An especially pernicious habit of today’s Chinese Communist Party is its effort to suppress dissent beyond its borders and enlist Western tech companies as accomplices. The latest target is a pro-democracy website published by Hong Kongers in exile.
On May 24 Hong Kong police contacted the Israeli software company Wix and demanded the removal of 2021hkcharter.com. The website is intended to promote the 2021 Hong Kong Charter drafted by former lawmakers
and other members of the Hong Kong dissident diaspora. It calls for opposition to the Communist Party’s domestic rule and international aggression, as well as support for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.
Wix took down the website on May 31, and Mr. Law says he received no advance notification. In its letter to Wix, Hong Kong police claimed the charter could constitute subversion, secession, and “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” under the new national-security law that Beijing imposed on the city last summer.
Article 43 of the law claims that authorities can require a “relevant service provider” to delete information or hand over communications deemed to endanger national security. The security law also claims to have extraterritorial application, including over offenses committed “outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”
The 2021 Hong Kong Charter site is an early test of these extraterritorial claims, given that none of its authors live in Chinese territory and Wix isn’t a Chinese company. Nevertheless, Hong Kong police threatened that if Wix failed to take down the website, the company could be fined up to $100,000, and its employees could face up to six months in prison.
Wix restored the website three days later—after Mr. Law tweeted about the Hong Kong threat. In an emailed statement, Wix said “the website never should have been removed and we would like to apologize.” The company also said it would review its screening processes to ensure “mistakes such as this do not repeat in the future.” Bravo.
The incident is part of a broader trend. Last year, after a request from Chinese authorities, Zoom temporarily suspended two U.S.-based accounts of activists attempting to discuss the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The Wix episode is a reminder that Beijing intends to censor speech worldwide if it can get away with it. The U.S. and its allies will have to push back against these threats rather than let China dictate what free people around the world can say about Communist Party rule.
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8