Google will stop responding directly to requests from the Hong Kong government for data after China imposed a sweeping new national security law on the city, according to the Washington Post and Reuters on Friday. The Post cited a source “familiar with the matter.”
The tech giant’s move means that user data requests from Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration will be subject to the same process as requests from Beijing, effectively treating the semi-autonomous city in the same way as mainland China.
According to the report, the process will involve making requests in accordance with a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. The requests will then be directed to the US Justice Department, in a lengthy process that may take months.
Google’s decision to sever direct cooperation with the Hong Kong government comes amid escalating tension between Washington and Beijing over its alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The US has sanctioned 11 Hong Kong officials over their roles in implementing the security law.
Google, alongside other tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram, suspended responding to user data requests from the Hong Kong government in early July, within a week of the passing of the security law on June 30.
Google is reportedly the first tech company to make its suspension a permanent arrangement.
The new law aims to prevent or punish acts deemed a threat to national security, criminalising subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces, and terrorism. It has been criticised by human rights activists for its vague wording and for giving the police wider powers.