Tue, 02 Mar 2021

HK ISP admits blocking pro-democracy website

15 Jan 2021, 15:55 GMT+10

Hong Kong, January 15 (ANI): As China continues to crack down on dissent, a telecom company has admitted to blocking one of the most popular websites devoted to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

HKBN (Hong Kong Broadband Network) has become the first internet service provider to admit blocking the pro-democracy website, HKChronicles, under Beijing's draconian National Security Law.

South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) said on Thursday that it had "complied with an official" request to disable customers' access to HKChronicles -- which contained information, articles, photos and videos related to the social unrest that erupted in 2019 caused by the draconian law.

"We have disabled the access to the website in compliance with the requirement issued under the national security law," the city's second-largest internet service provider (ISP) said.

Authorities had invoked the national security law for the first time in demanding the city's ISPs halt access to the website, citing Article 43 of the law, (which gives power to the police 'to take specific measures' when handling cases concerning National Security Offences), sources said.

Users reported difficulties reaching HKChronicles beginning on January 6, according to its editor Naomi Chan. After switching to its overseas server, the site remained accessible. The news outlet reported that the website's database also included first-hand accounts of alleged police brutality against demonstrators, as well as information on "yellow ribbon", or protester-friendly businesses, and "blue ribbon" ones that support the police.

Lento Yip Yuk-fai, chairman of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association, said that if police requested a website be blocked on national security grounds "they should publicly explain the grounds to prevent unfounded speculation about their motives.""The issue concerns the free flow of information," he said, as quoted by SCMP.

"The police should come forward to explain clearly about their legal reasoning to minimise the move's impact on the city's free flow of information, as well as to prevent unfounded speculation from circulating," Yip added.

"Given telecoms companies were usually cooperative with police requests, authorities should also explain avenues for appeal," he said further.

The draconian law imposed on the city by the Chinese Communist Party criminalises secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect from July 1. (ANI)

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