The arms of the Chinese government have grown alarmingly long. In fact, they’ve grown so long that they’re reaching the governments of other countries who don’t abide by China’s laws. Even worse, companies in other countries are eager to comply. The underlying tension of an unspoken virtual hostage situation is forcing international companies to play ball, or risk losing the ability to serve 1/7th of the world’s total population.
China’s Monopoly on Censorship
China is home to nearly 1.4 billion people, and they’re intend on monitoring everything those people do. China has an intranet, restricting all free and open websites and social media platforms. Mobile phone users and internet users in China are strictly monitored. The internet and private conversations are filtered and scrubbed before they’re ever viewed by anyone within the country’s borders.
Any companies that wish to do business with China are pressured to comply with the Chinese government’s strict requirements for access to data and conversations that take place through their apps or platforms.
Apps that don’t comply never make it to the App Store or Play Store in China, but tech companies are heavily compelled to comply. If they don’t, they’re losing out on 1.4 billion potential customers. The stakes are high, and many companies comply.
This compliance is becoming dangerous, and apps with roots in China are guaranteed state surveillance tools. The Chinese government fully understands the power they have by housing 1/7 of the population of Earth, and they use that power to push tech companies into a corner.
Hong Kong’s Desire for Freedom
When Hong Kong was returned to China, the expectations were clear. It was to be a “one country, two party” system. Hong Kong would be a part of China, but the people who lived there would be free to live their lives and govern themselves as they saw fit. This didn’t happen, and it never will.
Hong Kong has a long history of protesting the Chinese government’s attempts to control and censor their population, and their grounds for protest are sound. They never agreed to the rules, restrictions, and intense scrutiny they were placed under, and they’re incredibly vocal about the injustices they endure.
People of Hong Kong use the internet to communicate with each other and disseminate uncensored news. They also use it to organize protests and unify themselves in their stance, which is something the Chinese government has long attempted to stop. Pro-democracy protesters simply circumvented the government by using VPNs and secure communication services to bypass The Great Firewall of China, the country’s ruthless and partially automated censorship system.
Tensions between protesters and the Chinese government rise high in the month of June, when protesters gather in large numbers to hold a vigil in remembrance of the people who lost their lives in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The government militarized the area and killed students who were protesting. Every year, the undeterred protesters gather on June 4th in remembrance.
The government cracks down around this time every year in an attempt to keep information about the massacre from being discussed and to prevent protesters from organizing for the vigil. They’ve never been successful.
While there isn’t much the Chinese government can do to effectively catch people using Stealth VPNs, they’re certainly fond of Googling themselves. When they found a former Hong Kong lawmaker’s website, they exercised the power of pressure.
China Went Directly to The Source
Nathan Law, a former young Hong Kong lawmaker and pro-democracy activist, responded by creating a website that rallied around the cause of Hong Kong protesters and relayed uncensored news. This website was hosted by Wix, a company based in Israel.
Law, exiled in London, has had a tumultuous relationship with the Chinese government and is currently exiled in London. His work as a protest leader made him an enemy of the state, and the website he continued to operate to support his cause was troublesome to the Chinese government.
Their response was to send a formal complaint to Wix, stating that hosting the website was likely to result in harm to China’s national security. As a result, Wix promptly took the website offline.
This is the first time a tech company has agreed to censor Hong Kong the same way they agree to censor mainland China. This instance is alarming, and only serves to prove the point that the lines surrounding the alleged “one country, two party” system are too blurry to be recognized.
Wix Redeemed Themselves
Wix took a few moments to process the outrage before restoring the website, claiming that it was taken down in error. Whether it was truly an error or simply bad judgement will remain a mystery. It should remain troubling that Wix responded to a request regarding Hong Kong the same way they’d respond to pressure from the mainland, and this is a sign that the Chinese government will attempt to blatantly overreach to gain control over communication in Hong Kong.
Browsing the Internet in Hong Kong and Mainland China
The only way to safely browse the open internet in Hong Kong and mainland China is to use a stealth protocol VPN like TorGuard. Your internet activity will be masked from the government and entirely uncensored, and no one will know you’re using a VPN to circumvent blocks.
Tools like TorGuard are vitally important to the people of Hong Kong who are unwilling to surrender in the demand of their rights. TorGuard is here to help the censored and oppressed be heard.