US bill allocates $ 30 million to help Hong Kong bypass internet restrictions on China’s Great Firewall
In a law currently under consideration by the US Senate, the US government will allocate $ 30 million to allow Hong Kong residents to bypass China’s Great Firewall. While residents of one of the world’s most densely populated and developed cities are not directly monitored by the firewall, a controversial national security law that was enforced last year has raised concerns that the region’s Internet regulatory policies do not mirror those of mainland China, where the Great Firewall restricts access to Internet platforms such as Google and Facebook.
U.S. Innovation and Competition Act Cites Hong Kong Internet Suppression as Funding Reason to Bypass China’s Great Firewall
While the new laws took effect last year, tensions escalated in Hong Kong earlier this year when internet service providers blocked access to two websites. It came after US companies operating in the city stopped reviewing user requests from city officials.
The bill, officially dubbed the United States Innovation and Competition Act 2021 (USICA), allocates $ 30 million in funds starting next fiscal year. Its article 3309 aims to help develop technologies and programs for a “Open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet ” for residents of Hong Kong.
It then lists the objectives that this funding will have to achieve. These goals include diversifying the portfolio of technologies available to the US government to combat Internet censorship.
A complete list of these goals, by law, is:
(i) make the Internet available in Hong Kong;
(ii) increase the number of tools in the technological portfolio;
(iii) promote the availability of these technologies and tools in Hong Kong;
(iv) encourage the adoption of these technologies and tools by the people of Hong Kong;
(v) intensify the distribution of these technologies and tools throughout Hong Kong;
(vi) prioritize the development of fully open source tools, components, code and technologies, where possible;
(vii) conduct research on repressive tactics that undermine internet freedom in Hong Kong;
(viii) ensure that digital security advice and support is available to repressed citizens, human rights defenders, independent journalists, civil society organizations and marginalized populations in Hong Kong ; and
(ix) engage US private industry, including e-commerce companies and social networking companies, on the importance of preserving Internet access in Hong Kong.
These funds will be allocated to the Secretary of State and the Open Technology Fund (OTF), a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing internet censorship around the world. As part of USICA, the secretary will establish an Internet Freedom Program in Hong Kong under the auspices of the Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the State Department of the United States. United. At the same time, the OTF President will also establish a program with the same name, and the two will operate independently of each other.
For its efforts to meet USICA’s goals, OTF will receive $ 5 million in each of fiscal years 2022 and 2023. However, the Department of State’s program will be better funded, as it is expected to receive $ 10 million. dollars each in the same fiscal years. .
In addition, the technologies that both programs develop will be audited to ensure that they do not end up compromising the national security interests of the United States.
The US government’s efforts to counter Internet suppression in Hong Kong are also seen as preventative measures to act before any potential crime in Hong Kong. City officials cited the new national security laws as giving them an ambition to restrict citizens’ access to certain websites, arguing that access can harm the region’s national security.