fear that this legislation could hinder Hong Kong’s operations. Pro-democracy and human rights groups worry that it may be used against dissent.

Erick Tsang (Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary) stated that “this is to combat doxxing behavior that divides society as soon as possible.” The Legislative Council has no opposition party.

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“Foreign platforms can have their own policies which require that content not be in violation of local laws must follow. We are confident that most international internet platforms will comply with the notices to cease publishing in accordance with this new law.

This law gives the Office of the Privacy Complaint for Personal Data the power to investigate and prosecute any doxxing. Anyone who divulges an individual’s personal information without consent, “with the intent to cause specified damage or being reckless about the consequences caused,” is a violator.

“Specified damage” means that the victim is harmed by harassment, threats, intimidation or psychological harm. Violators could be subject to fines up to HK$1,000,000 ($129,000), and 5 years imprisonment.

Commissioners can request a warrant for entry and search of premises to seize evidence and materials. They can also access electronic devices and computers without warrants. The commissioner can issue notices to delete or prevent access from any content anywhere on the planet.

Asia Internet Coalition (NASDAQ:), Facebook NASDAQ: and Twitter NYSE: is an advocacy group. It stated in a June 25, 2015 letter that tech companies may cease offering services in Hong Kong if the authorities make the necessary changes.

They stated that the proposed measures “were not aligned to global norms, trends”, and that legislation that might restrict free speech must “be built upon principles that necessity and proportionality.”

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