The Chinese Communist Party has issued further restrictions in Hong Kong by means of new laws related to Big Data. Aimed at private corporations, the new regulations – which are a part of a draft rule published by the Cybersecurity Administration of China – focus on technology and data collection by firms based in Hong Kong.
Specifically, the laws will require technology companies seeking a listing on Hong Kong’s stock exchange to undergo a cybersecurity review issued and supervised by the CCP. Any companies deemed to have ‘a potential impact on national security’ by the authorities in Hong Kong are being made subject to this review.
With no opposition lawmakers left in the Hong Kong legislature, and no clear guidelines on what constitutes a ‘potential impact on national security,’ the CCP has an unchecked power to review companies’ private documents and data. Further, if compelling ‘evidence’ is found, private companies can be restricted from going public in Hong Kong.
In other words, the CCP can stop technology firms from both mainland China and abroad from being listed in Hong Kong. The power and influence of Big Tech corporations within Hong Kong – and to an extent, across the rest of Asia – is being restricted and placed under the oversight of the CCP.
Alex Roberts, a technology, media, and communications consultant based in Shanghai notes that “the subjective nature of ‘may affect national security’ could well generate enough uncertainty to act as an effective block on any tech companies seeking to list in Hong Kong SAR without tacit approval from mainland China’s internet regulator.”
Therefore, even if the CCP does not explicitly ban certain technology corporations from Hong Kong’s stock exchange under the guise of ‘national security,’ certain companies may choose to avoid the Hong Kong market altogether.
There are additional restrictions from the new draft law which will deter them too.
Article 13 of the law notes, “large internet companies need to report to regulators before they can set up overseas headquarters or centers for operations and research and development” with article 35 declaring all “companies that transfer data overseas will need to pass government security appraisals and sign a government-stipulated contract with the foreign data recipient, which needs to be greenlit by regulators.”
Article 43 discusses the use of social media platforms in Hong Kong stating all “internet platforms with 100 million daily active users need to obtain government approval on major updates to platform operations, data privacy and user rights.”
The attempt to covering such a wide range of data issues represents a clear power grab by the CCP. By controlling the regulation and use of data, the CCP is not only restricting the rights of Big Tech corporations but of the entire administrative region.
This is detrimental to Hong Kong – both in its mission to remain the central data hub of Asia and to maintain its political independence from the CCP.
Hong Kong has long fought for less government interference from the mainland. However, they have not been successful. To the upset of millions across the globe, this new draft rule is just the latest event in a series of government-issued clampdowns from the mainland.
Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, is one of the more prominent critics amongst these millions. Mr. Kwok has been a long-time critic of the CCP, having fled from Hong Kong in fear of political persecution. As a Chinese dissident currently based in New York, Guo can speak first-hand about his experience with the oppressive regime, having been the subject of politically motivated attacks from Beijing before even the notorious national security law was implemented in Hong Kong.
His fears and premonitions were vindicated when in March of this year, a group of functionaries rubber-stamped a CCP plan to effectively disband most of what is left of Hong Kong’s democratic processes. At the “Two Sessions” meeting, or Lianghui, over 5,000 members of the CCP elite — adopted the “Decision on the Improvement of the Electoral System of the HKSAR” by a vote of 2895–0, with one abstention.
While party officials hailed the emergence of “a new democratic system with Hong Kong characteristics,” critics such as Mr Kwok viewed it as a cynical attempt to recreate an electoral system in Hong Kong with Chinese Communist Party characteristics.
Mr. Kwok has continued to be a vocal critic of the CCP on a wide range of issues in recent months, including the CCP’s most recent legislation designed to censor Hong Kong’s film industry in the name of national security. Having long warned that total censorship across both mainland China and Hong Kong has always been one of the ruling party’s aspirations, he is not likely to be shocked by this latest clampdown.
Like the recent Big Tech laws, there are no clear guidelines on what requirements meet the newest purported threats to ‘national security’ to the mainland.
As the CCP continues to expand its power beyond its borders, the citizens of Hong Kong are finding it increasingly difficult to speak out against the Chinese regime’s oppressive regulatory overreach. For this reason it is imperative that voices of critics based abroad – such as that of Mr. Kwok – are further amplified on the international stage.