KEY POINTS

  • Beijing passed new national security laws that affect Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong residents have rushed to delete critical social media content
  • Police have asked Facebook to delete posts and hand over information

As Beijing enacted the new national security laws, Hong Kong people are rushing to significantly change their digital presence or entirely remove their social media presence.

Residents were already imposing wide self-censorship before the law came into effect. Several users deactivated accounts that had content that could be considered “objectionable” under the new law.

The new law, drafted and passed in the wake of the massive anti-government protests in 2019, outlaws acts that could be classified as “separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.”

Johannes Chan, a University of Hong Kong law professor, told Nikkei Asian Review that the offenses under the new law remain vague as authorities have not yet determined the “small minority of people” who will be affected by the new law.

“It is clear that the law will have a severe impact on freedom of expression, if not personal security, on the people of Hong Kong,” Chan said.

“Many people have begun to delete their postings on Facebook,” Chan added.

Hong Kong police have already asked social media platforms like Facebook to remove posts that were “defamatory” or contained “unfounded allegations” about their handling of protests. They have also asked Facebook to turn over relevant information for “investigations.”

“As a global social media platform, Facebook absolutely has the responsibility to ensure that contents dispatched by its users are factual and in the public interest,” Hong Kong police said in a letter published on its official website.

According to the South China Morning Post, Facebook will not delete any posts that Hong Kong police have flagged despite two formal requests from authorities.

Protests erupted on Wednesday (July 1) as the new law came into effect on the anniversary of the British handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong police made the first arrests under the new law as thousands defied the ban on protests. Police used water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas to disperse protesters and arrested more than 180 people.

Beijing has insisted that the law would stabilize the situation in the territory but the imposition of the law has sparked the most severe protests since last year’s movement.