Hong Kong Broadband Network blocks website to comply with security law

The blockage marks the first time authorities have used a sweeping national security law to censor an Internet website.
The blockage marks the first time authorities have used a sweeping national security law to censor an Internet website.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) said on Thursday (Jan 14) it blocked a website that publishes material mainly on 2019 anti-government protests to comply with the city’s national security law, marking the first censorship of a local website under the law.

“We have disabled the access to the website in compliance with the requirement issued under the National Security Law,” a spokesperson for the internet service provider said in an email to Reuters.

The person added that the action was taken on Jan 13. The confirmation by the network operator came after HKChronicles first reported disruptions to its service last week.

On Sunday, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources, that Hong Kong police had invoked the city’s national security law for the first time to block HKChronicles, causing jitters among local residents and activists community.

Other major internet service providers in Hong Kong, China Mobile and PCCW, did not immediately reply to requests for comments when contacted by Reuters on Thursday afternoon.

HKBN did not comment on why Hong Kong Chronicles faced issues last week.

The Hong Kong Security Bureau last week in an email declined to comment on specific cases but said the police “will act on the basis of actual circumstances and according to the law.” The police did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters on Thursday.

The security bureau said offences endangering national security include secession, subversion, organisation and perpetration of terrorist activities and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. The offences are punishable with up to life in jail, according to the security law.

“All relevant action will be taken strictly in accordance with the law,” a Hong Kong Security Bureau spokesman added.

Under the controversial security legislation imposed by Beijing on the Chinese-ruled city in June, the police can request service providers to restrict access to electronic platforms or messages that could pose a threat to national security.