Google Responds To Hong Kong's New National Security Law By Rejecting Its Government's Requests For Data

from the national-security-meets-data-security dept

Google's on-again, off-again relationship with China is off again. A decade ago, Google threatened to pull out of China because the government demanded a censored search engine. Fast forward to 2018 and it was Google offering to build a censored search engine for the China market. A few months later -- following heavy internal and external criticism -- Google abandoned the project.

China is now imposing its will on Hong Kong in violation of the agreement it made when the UK returned control of the region to the Chinese government. Its latest effort to stifle long-running pro-democracy demonstrations took the form of a "national security" law which was ratified by the far-too-obsequious Hong Kong government. The law equates advocating for a more independent Hong Kong with sedition and terrorism, allowing authorities to punish demonstrators and dissidents with life sentences for, apparently, fighting back against a government that agreed it wouldn't impose its will on Hong Kong and its residents.

For years, Google has refused to honor data requests from the Chinese government. Following this latest attack on Hong Kong autonomy, it appears Google now feels the region is indistinguishable from China.

Google will stop responding directly to data requests from Hong Kong authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter, treating the territory effectively the same as mainland China in such transactions.

The move comes in the wake of Beijing’s imposition of a broad national security law that targets vaguely defined crimes including subversion of state power, collusion with foreign powers, secession and terrorism.

The new law has received criticism from pretty much every country that doesn't wish it had thought of it first. The Chinese government is finding itself without many useful allies following this transparent attempt to silence criticism under the always useful "national security" banner. Multiple countries have offered asylum to pro-democracy activists and a number have suspended extradition treaties to prevent the Chinese government from dragging fleeing dissidents back for prosecution.

Very few governments are willing to help the Chinese government punish Hong Kong residents for wanting something better than an oppressive regime in power. Foreign tech companies shouldn't be willing to pick up the slack. Fortunately, Google -- despite its earlier assistance offers to the censorious government -- has decided to do the right thing and tell the Hong Kong government it won't be aiding and abetting its oppression efforts.

Google spokesman Aaron Stein said the company has “not produced data in response to new requests from Hong Kong authorities” since the security law was enacted and that “remains the case.”

The only autonomy China recognizes is its own. By violating its agreement with Hong Kong -- and promising to retaliate against sanctions and other efforts put in place by other countries in response to this new law -- China has made it clear it will go it alone to achieve its ends.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: china, hong kong, privacy, surveillance
Companies: google


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2020 @ 2:20pm

    The US should offer Hong Kong US protection status

    If China wants to go back on its word, the US should step up and allow all Hong Kong citizens to move to the US. The same should apply for Taiwan and any other place threatened by China. We could use more people working and increasing our tax base and any counter to China is a good one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 3:00pm

      Re: The US should offer Hong Kong US protection status

      "...he US should step up and allow all Hong Kong citizens to move to the US."

      Yeah, that'll work. We could use a few more triad members here in the US!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 12:28am

        Re: Re: The US should offer Hong Kong US protection status

        "We could use a few more triad members here in the US!"

        It may come as a surprise to you that the overwhelming majority of foreigners are, in fact, not cartel members, triad members, yakuza, or other criminal scum. The average immigrant from HK is likely to be someone with a college degree and several years of experience in their chosen field.

        But hey, every mexican's a rapist and every chinaman's an inscrutable triad with a Fu Manchu moustache as far as the Very Fine People are concerned, right?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 6:40am

          Re: Re: Re: The US should offer Hong Kong US protection status

          AC said "all Hong Kong citizens". Now if he had been a bit more circumspect, as in (for example, but extended to other reasonable reasons for exclusion) all non-criminal Hong Kong citizens...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 12:35pm

            Non-criminals

            Absence of criminal activity is not the standard of moral conduct that it once was (or once allegedly was). Consider:

            ~ Dissent, including push for public-serving government services, is getting criminalized.

            ~ Enforcement is selective. Here in the states, prosecutorial discretion is the norm. Here in the states we also have a 100.00% indictment rate and a 90+% conviction rate. Also the highest incarceration rate (into oubliettes) of the entire world.

            ~ Laws overreach. The typical US citizen averages three felonies

            ~ Laws enforce stratified societies, often funneling underclasses into forced labor, if not downright oubliettes.

            ~ The police are shooting at the press and abducting citizens without cause or even identifying themselves as agents of the state. And this is technically not illegal.

            And this is before we get to the statistical point that immigrant populations tend to have a lower crime rate than the general population.

            As law isn't what you pretend it is, neither is crime.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2020 @ 2:53pm

              Re: Non-criminals

              As law isn't what you pretend it is, neither is crime.

              Which is also why anyone in Hong Kong would be foolish to take such an offer from the US. Sure, they'd be lauded by a few politicians for "standing up to China" much like how Snowden gets treated in Russia, but it wouldn't be long before their political usefulness ran out and they'd find out what brand of oppressive government the US brandishes.

              Of course, that's also without considering that they would also be exposing themselves to the current ongoing pandemic that's running unchecked within the US. For which they'd also find out just how primitive the US healthcare system is for the average citizen.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Uriel-238 (profile), 19 Aug 2020 @ 1:48am

              Three felonies A DAY

              Apparently I lost my train of thought.

              Still it's a statistic that's been discussed at length here.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 19 Aug 2020 @ 1:23am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The US should offer Hong Kong US protection stat

            "all non-criminal Hong Kong citizens..."

            Criminal according to whom? Every US citizen violates enough federal laws on a daily basis that all it takes is for a Barr, Trump or Cheney to turn the evil eye their way and they will be screwed.

            WE live in the days of overlexification where being a "criminal" doesn't necessarily say anything about your ethical and moral worth and value.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 12:25am

      Re: The US should offer Hong Kong US protection status

      "We could use more people working and increasing our tax base and any counter to China is a good one."

      I can see the MAGA crowd busting a gasket already - including the one responding to your comment right there. Yes, the US could indeed do with a few million industrious citizens who come pre-westernized and pre-educated to high standards and are willing and able to work...
      ...but, you know, that's really not going to go over well with the "Thar takin' ahr jobs!"-crowd who always fail to realize they'll never be in competition for the type of job an asian with a college degree's likely to land.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 3:08pm

    National Security

    National Security as a term has long gone the way of terrorism in becoming entirely meaningless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 3:41pm

    Power Vacuums

    When a power vacuum exists, anyone with any power attempts to rise to the top and collect the vacuum. The current US administration has shown such weakness and lack of support for its allies, that has allowed Turkey's Erdogan and China's Xi to do whatever they want, knowing that Trump won't do anything.

    China has an international treaty with the UK for the handover of HK. Apparently the UK is a little busy right now with brexit. The US has what we've called "friends" be they the Kurds or the Hong Kong citizens... and we've abandoned them all.

    It shouldn't be Google's job (or Apple's job or any other tech firm's job) to figure out these politics. The same idiot who said Tik-Tok "must be sold to Microsoft and I get a cut of the deal" could say "no more dealing with HK."

    Sure, it's overreach to issue two executive orders, one claiming a two-year old merger/acquisition is no longer approved, and one claiming that they "must sell to Microsoft"... no matter how unlawful it is for the administration to order anyone to sell to a specific buyer something that isn't for sale to begin with.

    SO, good on Goog, but it shouldn't be up to them. It should be up to our government "leaders" in Congress. Too bad we don't have any.

    Ehud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2020 @ 7:29pm

    Google's decision to treat HK as it does the China mainland is in line with the US govenment and most of the western world. But have they pulled their infrastructure and employees as they did in Mainland China? I would expect them to but time will tell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    flyinginn (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 8:15pm

    Article 23 of the <u>Basic Law</u> governing the HK handover from UK to China states:

    <i>The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.</i>

    When the HK SAR failed to do this, PRC enacted legislation to make up the deficiency in accordance with Article 18. Not only is this not "in violation" of the Basic Law, it is clearly anticipated by it.

    Please do more research to avoid misleading or mendacious claims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      BernardoVerda (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 12:10am

      Re:

      Just how dumb and ignorant do you think we all are?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        flyinginn (profile), 19 Aug 2020 @ 1:51am

        Re: Re:

        "Just how dumb and ignorant do you think we all are?"
        I don't know how ignorant you "all" are. But some appear not to have read the Basic Law of HK.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          BernardoVerda (profile), 19 Aug 2020 @ 6:53pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Perhaps, perhaps not.
          But so what -- we do still recognize strawman arguments, red herring arguments, and "look a squirrel" deflections, when they're nicely set down in print for us by blatant mouthpieces authoritarian regimes.

          Try Facebook -- the bar there is much lower.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 12:57am

      Re:

      "Please do more research to avoid misleading or mendacious claims."

      Yes, I think you should. HK can not, under it's normal charter apply outright dictatorial legislation - which is the only type of law the PRC would accept when it came to dissidents and outside interference. A western equivalent would be a demand to enforce drug laws with the only acceptable choice being legislation which abolished burden of proof.

      A few things to note here;

      1) No one is surprised that HK was in reality sold down the river, going from being a commonwealth member one day and being governed by a totalitarian dictatorship the next.

      2) It's still important to note that China has, in fact, made good on what everyone knew would happen and dropped any pretense of "One country, Two systems" down the crapper the very second they found it inconvenient.

      Does China have the moral authority to do this? That depends entirely on whether you believe human rights exist or not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2020 @ 5:46am

        Re: Re:

        Not all cultures understand the idea of moral authority and human rights as we do. Many countries do not incorporate the very idea of human rights in their laws, like India with their social system, Saudi Arabia, China...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 5:59am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Many countries do not incorporate the very idea of human rights in their laws, like India with their social system, Saudi Arabia, China..."

          Well, no....India has, on paper equality under the law. In practice its had a job and a half trying to move away from the caste system.

          China has, on paper equality under the law. Then it adds the "...but some animals are more equal than others" clause under the national security exceptions. Saudi Arabia is - nominally - very respecting of human rights. Again on paper. Then tribalist extremism and good old-fashioned dictatorial feudalism undercut it.

          Every member of the UN is a co-signatory to the UN human rights charter.

          Therefore when China, SA or India choose to violate that charter, the moral authority they signed to uphold is lost. Along with their general credibility. If they weren't Too Big To Fail they'd be rogue states by now.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        flyinginn (profile), 19 Aug 2020 @ 2:05am

        Re: Re:

        The "normal charter" is the Basic Law. There is nothing in the Basic Law about HK being unable to apply "dictatorial" legislation which is precisely the legislation required of it by the Basic Law.

        Your analogy has no visible bearing. If HK was "sold down the river" it was by the British government which agreed to the Basic Law. But perhaps you simply object to China reclaiming its own property from the colonial state which took it by force during the Opium Wars.

        The US-funded colour revolution failed. Tough. Tell Joshua Wong to give the cash back to NED and the OTF if he hasn't spent it all on weapons and US flags.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2020 @ 3:55am

          Re: Re: Re:

          " US-funded colour revolution?"
          Repeating blatant lies doesn't make them true.

          There was no attempt at "revolution" just protest against an attempt to strip away basic civil rights.
          Ans there is no evidence of any funding by the US.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 3:44am

    "If HK was "sold down the river" it was by the British government which agreed to the Basic Law."

    That was exactly what I said, yes.

    "But perhaps you simply object to China reclaiming its own property from the colonial state which took it by force during the Opium Wars."

    I have, on multiple occasions, commented on the 18th century drug kingpins who "acquired" the Hong Kong lease at gunpoint so no, sorry to not play along with your strawman argument there.

    What I have been saying from the start is simply that the UK should have told HK citizens exactly what they were in for - i.e. that their democracy was going to become an effective dictatorship overnight and they had the choice of staying under those rules, or leaving.

    "There is nothing in the Basic Law about HK being unable to apply "dictatorial" legislation which is precisely the legislation required of it by the Basic Law. "

    Hong Kong still has - on paper at least - legislation which affords the citizenry certain rights. These rights are in direct conflict with Chinese law.

    According to the handover treaty where they nailed down the "One country, two systems" principle the rights afforded the Hong Kong citizens would take precedence over China's legal framework for several decades to come.

    China chose to violate that treaty ahead of time and expose the fact that it will honor treaties only until they are suddenly slightly inconvenient. This was expected and comes as no surprise to anyone who observed and analyzed the process - but the fact that we expected China to be as honorless as the UK does NOT mean we shouldn't discuss the facts just so Emperor Xi can save some face.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.