VPN downloads in Hong Kong have surged following proposals for a new national security law.
China has announced plans to impose national security law on Hong Kong. According to the BBC, the law would prohibit “treason, secession, sedition and subversion”. Some are worried that the law could impact freedom of speech and could see an increase of online censorship and surveillance.
Tanya Chan, a legislative councilor representing Hong Kong Island, has also said that the law could restrict the actions of some activists and political groups in Hong Kong. Protests against the law have also been planned for later this week.
However, chief executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam has described the proposed law as a “responsible” move.
Unlike mainland China, internet access in Hong Kong is currently uncensored due to the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, with citizens permitted to use social media sites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. However, the new law threatens this and could see Hong Kong’s internet access more closely resemble China’s.
The law is due to be voted on by the National People’s Congress this week.
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VPN downloads rise in Hong Kong as security law looms
In response, VPN installations in Hong Kong have increased 150 times from 17 May 2020, to 24 May, according to AtlasVPN.
By using a VPN, users are able to get past some restrictions placed on their internet usage, hiding their location and allowing access to websites blocked in their region.
AtlasVPN found that on the day that news of the new security law spread, downloads surged by 520%, compared to the day before.
Google trends data for Hong Kong also showed that the search term “VPN” rose by 1,680% on May 21 compared with the day before.
AtlasVPN expects the increase in VPN downloads to continue if the law is passed..
“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 Rachel Welsh, COO of AtlasVPN.
“Many people in China are used to restricted internet access. However, that is not the case in Hong Kong.”