(12th November, Hong Kong) The High Court in Hong Kong issued an interim injunction on October 31st, prohibiting anyone from unlawfully and willfully posting and reposting “any material or information that promotes, encourages or incites the use or threat of violence” online, including on LIHKG and Telegram. In a bid to fight against the government’s move to introduce Internet shutdown and a dangerous precedent to censor online speech, the Internet Society of Hong Kong filed a civil action in court yesterday (11th November) to challenge the injunction, hoping the court would rule the injunction unconstitutional and block the possibility of any attempts to censor and block the Internet in the future.
The IT organisation also initiated an online crowdfunding campaign (bit.ly/jrcensorship) with a target of HKD3 million for the litigation cost. The organisation called on the people in Hong Kong to rise in support the campaign and the legal action to defend an open and free Internet, and also free speech.
Chairman of Internet Society Hong Kong Mr Ben Cheng expressed concerns that the injunction affects not only LIHKG and Telegram but also other online platforms. He believed the provisions in the injunction are overbroad and unclear, serving as another ‘catch-all’ law. There are worries that Internet Service Providers and the administration of online forums will face liability for the content of the posts and speech on their platforms. “The injunction is paving way for the government to implement Internet shutdown. We can foresee with this first move, the government can issue more draconian laws to curb online speech next and that must be stopped,” Cheng said.
IT legislator Charles Mok supported the organisation to challenge the injunction in court and initiate a crowdfunding campaign. Mok believed that existing laws have already covered offence of inciting violence online, the injunction only seeks to spread white terror and force the public to engage in self-censorship. He remarked that “the injunction is a dangerous first step, we must fight against introducing Internet censorship of online speech that is similar to the Great Firewall of China”.
Assistant Professor of CUHK’s School of Journalism and Communication Dr Lokman Tsui also concerned that the injunction is overbroad and netizens might face legal consequences simply by giving ‘likes’ or republishing content online. He criticised the injunction will create “massive chilling effect”, impacting free speech online. Tsui previously researched on the freedom of expression in Asia cities, it was found that Hong Kong has the highest support from the people for freedom of expression. His research work also revealed that Hong Kong people have least support for censorship of political speech.