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Tech giants threaten to leave Hong Kong over proposed anti-doxxing law

Hong Kong defended its proposal, saying a rise in doxxing has "tested the limits of morality and the law."

Hong Kong's harbor
Hong Kong has defended the proposed anti-doxxing law.

Hong Kong has defended an attack on its proposed privacy law from a coalition representing major US tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple. The focus of the change in the law is to curb doxxing -- the publication of people's personal details including addresses and phone number online.

Doxxing has been a major problem for Hong Kong since mid-2019, around the same time protests kicked off against proposed changes to local extradition laws. In a statement on Monday, the government said that the massive increase in doxxing "has tested the limits of morality and the law."

On Monday, the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition made public a letter it sent to the government of Hong Kong at the end of last month in which it stated that its member feared they would have to pull out of Hong Kong if the law changed, as it would make them criminally liable for the publication of user content.

The letter said that the coalition's members shared Hong Kong's concerns over doxxing and took the issue seriously, but did not see a way to continue operating in the region should sanctions for tech platforms be put in place. "The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade," it said.

In its response, the government dismissed the coalition's concerns, saying that the proposed law only targets unlawful doxxing and would empower privacy commissioners to carry out investigations and prosecute wrongdoers -- changes that it says were strongly backed by the general public. It added that it "rebuts any suggestion that the Amendments may in any way affect foreign investment in Hong Kong," but that it would meet with members of the coalition shortly to better understand their views.