Residents enlisted in state surveillance . . .
On Thursday, the Hong Kong police launched a hotline for the city’s residents to provide tips on possible violations of the city’s new National Security Law. Allegations can be made behind the cloak of anonymity and can include photos or audio or video files submitted through e-mail, text, or the Chinese messaging app WeChat. Within hours of its launch, the hotline received more than 2,500 such tips. It is modelled after the ‘anti-violence’ hotline set up in September 2019, where residents could report on incidents related to anti-government and pro-democracy protests throughout the city.
Undermining public trust . . .
Some critics warn that the hotline is susceptible to abuse, including by citizens who might see it as a way to undermine their personal, political, or business rivals. But a deeper set of concerns was raised by Hong Kong’s opposition politicians and local and international human rights activists. James To, a Democratic Party legislator, predicts that the hotline will be used to target people for their political views and warns that it will destroy public trust. Human Rights Watch drew a comparison to the type of “grassroots” surveillance rampant during China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, when friends, co-workers, neighbours, and even family members were encouraged to provide damaging information about each other.
Canada preparing for possible exodus . . .
The introduction of the National Security Law in June created a tense atmosphere in Hong Kong, as it is broadly defined and thus gives authorities wide latitude to crack down on opposition to the city’s pro-Beijing government. The hotline could exacerbate those tensions and accelerate the departure of the estimated 300,000 Canadian citizens who live there. Anticipating that possibility, Jeff Nankivell, Canada’s Consul General in Hong Kong, told the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China relations on Tuesday that Canada is developing an “exhaustive plan” to evacuate these citizens if necessary. However, he clarified that the Consulate is not in a position to assist non-citizens wishing to seek asylum in Canada.
- The Globe and Mail: Canada ready for large-scale evacuation of citizens in Hong Kong if needed
- The Guardian: Hong Kong informers’ hotline receives 2,500 tip-offs within hours
- South China Morning Post: Hong Kong police to launch national security hotline