Beijing is set to introduce a draft resolution on Friday to allow China’s legislature – the National People’s Congress – to create legislation for a new national security law for Hong Kong that will “proscribe secessionist and other activities” in the city, including foreign interference and terrorism in the city, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.
According to SCMP’s source, seditious actions include activities “aimed at toppling the central government and external interference in Hong Kong’s affairs,” as well as terrorist acts within the city.
The new national security legislation would be a significant departure from China’s prior policy towards Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” status that enabled the city to enact laws within its own legislature in the 23 years since its handover from British to Chinese rule.
The looming legislation has been vehemently opposed by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, which Beijing’s new national security laws, once enacted, could potentially paint as secessionist or even terrorist.
While it’s unclear whether the draft resolution will actually be passed in the NPC on Friday, pro-democracy and human rights activists have already begun to express their strong opposition to the possible introduction of national security legislation in Hong Kong.
A fatal blow to online privacy in Hong Kong?
Will the new national security law spell the end of online privacy in Hong Kong? Even though it remains to be seen whether Beijing’s resolution will become law in the near future, the effect of such legislation on privacy in Hong Kong would be difficult to understate.
From the potential introduction of strict online censorship by means of the Great Firewall of China, to a possible VPN ban shutting down or co-opting the city’s booming privacy tech sector, to a wider implementation of China’s dystopian state surveillance mechanisms, to targeting and imprisoning pro-democracy activists, the impact of abandoning the “one country, two systems” principle could be catastrophic for Hong Kong’s online privacy in general and the pro-democracy movement in particular.
Whatever the outcome of Friday’s session of the National People’s Congress, one thing is clear: national security laws never bode well -- neither for privacy nor democracy, anywhere.
What to do if you live in Hong Kong
If you're living in Hong Kong and wondering what you can do to escape China’s encroachment on your online privacy, our suggestion would be to start using a VPN to hide your online communications from Beijing's repressive government.
A VPN will re-route your traffic through a remote server and encrypt it in the process, which will hide your online activities from any would-be censors. Also, with respect to the events described above, make sure that the VPN service in question is not based in Hong Kong or China.