Hong Kong’s Netizens Protest Internet Bill

Hong Kong citizens protested along Hong Kong Streets on Wednesday night of this week, and plan to do so until the new year. Until then, they plan on informing the Hong Kong citizenry about a bill they say will infringe upon internet freedoms. 

A rally outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council featured a banner reading, “Fight for the freedom of the next generation.” According to the LA Times, several hundred turned out in opposition to a copyright bill with implications for freedom expression.

Opponents say the bill could send them to jail for merely sending a link. Proponents believe the bill is overdue and a means of adapting copyright to the modern age. While opponents claim the bill could be used to lock up individuals who express dissent, proponents say this is not the case.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong lobbied for two years for the bill. “Current law doesn’t allow us to take action against Internet infringement,” according to Belinda Lui, the chamber’s intellectual property issues spokesperson. “Local businesses carrying American content are being harmed.”

Some proponents do admit the bill is quite general, which could lead to problems in interpretations in legal proceedings.

“They drafted the legislation so broadly that it covers most of the activities the netizens have been doing,” Peter K. Yu, law professor and codirector of the Center for Law and Intellectual Property at Texas A&M University School of Law, told the LA Times. “Just saying ‘we’re not going to prosecute you’ doesn’t address the concerns of the netizens. Most people now interpret this as something that targets their freedom of speech.”

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The Hong Kong student protests started on 27 September 2014 – this time last year. As the HK police used tear gas and batons in the crowd, the violence sparked a response from over 800,000 members of the HK community, taking to the streets the next day to protect their students. With the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre looming large, Hong Kong's students captured the world's attention. With a subsequent 65 days of occupation – outside the main government buildings, and on key arteries slicing the city – Hong Kong's cause permeated everything. I shot this image at the Admiralty protest sites on 28 September – as power and disbelief collided. This young man's t-shirt says: "I say, I speak – I do not act." More images to follow as the anniversary unfurls. #umbrellarevolution #occupycentral #occupyhongkong #occupyhk #scholarism #hongkong #protests #hongkongprotest #yellowumbrella #documentaryphotography #photojournalism #ukphotographer #nyphotographer #nyc #reportagespotlight #cnn #bbc #gettyreportage #everydayasia #china #hk #worldnews @alexcribs

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Estimates claims 1 million signatures (Hong Kong’s population is 7.3 million) have been gathered for a petition in opposition to the bill. The city’s broadband access is similar to the US’s.

Due to historical precedents, Hong Kong does not suffer behind the so-called “Great Firewall” of China.  Complaints regarding an evolution towards stricter internet freedoms have taken hold in Hong Kong. Its criminal code means authorities can arrested people for  “obtaining access to a computer with a dishonest intent.”

Opponents plan to protest the bill through Christmas and the New Year. The bill, called Internet Article 23, will be explained to people on the streets of Hong Kong as the group plans to set up booths for that purpose. A New Year protest is planned as well. A second reading of the bill is scheduled for January 6 in the Legislative Council.

Featured image of the Admiralty protest in Hong Kong, 2014 from Shutterstock.

Justin O'Connell is the founder of financial technology focused CryptographicAsset.com. Justin organized the launch of the largest Bitcoin ATM hardware and software provider in the world at the historical Hotel del Coronado in southern California. His works appear in the U.S.'s third largest weekly, the San Diego Reader, VICE and elsewhere.