little green footballs

Hong Kong Covert Surveillance Law Allows Wiretapping, Bugging Homes, Reading Email

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 at 3:35:46 pm

NSA leaker Edward Snowden was quoted today saying that he chose to flee to Hong Kong because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent."

This statement is so far off base it beggars the imagination. We're talking about the People's Republic of China here, and even if Hong Kong still has some remnants of the rights they enjoyed as a British colony, they are quickly going the way of the dodo and continue to exist only by the tolerance of Beijing.

Here's that "commitment to free speech," in a 2006 article for the New York Times about a covert surveillance law that makes the Patriot Act look like child's play: Hong Kong Surveillance Law Passes.

HONG KONG, Aug. 6 -- Pro-Beijing lawmakers approved legislation here today giving broad authority to the police to conduct covert surveillance, including wiretapping phones, bugging homes and offices and monitoring e-mail.

The bill passed the 60-member Legislative Council on a vote of 32 to 0 soon after pro-democracy lawmakers walked out of the chamber in protest early this morning. The Democratic Party and its allies had tried to introduce nearly 200 amendments to the bill through four days of marathon debates, but all were defeated or ruled out of order. ...

The government also promised not to use covert surveillance for political spying, but blocked efforts by democracy advocates to write an explicit ban on political surveillance into the law.

The new law requires the police and other security agencies to obtain the panel's permission before entering anyone's premises to place or operate surveillance equipment. But the heads of security agencies are allowed to order less intrusive surveillance, like monitoring e-mail and phone calls through servers and telecommunications switches, without obtaining the panel's prior approval, although subject to review by the panel and by a commissioner named by the chief executive.