A Hong Kong court on Friday issued a temporary injunction to block messages inciting violence on popular instant messaging applications like Telegram and online forum LIHKG, aimed at minimizing the risk of violent clashes which have increased over the past 21 weeks of anti-government protests in the city.
High Court Judge Russell Coleman granted the injunction applied for by the city’s justice department to prevent citizens from “wilfully disseminating, circulating, publishing or republishing” any material that “promotes, encourages or incites the use or threat of violence”, reports Efe news.
Local media reports have said that messages inciting violence against the police were circulated on these popular apps but do not specify whether violent demonstrators or infiltrators among them have been behind them.
The injunction will be in effect until November 15, when a formal hearing for the application could lead to an extension.
“The temporary injunction sets an extremely dangerous precedent for introducing internet censorship of online speech similar to the Great Firewall of China” and “is a serious breach of citizens’ freedom of expression and Hong Kong’s supposed free flow of information”, Hong Kong lawmaker Charles Mok said.
Mok told Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK that this selective ban “would put Hong Kong’s economy and in particular its innovation and technology industries in a precarious position”.
The legislator also expressed concern about the use of such regulations that bypass the local parliament instead of opting for the standard legal procedures.
The Hong Kong protests, which have been drawing massive crowds since June following a contentious proposed extradition law, have mutated into a movement that seeks to improve the democratic mechanisms that govern Hong Kong and safeguard – or expand – the region’s partial autonomy from Beijing.
However, some demonstrators have opted for more radical tactics than peaceful civil disobedience and violent clashes with the police have been frequent.