A number of social media services including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and Telegram have stopped processing data requests from law enforcement services in Hong Kong, and now, according to the South China Morning Post, LinkedIn has also joined the list.
This followed the introduction of new security laws which created new crimes such as conspiring with foreigners to provoke “hatred” of the Chinese government, which could carry sentences such as life imprisonment. China had previously agreed that ex-British territory Hong Kong would enjoy greater freedoms than mainland China for 50 years after its transition to Chinese rule.
Linkedin said it has paused reviewing requests from law enforcement as it reviews the legislation.
WhatsApp has said Hong Kong now no longer met “internationally recognised standards including human rights, due process, and the rule of law”.
The South China Morning Post has warned that the lack of cooperation could prompt the government to block their sites in a worst-case scenario.
Additionally, officials from the companies risked arrest and charges if they visited the region, argued barrister Anson Wong Yu-tat.
“There is such a risk,” Wong said on Tuesday.
Instead of risking controversy companies may simply choose to withdraw from the Hong Kong market.
Hong Kong IT-sector lawmaker Charles Mok said he believed representatives of overseas internet firms would start weighing whether it was even safe to enter Hong Kong.
“They will be worried and start asking themselves if they will be arrested, even if they are just in transit through Hong Kong,” he said.
Firms that have offices in the city may assess whether it is safe to keep a presence here, he said, now that “there is a knife hanging over their heads”.