The Hong Kong Police Force launched a national security department tip-off line on Thursday.

The hotline was rolled out “with a view to facilitating members of the public to provide or report national security related information,” according to the police website.

Photo: GovHK.

Platforms include only WeChat, SMS and email, though the force said no-one would reply to messages and those using the line will remain anonymous. Data will be protected under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and not shared with third parties, the force added.

The hotline was promoted on police social media platforms, as the public were urged to share “information, photographs, audio or video.”

Joshua Wong. File Photo: inmediahk.net via CC2.0.

When reports emerged of the new hotline last month, activist Joshua Wong said it could be misused and would encourage citizens to “snitch” on each other: “As the law covers foreign nationals, overseas behaviours & speeches, the new hotline will be a threat to foreign investors & expats. No matter where… your private conversations, business chats, social media posts or school lectures can be reported via this new hotline,” he tweeted, comparing it to China’s cultural revolution.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.