Several U.S. social media companies have ceased reviewing requests by Hong Kong authorities to search residents’ data, following China’s implementation of a new national security law covering the territory.
The new law gives the Chinese government sweeping power to arrest dissidents in Hong Kong or curtail their activities.
“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” Facebook said in a statement on Monday. Facebook-owned messaging app Whatsapp said it had ceased reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human-rights due diligence and consultations with human-rights experts.”
Google and Twitter both confirmed that they had ceased data reviews immediately after the passage of the national security law last week. The law is set to take effect on Tuesday night and allows authorities to request the publisher or host of an “electronic message” to remove that message if it endangers “national security.”
Hong Kong has long allowed free use of social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, which are banned or heavily restricted in mainland China. Hong Kong has maintained a relatively autonomous system of government since British authorities handed China control of the territory in 1997.
The passage of the national security law led U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to inform Congress that the State Department could no longer consider Hong Kong an autonomous territory. Meanwhile, British prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that the U.K. will change immigration rules to allow 3 million Hong Kong residents to live and work in the country.