| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

China censors website of Hong Kong rights group amid crackdown on freedom of speech

Amid a crackdown on freedom of speech, China on Tuesday censored a website of a Hong Kong rights group.
Known as Hong Kong Watch, the UK-based advocacy group said its website could not be accessed through some networks in the Chinese-ruled city.
“If this is not just a technical malfunction, and Hongkongers will no longer be able to access our website because of the national security law, then this is a serious blow to internet freedom,” said Benedict Rogers, the group’s head.
“With the steady drip of website removals, there are fears that China could begin introducing its great internet firewall into the city. With time, this could have serious ramifications for the continued presence of western technology companies in the city.”
“The latest example shows that at any time, the Hong Kong authorities can decide to block a website. It also shows … how intransparent the process of blocking and censorship is,” Lokman Tsui, a digital rights expert and former journalism professor.
Hong Kong, once regarded as a bastion of free speech within authoritarian China, has been transformed by a 2020 law that Beijing imposed to neuter dissent in the wake of huge and often violent democracy protests.
More than 160 people have been arrested under the new security law, including activists and journalists from pro-democracy news outlets.
Rights groups, foreign governments and activists have condemned the law for reversing the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when Britain handed it over to China in 1997.
Often denied bail, many suspects have been detained for long periods before trial. They include several dual nationals, most notably mogul Jimmy Lai, a British-Chinese dual citizen and owner of the now-shuttered pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper.
Lai has been charged over his alleged role in Tiananmen vigils, annual events commemorating the bloody crackdown on Chinese students calling for reform in Beijing.
Authorities in Hong Kong have shown little tolerance for dissent, and with a “patriots only” electoral system in place, there is negligible push-back to the government in the legislature. wions