WhatsApp has suspended its processing of requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement agencies, in response to China's imposition of a new national security law on the city, reports The Wall Street Journal.

whatsapp

The company is "pausing" such reviews "pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts," a WhatsApp spokeswoman said in response to a Wall Street Journal query on Monday.

The decision by WhatsApp comes after China fast-tracked legislation that allows local authorities to supervise and regulate the city's previously unrestricted internet. The controversial new law, which took effect on Tuesday, criminalizes acts that were previously considered protected speech under Hong Kong law.

As the report notes, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter have operated freely in Hong Kong for many years, allowing residents of the semi-autonomous metropolitan area to express political views online, outside the grip of China's "Great Firewall" that restricts internet use on the mainland. The fear is that the new law brings Hong Kong another step closer to the authoritarian digital censorship that ringfences mainland internet users.

Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have been blocked in China for years, with the country's government favoring home grown alternative services that it can more easily regulate. Encrypted messaging service Telegram was also blocked inside China after it became popular with the country's human rights lawyers, while several domestic VPNs – which are commonly used to evade censorship and access services abroad – were shut down after authorities said they were unauthorized to run.

Western powers have condemned the imposition of the new security law in Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom considers it to be a "clear and serious" violation of the Joint Declaration that was signed between the two countries when the former colony was handed back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule.

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Top Rated Comments

TheFluffyDuck Avatar
50 months ago
Watch Apple do nothing for the human rights of Hong Kong people. But a rainbow WWDC Lanyard? Eat your heart out.

Note: That's not an attack on LGBT people, but on Apple for being hypocrites in the issues they follow when it comes to their profit margin. I will gladly retract this if Apple takes a stand, but they won't.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ArtOfWarfare Avatar
50 months ago
I believe this means Facebook is now a greater supporter of human rights and has more of a backbone when dealing with China than Apple. Who would have thought?
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
apparatchik Avatar
50 months ago
China not only blocks those services for censorship and political control but for economic reasons as well: they wanted to home grow their own services by blocking foreign competition. The West should block Chinese apps and services just like India did last week, unless the Chinese allow fair competition in the search, messaging, social network market, their apps shouldnt be allow to operate in The West.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kyleh22 Avatar
50 months ago

I believe this means Facebook is now a greater supporter of human rights and has more of a backbone when dealing with China than Apple. Who would have thought?
That's b/c Apple is profiting in China while the Facebook suite isn't allowed to operate there. It's much easier to have a hardliner approach when you only have upside potential.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
itsmilo Avatar
50 months ago
What did the UK expect when they handed it back to China?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chancha Avatar
50 months ago

Hong Kong always belonged to China. The Brits only leased it for 99 years.
Hong Kong belongs to its people, who happen to be ethnically Chinese, since the population is mostly made up by folks escaping from the Northern border, guess who - the Communist Chinese regime. The person you quoted was questioning the morality of the UK handing this place to the very same regime that those locals risked their lives escaping away from.

And if you have to be politically precise, the Brits "took" it from Qing Dynasty, which was taken over by the Nationalist (KMT), together with the treaties the Brits signed with Qing, the party "moved" to Taiwan, where in more than enough ways the island is an autonomously independent state. The fact that the UK decided to hand Hong Kong to the CCP, which was founded *later* than both Hong Kong as a city and also Nationalist China, is more than questionable if not disgraceful.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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