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Mark Zuckerberg Worried for Facebook in Hong Kong After China’s Security Move

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in Beijing
Mark Zuckerberg, via Facebook

China’s move to insert a national security law into Hong Kong may create problems for U.S. social-media giant Facebook, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

“We don’t offer our consumer services (in China). We’re just never able to come to agreement on what it would take to operate there. So I think we’re gonna have to watch the situation (in Hong Kong) closely,” Zuckerberg said in an interview that aired Thursday on Fox News Channel.

“Right now, people across Hong Kong really love our services,” Zuckerberg added. “They use WhatsApp, because it’s encrypted, and they know what’s going to be secure. So they can they know that they can… message each other safely, without being watched.”

China’s National People’s Congress on Thursday gave its approval to a draft security law that will apply in Hong Kong. This is the first time that the Communist Party-led mainland government has ever legislated directly for Hong Kong. The territory is supposed to have a “high degree of autonomy” for a period of 50 years running to 2047.

The draft law is intended to prevent any threat to Beijing’s authority in the city through secession, subversion, terrorism or foreign interference. It may allow mainland security forces to operate within Hong Kong, and is widely expected to curb personal liberty, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. China’s own media is one of the most controlled of any country in the world and its own social media services are heavily censored.

“China has just approached the internet very differently from the U.S. and even Europe… they have different values. And that’s led to an internet framework that just… prizes different things. And that’s been very difficult and it’s certainly one of the reasons why we’re not in China today. We don’t offer our consumer services there,” Zuckerberg explained.

For several years, Zuckerberg went to considerable personal effort to court Chinese authorities, learning Mandarin Chinese, and even addressing conferences in the language. However, after meeting with an immovable object, he has retreated to a far more critical position.

He used the Fox News interview to warn that the Chinese internet sovereignty model could soon be spread, not just to Hong Kong, but also chosen by other countries. China’s high degree of control over the internet may be antithetical to Western governments, but that control is seen by other regimes as desirable.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of these countries are figuring out what rules they want for the internet,” Zuckerberg said. “And a lot of them look at China and say, hey, it’s kind of nice that in China, the government gets so much control over what companies do… and can see everything that citizens are doing. Maybe we should adopt rules that are more like them…. I get very worried about that. I hope that 5-10 years from now, the rules of the internet are closer to what we have in the U.S. and Western democracies than what China is pitching.”