A new national security law has turned Hong Kong into a battleground for the United States and China’s escalating war over control of the global internet. Whether Hong Kong eventually falls behind China’s Great Firewall will depend on how strictly Beijing enforces the regulation, and how willing technology platforms are to stand up in the face of Communist Party pressure—particularly when their business interests are at stake. Some tech giants like Google and Facebook have already paused accepting requests for data from Hong Kong authorities. Others, like Chinese-owned TikTok, have decided to pull out of the region altogether.
The new law was imposed by the Chinese Communist Party with little input from local Hong Kong officials, and went into effect on the evening of June 30. It establishes a wide-reaching security apparatus with the power to crack down on a range of political actions, including separatism and subversion of state power. Civil rights groups around the world quickly decried the measure, and over the past week, activists, researchers, and other vulnerable groups began scrambling to protect themselves from its potential legal consequences.