A doxxing website targeting thousands of journalists and pro-democracy activists remains online almost two years after HKFP alerted the authorities to its existence with media enquires, and over 18 months since Hong Kong enacted an anti-doxxing law.

Since 2019, the “HK Leaks” website has openly maintained an online database of personal data belonging to over 2,000 Hong Kong democrats, activists and journalists.

The HK Leaks website.
The HK Leaks website.

ID card numbers, headshots, home addresses and phone numbers are often included. Historically, the site has been hosted on Russian servers and promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

When asked in early August 2021 if any action would be take against the domain, or whether the site violated existing laws, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data refused to comment on individual cases. 

On Thursday, it gave the same response and refused to say when an investigation may have begun.

“The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has been enforcing the law in a fair and just manner in accordance with its powers under the amended Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, regardless of the background and occupation of the affected individuals,” the Office claimed.

PCPD Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data. File photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

“The website referred to in your enquiry has existed under different domain names. After actions taken by the PCPD, a number of websites having the same name as the website in question have already ceased operation,” the spokesperson added, despite the current domain name being active for at least two years.

The police also told HKFP it would not comment on individual cases and acts “on the basis of actual circumstances and according to the law.”

“Police remind the public that the cyber world of the Internet is not a virtual space beyond the law. Under the laws of Hong Kong, most of the ordinances stipulated in the real world may also apply for the cyber world.  Anyone who commits an unlawful act, whether in the real world or the cyber world, is liable to criminal prosecution,” it said, adding that it liaises with the Privacy Commissioner on doxxing cases.

It is unclear if any investigation is underway.

Anti-doxxing law

Under the anti-doxxing law, enacted in September 2021, offenders face up to five years behind bars and fines of up to HK$1 million. Under the new rules, the privacy commissioner may also initiate prosecution in doxxing cases and demand a “rectification” of content by serving a notice to online platform service providers.

Doxxing typing computer keyboard
Photo: Rachel Johnson, via Flickr.

Ho Muk-wah, 27, was the first person to be convicted under the law in October 2022 after doxxing a former lover, landing him eight months behind bars. Another woman received a suspended sentence this March for doxxing an alleged scammer, and a hospitality student was handed a 21-day suspended jail term in April for doxxing a police officer.

Several websites appear to have been blocked by telecom providers in Hong Kong following the enactment of the Beijing-imposed security law, including those of pro-democracy advocacy group Hong Kong Watch, Taiwan’s Transitional Justice Commission and HK Charter 2021, as well as anti-government website HKChronicles.

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