An industry group representing the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter has privately warned the Hong Kong government that planned data protection laws aimed at stopping doxing could see the tech giants quit the territory.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the industry group, the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition, sent a letter to the Hong Kong government outlining their concerns over plans to introduce anti-doxing legislation as it could make the companies and their employees liable for criminal prosecution. The letter added that tech companies could stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the law was brought in.

Doxing is publishing the information of private individuals without consent and usually for malicious purposes. The government alleges there were several instances of doxing during the 2019 pro-democracy protests that brought Hong Kong to a standstill. The WSJ reports that under the proposed new laws doxing can lead to fines of $128,800 (HK$1 million) and up to five years’ imprisonment.

The threat of a withdrawal from Hong Kong over proposed anti-doxing laws is the latest incident in a fraying relationship between the majority of American Big Tech companies and the local government.

As China exerts more control over Hong Kong, most starkly through the controversial National Security Law imposed last June, there have been increasing areas of conflict between the local government and the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter. In July 2020, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Zoom paused accepting requests for data from Hong Kong authorities and Chinese-owned TikTok decided to pull out of the territory altogether.

The latest standoff also comes on the heels of Hong Kong’s largest daily newspaper, Apple Daily, ceasing operations in June after the owner, several directors and members of the editorial staff were arrested over violations of the National Security Law.

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