Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has criticized an advisory report to the US government warning companies about illegal surveillance and the possibility of forced handover of company and customer data in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).
Advisor [PDF]It was released Friday US time by the US Department of State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security, citing “increasing risks related to data privacy” as one of four concerns for companies operating in the region.
The consultation provides the following candid assessment of the situation in Hong Kong:
The reason for this assessment is the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL), an instrument that entered into force on July 16, 2020 – the same day this advice was published.
In a press release announcing the publication of the advisory, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken notes that “the policies of the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Hong Kong undermine the legal and regulatory environment that is critical for individuals and businesses to operate freely and with legal certainty in Hong Kong.”
“Businesses should realize that the risks facing mainland China are now increasingly present in Hong Kong,” the statement added.
The advisory states that the law “increases the risk that the authorities of the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong will use wide-ranging legal powers to collect data from companies and individuals in Hong Kong to take actions that may violate “national security.”
While the agencies that issued the advisory did not view the use of national security as an excuse to activate the national security line on unrelated matters, the document notes that such abuses are possible. That possibility, as well as allowing Hong Kong’s chief executive’s national security law to allow wiretapping or electronic surveillance without the need for a court order, has raised concerns in the United States that the company’s data could be compromised.
lam criticized the consultation, calling it and a press release “sweeping and completely unfounded”.
The CEO also stated that “Hong Kong remains an open and free economy, underpinned by the rule of law and a strong regulatory system”, and that the National Security Law is a non-controversial instrument aimed solely at protecting national security and respect for the human being. rights in Hong Kong.
It is not said that the introduction of the same national security rhetoric was widely seen as a significant change in the arrangements that returned Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997, and meant that Beijing actually gained more control over the affairs of the SAR. than promised under the original law. The “one country, two systems” plan.
The United States criticized the National Security Act when it was announced and passed, and has regularly imposed sanctions on officials in Hong Kong on the grounds that it weakened democracy.
The new advice is important because Hong Kong remains a major financial center, which China sees as a way to deal with global players who do not wish to operate under mainland laws. Hong Kong needs its financial services to remain strong to support its economy. For example, US criticism could shock Beijing by hurting Hong Kong’s prospects – even if it poses a danger to Hong Kong residents.
The Hong Kong government appears to realize this potential in its second statement, titled “Malignant Attempts by the United States to Damage Hong Kong’s Reputation as a Doomed Global Business Center.” ®