Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday brushed off a warning by major tech companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter that they may quit the financial hub if authorities push ahead with a new privacy law.
City authorities have unveiled plans to pass a new law targeting “doxxing” — the act of publishing someone’s private details online so they can be harassed by others.
But the broad wording of the proposed legislation has spooked major tech companies who fear they could be held liable and their employees prosecuted for users’ content.
They detailed their concerns in a letter sent to Hong Kong’s government by the Asia Internet Coalition which includes tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Apple.
“Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals is not aligned with global norms and trends,” the letter, which was dated 25 June but made public this week, warned.
“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade,” it added.
Asked about the warning on Tuesday, the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam dismissed those concerns.
“We are targeting illegal doxxing and empowering the privacy commissioners to investigate and carry out operations, that’s it,” she told reporters.
Lam likened the new data privacy powers to a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year to stamp out dissent after huge and often violent democracy protests in 2019.
Lam said that security law had been “slandered and defamed”.
“It’s the same case for the privacy law,” she concluded.
She added that the city’s privacy commission would be happy to meet with tech industry representatives to deal with any anxieties they might have.
But she suggested that her government was determined to press ahead with fast-tracking the new legislation.
“Of course, it would be ideal to relieve this anxiety when we make the legislation. But sometimes it needs to be demonstrated via implementation,” she said.