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Hong Kong takes a symbolic stance against China's high-tech control



GONG KONG – There is no sign to mark it. But when travelers from Hong Kong move to Shenzhen in mainland China, they reach a digital switch-off point.

From Hong Kong, the Internet is open and unobstructed. With regard to China, filtering and censorship are blocking connections with foreign websites and posting on social networks. The walk is short but the virtual gap is huge.

This invisible but sharp technological wall looms as Hong Kong's protests break in the fourth month. The proximity of the semi-autonomous city to a society that is increasingly closed and controlled by technology informs protesters of concerns about Hong Kong's future. For many, one fear is that the city will fall into the shadowy world of surveillance, censorship, and digital control, which many first-hand experienced on regular trips to China.

Protests are a rare rebellion against Beijing's vision of technical support. authoritarianism. Not surprisingly, they come from the only big place in China that sits outside censorship and surveillance.

Insurgency symbols abound. Umbrellas, which became the emblem of protests in Hong Kong five years ago when used to deflect pepper spray, are now commonly deployed to protect against protests – and sometimes violence – from the digital eyes of cameras and smartphones. In late July, protesters painted the camera lens black in front of the Beijing office.

Since then, Hong Kong protesters have broken cameras into bits. In the subway, cameras are often covered by a transparent plastic wrap, and attempts to protect the equipment are now being hunted. In August, protesters removed a smart flashlight out of fear, and it was equipped with artificial intelligence software. (Most likely, it was not.) The moment showed how, at times, protests in Hong Kong do not respond to real situations, but to fears of what may come under Beijing's heightened control.

This week during a confrontation with protesters. police in some of the most intense clashes since the riots began in June, umbrellas were opened to block the appearance of police helicopters flying overhead. Some people have shown creativity by handing out reflective mylar to put on glasses to make them harder to shoot.

"Previously, Hong Kong did not use cameras to poll citizens. Destroying cameras and lanterns is a symbolic way of protesting," said Stephanie Cheung, a 20-year-old university student and protester, standing next to others as they knocked the lens off. dome camera at a subway stop last month. "We say we don't need this observation."

"Hong Kong, step by step, is on its way to China," she said.

The situation in Hong Kong shows how China's approach to technology has created new barriers for yoga

In constructing a widespread apparatus of censorship and surveillance, China has separated itself from broader global norms, and most people – including Hong Kong – still live in a world that is more technologically similar. US than China, where services such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are banned, and as much of the culture and entertainment takes place on smartphones, China faces the challenge of asking Hong Kong citizens to give up their primary digital about life.

The Chinese Cyberspace Office did not respond to a facsimile request for comment about the impact of censorship on the Internet. Hong Kong police did not respond to questions about their surveillance during the protests.

Beijing's approach sometimes encouraged fears. In recent months, playing with a jolt from the Chinese government, Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific has carefully scrutinized her staff's communications to make sure they are not taking part in the protests. Twitter and Facebook have taken off reporting that they said it was an information campaign from China on changing political thought in Hong Kong.

The debate over why, how and who watches over who has sometimes descended in favor of speaking out between police and protesters.

Hong Kong police arrested people on the basis of their digital communications and ripped phones from unauthorized targets to gain access to their electronics. Sites have also been set up to try to identify protesters based on their social media accounts. More recently, police have been demanding bus passengers to identify the protesters' escape.

Protesters called on police to release footage showing that they were allegedly abusive at Prince Edward Subway Station in Kowloon in August . A Hong Kong subway operator went back, noting that protesters destroyed cameras that could get footage. With the exception of a few screenshots, they did not post footage.

"Trust in institutions is what separates Hong Kong from China," said Lockman Cui, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "The rapid decline in trust in government and law enforcement, as well as growing fears and paranoia about government oversight are what make Hong Kong's society more and more like Chinese." anonymity in real life. Cops stopped wearing badges with names or numbers. Protesters covered their faces with masks. Both sides are making increasingly complex attempts to identify others on the Internet.

Everyone even has CCTV counteraction if often ineffective. Protesters shine laser pointers at police camera lenses to help hide. Police officers have uniform flashlights that can complicate the shooting of their images.

"Of course, we worry about cameras," said 21-year-old Tom Lau, a college student. "If we lose, the cameras capture what we did and they can count on time and settle the bill when they want."

"We have decades ahead of us," he said. "There will be a record. Even if we don't want to work in government, what if big companies don't hire us?"


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