Hong Kong Protesters Combat the Surveillance State


A major priority of the protest movement that’s consumed Hong Kong for the past 3 and half months is awarding the surveillance apparatus that literally everywhere. Demonstrators have pulled down camera poles, spray painted lenses, used green lasers to destroy sensors, and shielded themselves with umbrellas while marching through the streets. There’s a growing concern about surveillance and it’s totally understandable, because there’s a total lack of trust in the government with this whole saga. Though Hong Kong is politically autonomous under the one country two systems model, local authorities have wired up the city enabling them to keep an eye on ever corner of public life here. And protestors suspect they may be sharing that information with the Chinese government, Hong Kong officials deny that camera’s on top of the city’s so-called smart lamp posts feed location or facial recognition data to Beijing. But that may be a lie. Activists with the political organization, Demosisto, analyze the internal components of one of these cameras and found an ethernet switch that could conceivably connect to the main land surveillance network. They also found components inside that were manufactured by a company that’s a known supplier of the Chinese government surveillance technology. People are becoming more and more suspicious about any kind of possible surveillance. Are you tracking my Bluetooth on my phone? Are you tracking my signals? Are you trying to get the
information about my whereabouts? How could I trust that you are not doing
that? That’s why we always say, okay, use VPN. Many times demonstrators use virtual private networks or VPNs to access the internet. And they communicate through telegram,
which fully encrypts their messages. Many of these groups in telegram are tens of thousands of people. And the more important thing is you can stay anonymous. Anonymity, particularly for this particular campaign, has become a big concern for many of these protesters. Without a safe communication, I don’t think this revolution can last for that long actually. The government can crackdown everybody, very very easily, if there’s no encryption in this revolution. Demonstrators are also refraining from using their credit cards and the digital payment system, Octopus, which is an option in Hong Kong’s public transit system and most stores. October card. Actually every single payment you make, it can be traced. Actually there are many, many cases that some protesters were proved that they have been to certain locations, and certain times, because they
have used those Octopus cards. To discuss strategy demonstrators use LIHKG, a social media site that allows anonymous posting and is known as the Reddit of Hong Kong. They’ve also created decentralized networks for sharing information through airdrop, a function on the iPhone that transfers data directly to another person via bluetooth, without a third party intermediary. This is a movement that is totally leaderless and decentralized, and the reason for that is the youngsters, first of all, they have kick-started the whole movement by using all these tools internet to really find a newer way to organize the sort of movement and to really sustain it in the longer term. The protest movements, unofficial motto is “be water.” A Bruce Lee phrase that’s meant to convey A Bruce Lee phrase that’s meant to convey that in a battle, the more fluid and malleable an adversary, the harder it is to stop. The absence of a central authority has left the protestors communication network particularly vulnerable to sabotage. Twitter recently removed what they said were approximately 200,000 Chinese state-linked accounts, spreading rumors of protest violence being orchestrated by foreign powers. Fake news is a big, big problem in Hong Kong. I’m working with some people in journalism, and academic areas to try to see that there are more locally based fact checking organizations that can be set up. And I think that would go a long way. A major factor motivating the protestors in their fight to maintain political autonomy from mainland China is the surveillance apparatus that the Beijing government imposes on its own citizens. Such as the social credit system in which individuals are rated for good behavior, and a bad score can impede their ability to travel, attend the best schools, or get hired for the best jobs. We worry so much about surveillance, facial recognition everywhere, social credit, the great firewall. To average people in Hong Kong, do you expect these things to be extended to Hong Kong in 10 years time? I think most people cannot answer that question with confidence to say that it will not. And that is the problem. The Hong Kong government has stopped answering the demands of the protestors. And the conflict grew more acrimonious on October 1st after a police officer shot in the chest and injured an 18 year old demonstrator who had attempted to hit him with a rod. Last week, the government announced a ban on wearing face masks in the street. It has escalated to a point where people are realizing what we need is a political reform in the whole Hong Kong legislative system. And also of course, that the communist
government is not backing down either. So we are preparing ourselves for an even longer fight.

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