Nov. 6 (UPI) — The Hong Kong Police Force launched a hotline on Thursday for residents to inform on those they believe have broken a controversial national security law implemented in the summer.
The police force announced the launch of the hotline in a press release on Thursday, saying it was done “with a view to facilitating members of the public to provide or report national security-related information.”
“This hotline is solely for receiving national security-related intelligence, such as information, photos, audio or video clips,” the statement read. “The hotline will not give any replies or be answered.”
The hotline is available through WeChat, text messaging and email, it said, adding that all data collected will be handled in accordance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and police will not collect any personal data and will not provide any information to a third party.
In July, after Hong Kong was besieged with nearly a year of pro-democracy protests, Beijing implemented a draconian national security law that outlawed acts of secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign actors to undermine the national security of China in the former British colony.
The law was met with widespread international condemnation and calls from democratic countries and rights groups for it to be repealed. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described it as the “death knell” for the autonomy Hong Kong was promised by China when it returned to Beijing rule from Britain in 1997.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, defended the law saying it would protect the region’s autonomy and would only target “an extremely small minority of criminals.”
Residents waving pro-democracy flags and pro-democracy politicians have since been arrested under the new law.
Lam Cheuk-ting, a lawmaker with the Democratic Party, told RTHK’s Hong Kong Today that the hotline will have a “chilling effect” on Hong Kong as it encourages residents to accuse one another.
“The Hong Kong people will think twice when they speak to each other in relation to any political topics, they will doubt whether their political stance will be reported,” he said.
Amid reports last week that police were considering to launch the hotline, Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy protester, said via Twitter that the tipline will be a threat to everyone, whether they are Hong Kong residents or foreign nationals.
“No matter where you [are], your private conversations, business chats, social media posts or school lectures can be reported via this new hotline,” he said. “By putting ‘eyes and ears everywhere,’ the hotline can also be used for business retaliation, by encouraging citizens snitching on each other & cooking up charges against business competitors, just like what happened during China’s Cultural Revolution.”