The global social media giants have said they are halting the processing of Hong Kong police requests for user data. The move came after Beijing passed the controversial National Security Law for Hong Kong. Hong Kong has seen violent protests against China's extradition bill over the last year. Things came to a head when China passed the stringent security law.
Google immediately issued a statement saying: "We barred production on any new data requests from the authorities in China/ Hong Kong, as soon as the new law was enforced."
"WhatsApp is pausing requests from enforcements in Hong Kong until detailed assessment of the impact of the NSL is done, including formal human rights diligence and consultations with the human rights experts," the company said in a statement.
Social networking giant Twitter said: "Our belief is in freedom of expression that must be free from fear over their safety. So we have paused all data requests from Beijing authorities immediately, as soon as the NSL was implemented," a spokesperson from Twitter announced.
After Beijing imposed the new law on HK, pro-democracy books were removed from all the libraries. Moreover, authorities in Hong Kong asked the educational institutions to alter the syllabus and remove all the negative information pertaining to the Security Law. The restaurants and businesses, which had mounted banners and posters supporting the protesters against the extradition bill, are now pulled them down.
Last week, at least 10 books were declared unavailable or "under review" by the authorities in Hong Kong. These books included works of democracy activist Joshua Wong. In a tweet on July 4, five days after NSL was enforced, Wong shared the names of most visited public libraries that stopped lending pro-democracy books and put them under review status.
Trump Sides with Protesters in HK
US President Donald Trump signed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (HKHRD) of 2019. While this was seen as a victory for protesters in Hong Kong, it strained US-China relations. Beijing had reacted aggressively, saying that the passing of HKHRD is an act of "intrusion on its sovereignty". "We advise the U.S. not to act arbitrarily, otherwise we will resolutely counteract," Beijing said.
What Experts Say
Experts have warned that revoking the special status of "one nation, two systems" in Hong Kong will hamper its trade relations with the US. The foreign direct investment (FDI) by the US in Hong Kong was $82.5 billion in 2018.
When the NSL was still in the proposal stage, the CEO and of Quinlan and Associates, Benjamin Quinlan, had said: "If you remove HK's special status by imposing the NSL, there will be foreign companies that say 'we'll enter China directly, I've got no one-up going via Hong Kong,' or they'll just exit China completely. It doesn't bode well for Hong Kong's position as a global financial hub."
In the meantime, China's move to control the data flow and cyber space in Hong Kong is under massive criticism worldwide. The European Union has assured the Hong Kongers that they will be allowed to move to the European territory if they want to do so. But China has warned the EU. "When the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference were violated, relationships would inevitably suffer setbacks, even retrogression," it said.