Facebook, Whatsapp say suspending user info requests from Hong Kong government

Attendees shout slogans and hold their mobile phones during a rally to show support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on October 19, 2019. (AP)

Facebook and its messaging service WhatsApp said Monday they are suspending requests from the Hong Kong government and law enforcement authorities for information on users.

The pause will take place “pending further assessment” of a new national security law imposed on Hong Kong by China, and would include “formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts,” a Facebook company spokesman said in a statement.

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” the spokesman said.

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WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on an iPhone. (File photo: AP)

WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on an iPhone. (File photo: AP)

China last week enacted the sweeping security law for the restive city of around 7.5 million people, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

Read more:

Democracy books disappear from Hong Kong days after China imposed security law

Britain, Taiwan condemn China’s Hong Kong law, Japan calls it ‘regrettable’

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The legislation, which has sent a wave of fear through the territory, has criminalized dissenting opinions such as calls for independence or autonomy.

Digital rights group ProPrivacy called Facebook’s move “a win for both digital privacy and human rights in the region.”

“With the stakes so high, and the punishments so severe, it is great news to see big tech companies like WhatsApp pushing back in favor of democracy and freedom of expression,” the group said.

However it noted the move could lead to WhatsApp being blocked in Hong Kong as it has been in mainland China.

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Last Update: Monday, 06 July 2020 KSA 19:24 - GMT 16:24
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