STATEMENT CONCERNING POLICE ACTION ON INTERNET PROVIDERS
4 March 1995
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The Hong Kong Government has once again exposed itself and the territory's reputation to international ridicule with Friday's raids against and shut-down of seven Internet suppliers.
The raids not only severed links to the Internet and international E-mail for up to 10,000 companies and individuals without warning, but they also indicate a complete breakdown in communication between two government departments, the Police Commercial Crime Bureau (CCB) and the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA).
In this regard the following points must be raised and will be discussed at a press conference and open forum on Monday March 6. This event is planned to be held at the Foreign Correspondents Club at 3PM, however this venue has yet to be confirmed. Confirmation of venue and time can be obtained by calling (852) 2866-6018 on Monday morning.
- The raids were carried out by the computer crime division of the CCB accompanied by officials from OFTA for unlicensed provision of telecommunications services by the seven companies.
- OFTA, as the governing body in such cases, had been carrying out its own investigation into the same issues and had already entered into discussions with all the affected providers.
- OFTA has issued a statement saying that it had not initiated the raids and was only providing technical support. It also says the raids were a result of a police investigation into "commercial crimes involving computer hacking."
- No mention of computer hacking has ever been made by police either in their search warrants, charges or subsequent statements to the press.
- Eight people were arrested during the raids and detained for questioning on issues related to providing a telecommunications service without a license.
- Never was any supplier warned that they would be raided and charged with an offense.
- Despite working together it seems that OFTA and the police never actually talked about the two coinciding investigations. In any case OFTA has wrongly, and possibly purposely, led the providers into believing they were on firm ground, knowing full well that a raid was imminent.
- OFTA in a letter dated January 19 asked all providers for details of their services and equipment. The letter said that after the investigation was complete OFTA would advise the companies on licensing requirements and procedures.
- OFTA had verbally told some providers that their services were not in danger until the investigation was complete, although it would be advisable for them to apply for a Public Non-Exclusive Telecommunications Service (PNETS) license.
- OFTA has been quoted in the press as admitting to "grey areas" in the telecommunications ordinance, particularly in regards to PNETS.
- The raids stem from a complaint from "an international telecommunications supplier" according to a police source. This would therefore point to either Hong Kong Telecom or the only surviving Internet supplier, Supernet. The later of which has publicly stated that it would use OFTA to battle price cutting moves by its unlicensed competitors.
- Why was the CCB involved in a simple HK$700 licensing issue on the same level as illegal hawking? Who is really behind this operation?
- What does this signal for the future of freedom of information and freedom of speech in Hong Kong?
- What does this do to Hong Kong's International business reputation regarding competition and free trade?
- What effect will this have on the literally hundreds of local Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) who also provide various forms of telecommunication services? Such services include Email, which was specifically pointed out by C.L. Ng of OFTA as illegal without a license on Friday afternoon at the site of one of the affected providers. Why were these and many commercial firms operating similar services not raided?
Monday's event will be hosted by one of the affected providers, Asia On-Line Ltd. Guest representing a cross section of the public and private sector will be invited to take part as will individuals now facing criminal charges over this issue.
Name: YEUNG Po-kei, Percy
Territory: Tai Po, New Territories, HONG KONG
Voice Telephone: (852)2606-9325
Pager: (852)116-3388 A/C 6481
Bulletin Board: (852)2658-9716 - SuperBoard BBS III
InterNet EMail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Telex: 51666 KCRC HX
Apparently Hong Kong Law requires internet users to pay a standard price per hour to the telephone company (a state monopoly) over and above the normal cost of telephone service. Thus the persons charged in these cases were perhaps inviolation of this requirement.
Last updated 95/03/13