A former Hong Kong telecoms worker was jailed Tuesday for publishing personal details of police officers and their families during the huge pro-democracy protests last year, the first such conviction linked to political unrest.

Chan King-hei, 33,  was sentenced to two years in jail after being convicted last month of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing personal data stored on computers at his former employer, Hong Kong Telecom.

computer keyboard

Publishing personal details online — known as doxxing — became a common tactic used by both sides of Hong Kong’s political divide during last year’s protests.

Police became a key target for protesters as clashes raged — especially after officers stopped wearing identification badges — while government loyalists have also doxxed Beijing’s critics.

During their investigation police discovered personal information, including ID card and telephone numbers as well as residential addresses of officers and their families on Chan’s mobile phone.

They also found he had downloaded files from his company’s computers. 

Some of the personal details were then shared on a Telegram channel dedicated to exposing the personal details of police officers and pro-government figures, the court said.

Hong Kong was convulsed by seven straight months of protests last year calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Backed by Beijing, authorities refused concessions and more than 10,000 people were arrested. 

high court
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The courts are now filled with prosecutions and Beijing imposed a sweeping new security law on the restless city in June.

The measures have snuffed out mass expressions of dissent but the underlying causes of the unrest remain unaddressed.

A 25-year old immigration official is currently being prosecuted for allegedly using government computers to access the personal information of over 220 individuals, including police officers, senior officials, judges and their family members.

A sophisticated and shady website called HK Leaks has also ramped up its doxxing of government critics, especially since the new national security law came in. 

HK Leaks has so far posted the personal details of more than 2,000 people it deems guilty of various “misdeeds” against China. Registered on a Russian server, it is specifically designed to evade prosecution, experts say.

“It is saddening that doxxing acts often lead to cyberbullying or even criminal intimidation of the victims and their family members,” Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Ada Chung said following Tuesday’s sentencing.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Success! You're on the list.

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.