Hong Kong Demand for VPNs Surges on Heels of CCP Plan to Impose ‘National Security’ Law

HONG KONG—Demand for virtual private networks in Hong Kong surged more than six-fold last Thursday as Beijing proposed tough new national security laws for the financial hub, reflecting concerns over internet privacy, according to a VPN provider.

Atlas VPN said installations of the tool that helps people bypass web restrictions surged again on Friday, up more than three-fold from the previous day, while search interest in the keyword term “VPN” rocketed 1,680 percent on May 21 from a day earlier.

Search interest in the word “VPN” hit a record high on Friday, it added, citing data from Google Trends.

Hong Kong was returned by Britain back to Chinese rule in 1997 and is governed under a “one country, two systems” framework that guarantees it a high degree of autonomy not seen in mainland China, which is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including freedom of speech.

Protesters march during a demonstration against Article 23 and bans on freedom of association in Hong Kong on July 21, 2018. (VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP via Getty Images)

The former British colony also enjoys unrestricted internet access, unlike on the mainland where the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter are blocked.

Beijing’s plans to directly enact national security legislation sent a chill through financial markets and drew a swift rebuke from the international community, including governments, human rights and privacy groups who fear it could lead to increased surveillance and censorship by the CCP of the Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong police said they arrested more than 180 people on Sunday, when authorities fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse anti-government protests over the planned security legislation.

“If Hong Kong falls under the same digital restrictions as Chinese citizens in the near future, then we can expect an even higher interest in VPN services,” said aid Rachel Welsh, Chief Operating Officer of Atlas VPN.

The CCP’s security legislation targets “secession, subversion, and terrorist activities” against the one-party state, and could see CCP intelligence agencies set up bases in Hong Kong, one of the world’s leading financial hubs.

Pro-Beijing Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials have sought to reassure investors their interests would not be harmed and said the laws would only target a minority of “troublemakers” who had posed “imminent danger” to China’s “national security.”

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Author: Reuters