Hong Kong ISPs Refuse To Help China Censor The Internet

from the swimming-upstream dept

China's no stranger to censorship online, given it runs one of the most sophisticated internet censorship operations on the planet. Like many governments upset with the idea of free expression online, China has also long waged a war against VPNs and proxies that let the public bypass this ham-fisted techno-blockade.

But the repression and censorship China enacts within its core territories have been harder to implement in Hong Kong, where internet traffic isn't forced through China's massive censorship firewall. Case in point: when reports began circulating that China was considering censoring access to certain websites and services, the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association (HKISPA) issued a statement saying thanks but no thanks. A core complaint by the ISPs was the fact that the use of encryption and VPNs means that such efforts are largely pointless:

"Technically speaking, given the complexity of the modern Internet including technologies like VPN, cloud and cryptographies, it is impossible to effectively and meaningfully block any services, unless we put the whole Internet of Hong Kong behind large scale surveillance firewall."

Should China's government proceed anyway, the ISPs were quick to note that any ham-fisted attempt to cordon off Hong Kong from the rest of the world would only stifle industry in the city:

"By the above token, HKISPA would like to warn that, imposing any insensible restrictions on the open Internet would only result in more restrictions, as the original restrictions wouldn’t be effective, and ultimately the result is putting Hong Kong’s Internet behind a big firewall. Therefore, any such restrictions, however slight originally, would start the end of the open Internet of Hong Kong, and would immediately and permanently deter international businesses from positing their businesses and investments in Hong Kong."

Telegram is widely being used to help coordinate the ongoing protests. As a result, the company has been facing massive DDOS attacks that are likely being launched by the Chinese government. Regardless, Hong Kong ISPs say they'll refuse any government demands to censor the platform:

"ISPs in Hong Kong are all law abiding, but they may not circumvent technical and financial constraints of the business which may make executive orders to impose network restrictions not easily implementable. We request that the government consult the industry in resolving these constraints, and consult the society at large before imposing any such restrictions."

As on other fronts, China's government is a stumbling and confused mess when it comes to governing a free thinking, successful city, and any efforts to apply tactics used in China's mainland (most notably the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests) is likely to only make existing tensions worse.

Filed Under: censorship, china, hong kong, internet, internet blockade, isps, protestors, protests

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  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 2 Sep 2019 @ 7:57am

    I was following the whole thing a few days ago and there were reports with videos and pictures of the Chinese army assembling at Shenzhen and I thought things were going to get bloody. Well, bloodier than they already are if reports flying are to believe. But they didn't go full Tianmen. And the population shows no signs of giving up as well. It's probably the longest time span I've seen people keep this level of mobilization. By this level I mean fill up the streets with tons of people every single day relentlessly. It's interesting to see how things will unfold there and the results may cause cascading effects over the world for the better or the worse. On top of it, it's interesting to see companies resisting to the authoritarian wave, they usually value money over democracy. Of course I would prefer people weren't being detained or hurt but the whole thing is fascinating to watch. The world is convulsing.

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