Bit by bit, the internet is getting smaller in Hong Kong

City authorities are trying out new methods to eliminate 'undesirable' content

image of large screen at a conference reading Happy Hong Kong with a table in front of the screen showing empty speaker seats

Charles Mok is a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former legislative councilor in Hong Kong. George Chen is a managing director in Hong Kong for The Asia Group, a Washington-based business and policy consulting firm. He was previously head of greater China public policy for Meta.

Many observers have wondered whether China's Great Firewall might be extended to Hong Kong.

The good news is that since the Chinese legislature imposed a new national security law on the city in July 2020, there has been no attempt to bring in the country's system for the wholesale filtration and blockage of foreign websites and global internet platforms.

The bad news, though, is that internet controls are increasingly being applied in a target-specific manner in Hong Kong, alongside widespread self-censorship that is even affecting the city's growing diaspora.

To understand where things may go from here, it is imperative to first understand where the Hong Kong government's legal power to block internet content and services originates. Two recent cases demonstrate how the Hong Kong authorities are making censorship happen.