‘Extension of Control’: Concerns Raised Over Hong Kong’s New Cybercrime Legislation Proposal

By Julia Ye
Julia Ye
Julia Ye
Julia Ye is an Australian-based reporter who joined The Epoch Times in 2021. She mainly covers China-related issues and has been a reporter since 2003.
July 27, 2022 Updated: July 27, 2022

The Hong Kong government recently published a 268-page consultation paper on a legislative proposal aimed at extending jurisdictions to information and communications technology.

However, experts have warned that the proposal, which they see as on par with Hong Kong’s national security law, could be used by the Hong Kong government to set up mass internet surveillance and censorship over its citizens.

The consultation paper, published July 20, reiterated the importance of the national security law and proposed having jurisdiction over five categories of cyber-dependent offenses. Furthermore, such jurisdictions would have an effect in extraterritorial cases if they are related to Hong Kong affairs.

The national security law, imposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Hong Kong in June 2020, was seen as draconian legislation that has drastically deteriorated the human rights situation in Hong Kong under the broad definition of “safeguarding national security.”

Cyber-Dependent Crimes

The five categories of cyber-dependent crimes include the following: illegal access to programs or data; illegal interception of computer data; illegal interference of computer data; illegal interference of computer system; making available or possessing a device or data for committing a crime.

The consultation paper, drafted by Hong Kong’s Cybercrime Sub-committee, also states that interception, interference, access, disclosure, and use of data without lawful authorization or reasonable excuse would be a criminal offense under the new proposal.

Additionally, according to the paper, summary convictions will be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison, while convictions by indictment will be sentenced to a maximum of 14 years in prison.

Broad Definition

In an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA), Wong Ho-wa, data scientist and founder of the Internet Society Hong Kong (ISOC HK), expressed concerns over the clauses within the consultation paper.

In particular, Wong emphasized that “illegal use or possession of data” is an incredibly broad term, and it is boundless as to whom and what it could pertain to.

“This is very frightening; the public is bound to be afraid of how this will be implemented, with such broad definitions,” he said. “Even people who supply equipment could be targeted, say for selling routers or servers to others.”

Sang Pu, a current affairs commentator, told RFA that the new proposal could be seen as an extension of Hong Kong’s national security law.

“They are extending their controls using computers and cybercrime as a pretext,” he said. “I am very worried that this will lead to internet blocks and censorship, and all of the AI censorship and keyword search term censorship we see in [mainland] China being implemented in Hong Kong.”

Sang further stated that although this proposal is still in the consultation stage, it will likely pass in the Hong Kong legislature with tightened controls down the road.

Julia Ye
Julia Ye is an Australian-based reporter who joined The Epoch Times in 2021. She mainly covers China-related issues and has been a reporter since 2003.