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Hong Kong national security law: Facebook, Google, and TikTok react

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  • Last week, China unilaterally passed an overarching new national security law in Hong Kong that experts say further erodes the semi-autonomous city’s waning freedoms.
  • The legislation criminalizes what it deems secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country. Those charged with the most severe offenses — like undermining the Chinese government — face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
  • On Monday, several major tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Telegram, and Zoom, announced they were pausing data processing requests from authorities in Hong Kong while they assess the implications of the law.
  • Apple said it is assessing the law but has not said it would pause data processing requests.
  • TikTok said it is leaving Hong Kong “in light of recent events.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Big tech is hitting the pause button in Hong Kong.

Last week, China’s top legislative body passed a sweeping new security law in Hong Kong, which criminalizes dissent against the Chinese Communist Party and allows China to set up a national security apparatus in Hong Kong. Those charged with the most severe offenses — like undermining the Chinese government — face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The new law has already been used to arrest at least ten pro-democracy protesters and has prompted widespread protest among Hong Kong residents who see their freedoms slipping.

The language in the new law is wide-ranging and broadly gives law enforcement the power to block content, intercept private messages, and seize electronic devices, security researcher Samuel Woodhams told Business Insider. 

“Above all else, the implementation rules have the potential to radically criminalize online speech in Hong Kong. Given the lack of concrete definitions provided in the national security law, the new legislation has the potential to dramatically erode freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” said Woodhams.

On Monday, major tech companies reacted to the law, pausing operations in the region and denying access to any government requests for user data as they assess the implications of the legislation and Hong Kong’s future.

Here’s how the tech giants have reacted:

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