Earlier this week, major U.S. companies such as Facebook, Google and even Twitter announced that they would stop processing certain data requests from Hong Kong authorities.
The reason for this is that they are awaiting the outcome of a human rights assessment. The American giants are considering putting in place a way to arrest their employees if possible when they are in compliance.
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"This is a different time for Hong Kong," noted the head of a major U.S. technology company. He said his company was "deeply concerned about China's behavior."
It must be admitted that since new law on Internet management in Hong Kong, American technology companies in particular are looking for new ways to flourish in the Asian market, when the rules seem to have changed. According to the testimony of several employees of U.S. companies, some U.S. companies have decided to abandon certain investment projects in Hong Kong.
For companies approached regarding the suspension of data requests, they meant that this is a temporary measure in order to be able to save more time. "People like to pretend that you can be active in China and not in compliance with Chinese law, and that's just not a realistic possibility," said Matt Perault, director of Duke University's Center on Science and Technology Policy, the former director. He added: "A break is not a long-term solution. »
According to Samm Sacks, a senior fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center, U.S. technology companies should find a way to adapt to this reality: "one country, two systems" in which Hong Kong should govern itself largely is no more a safety net and does not prevent them from dealing with China. ». "On the one hand, what do you do when the Chinese government comes to us with a request for information that will lead to an arrest? He notes. "And on the other hand, what are the costs if we withdraw completely and suddenly, these platforms are no longer available in an environment where freedom of expression really matters? he always wonders.
So since the Chinese state passed a national security law, Hong Kong has been directly affected. Residents have been subjected to the same kind of control as those in mainland China. Since then, four major crimes have been highlighted: separatism, foreign collision, terrorism and the Sape. Sentences of up to temporary life imprisonment. According to the rules of application of this new legislation, the authorities have the possibility to block websites, to plunder the offices of web publishers, requires access to the contents of other servers backups of corporate data, and force certain companies to decrypt certain information.
However, there should be a fact. Prior to the passage of the new law, hong Kong authorities had repeatedly demanded data processing from American giants. For example, Google received nearly 39 requests from the Hong Kong government to remove nearly 62 articles from different platforms between July and December 2019. The U.S. Company has removed only 10 on the applications. In the last 6 months, Google has received another 13 requests to remove content. Among some U.S. giant refusals, he had the request to remove an application present in the Google PlayStore, an application that lets know the locations of the police during demonstrations. Another refusal related to a video posted on YouTube by a group of activists.
On Facebook's side, nearly 241 requests were made from July to December 2019. In the last 6 months, applications have risen to 143.
In the end, things are more difficult for American companies. Sacks notes that: "Many U.S. technology companies have a limited understanding of how to operate in China, as they have no real footprint there, with the exception of small advertising companies or interests in Chinese companies. Companies like Microsoft that have been operating there for years, she said, have developed "smart strategies" to understand how to play an "elaborate dance" with the Chinese government so they can stick to it without crossing the red lines. ». This unfortunately is not the case for companies such as Twitter or Facebook.
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