Our User’s Guide is heading to Hong Kong. This is the other system that the Chinese government has let flourish on its southern coast. Hong Kong VPN users are amongst the most hungry for data in the world.
Hong Kong, the Fragrant Habour
Hong Kong is a tiny autonomous territory on the south coast of China. Around 7.2 million people live in 1,104 square kilometers making Hong Kong the 4th most densely populated country in the world. The place really is superlative; it’s one of the world’s major financial and shipping hubs. Income inequality is amongst the highest in advanced economies. Not unrelated to it having the most free market economy in the world- in second place is another Asian entrepôt, Singapore.
The Umbrella Revolution
Hong Kong is not a democracy. Enfranchisement has not spread throughout the layers of power. The Umbrella Movement began in 2014 after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress refused to back proper voting reform instead screening candidates for the right fit. We all know what “screening candidates” means.
The protestors themselves are highly educated, a survey from the occupied sites of 1562 people found over 75% were between 18 and 39, 26% were students, and 56% were educated to degree level or higher. They identified their motivations as “real universal suffrage” (87%). The movement has been noted for its politeness and commitment to non-violence.
Hong Kong’s Internet
Hong Kong enjoys an uncensored internet. Freedom of expression and the press is one of the major points of difference the territory has with China. No sites get blocked because of their content. Hong Kong is too (economically) liberal for that to work. Instead, it’s the old track and trace game. Political opponents are subject to surveillance the world over because they constitute a threat to national security.
Despite constitutional guarantees of privacy, there is increasing amounts of self-censorship as a result of monitoring, Panopticon 101 guys. This kind of surveilling activists and suppressing suffrage is precisely the sort of thing the press can’t or won’t report. So it is left to citizens and individuals to fill the gap.
As a result of the self-censorship, or discipline if you want Michel Foucault’s take on it, Freedom House gave Hong Kong a score of 33, meaning it is only “partly free.”
Hong Kong VPN/Internet Stats
- Hong Kong VPN usage is the 10th highest in the world.
- 80.5% of the population was online as of June 2014.
- That is up from 34.1% in 15 years, though. Fast.
- Not as fast as their Internet, though. An average speed of 16.8mb/s
Internet freedom is largely supplanting the declining free press, people are able to post online about what they want. Not what the news cycle dictates. Cyber-attacks have been used by government agencies to curtail the efforts of activists. A website hosting an unofficial referendum was forced offline by a DDoS attack. Nearly 800,000 people managed to vote in the unofficial plebiscite.
The pro-democracy publishing outfit Next Media had documents stolen relating to the owner’s political connection. Malware was also found to be circulating amongst protestors using FireChat– a messaging service that has a Bluetooth capability for when the network is mysteriously down…
The Fragrant Harbour is a pertinent example of what happens when you let the market take control. Rapid global urbanization means city planners and governments are looking for city models to emulate. Hong Kong has some great statistics, but the quality of life for those not earning millions is not what we should aim for. Hong Kong does have some of the fastest internet speeds in the world, though, so that’s a step in the right direction.