Hong Kong protesters personal data leaked by Russian website

Amid continuing tensions between pro-democracy protesters and the government in Hong Kong, a website named "HK Leaks" has been collecting and leaking confidential personal information of pro-democracy protesters, activists, journalists and politicians in recent days.

The site designates profiles to one of the three main categories, and shows their headshots, date of birth, telephone numbers, social media accounts residential address and "nasty behaviors."

Read more: Hong Kong crisis — What you need to know

According to the site, refusing to pay MTR ticket fares, participating in protests and peaceful strikes, sharing information about the anti-extradition bill movement and even covering protests as a journalist are all considered nasty behaviors. The website calls on the public to share information about the people who are "messing up Hong Kong," as part of its tagline reads.

Over 100 profiles have featured on the site, including 19 staff members of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, whose owner Jimmy Lai is a prominent anti-Communist tycoon. The website calls these journalists "poisoned fruit journalists," and dedicates a whole category to display their personal information.

Watch video 03:02

Hong Kongers torn between family and freedom

Police behind the leak?

Since the suspicious website came to light, several Chinese state-run media outlets have promoted the published information through their accounts on Weibo, a popular microblogging platform in China.
They encourage Chinese netizens to share information about the site widely, and call on all internet users in China to help force people on the list to "take off their masks and reveal their identities." While it remains unclear who leaked this information to HK Leaks, Sunny Chiu, a district councilor from Hong Kong's Sha Tin district, wrote on his Facebook page that one of the victims told him that he believes his information was provided by the Chinese police.

Read more: West reluctant to criticize China over Hong Kong stance

According to Chiu, the victim was temporarily detained by Chinese police at customs when they found protest pictures on his phone several months ago. When the police asked the victim to write down his residential address, he intentionally provided the wrong information. When he saw the false address show up on HK Leaks, he realized the Chinese police may have provided his information to the website.
South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday that Hong Kong's Privacy Commissioner Stephen Wong said he had asked HK Leaks to remove and cease uploading all posts and referred the case to police in Hong Kong. But all posts remain on the website on Friday while new profiles continue to appear on the front page.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland

    Hong Kong protests rattle global firms

    Disneyland footfall drops

    The unrest in Hong Kong is prompting people to stay away from Walt Disney's Disneyland theme park in the city. The US company's chief executive, Bob Iger, told analysts that visits to the park were significantly suffering because of the protests. "We will feel it in the quarter that we’re currently in, and we’ll see how long the protests go on," he said on an earnings call.
  • People watch as a Cathay Pacific passenger plane prepares to land at Hong Kong's international airport

    Hong Kong protests rattle global firms

    Turbulence at Cathay Pacific

    Hong Kong's flagship carrier said ticket sales fell in July as fewer people travelled into the city. The protests are also hurting future bookings at the airline. Cathay Pacific found itself into further trouble after Beijing asked the airline to bar crew members who had taken part in the demonstrations from flying into mainland China.
  • Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong protests rattle global firms

    Hotel business hit

    Intercontinental Hotels, which owns Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn chains, said earlier this month the unrest in Hong Kong was hurting demand. Declining tourist and corporate arrivals are also putting a strain on the businesses of Marriot and Wynn hotels, who expect the protests to hit their second-half results.
  • A Cartier showroom in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong protests rattle global firms

    Luxury shoppers stay away

    The unrest has taken a toll on popular luxury brands such as Cartier and Prada, which have built a strong presence in the city to cater to the rising affluent consumers from mainland China. Cartier-owner Richemont said its sales were hit because of store closures and a fall in tourist arrivals, especially from China. Italian fashion brand Prada's business was also affected by the protests.
  • Riot police chase protesters through a shopping mall as they clash with protesters after taking part in a pro-democracy march on July 14, 2019 in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong protests rattle global firms

    Retail sales fall

    Retail sales, a key part of the city's economy, fell nearly 7% in June, hurt by the mass protests. Shopkeepers see a steeper fall in July and August. They say tourist arrivals halved last month.

  • Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan

    Hong Kong protests rattle global firms

    'Difficult economic environment'

    Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan warned on Sunday that the city was entering "a very difficult economic environment" amid weakening trade and slowing growth. He said the protests had hurt Hong Kong's reputation of being a safe city for tourists and businesses. The city's leader, Carrie Lam, has already warned of the economic fallout from the unrest.

READ ALSO:

Privacy Policy


Serious attack on free expression

While freedom of expression in Hong Kong has been seriously challenged over the last few years, experts view the emergence of HK Leaks as another serious blow to the city's dwindling civil liberties. Lokman Tsui, a journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told DW that the specific targeting of pro-democracy activists and journalists who have been critical of Beijing shows that the act of doxing is politically motivated. "Doxing can be done for several reasons, but in this case, it seems the goal is to harass and to encourage self-censorship," said Tsui. "It is also aimed at discouraging people from protesting or speaking the truth."
Tsui pointed out that this action has violated Hong Kong's Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. Additionally, a court in China ruled doxing as illegal in 2008, which means HK Leaks' actions may have also violated Chinese law.

Even though doxing may be illegal in nature, the fact that Chinese state media actively promoted the site is worrisome to Tsui.

Tsui said that Beijing's efforts may also reflect the Chinese authorities' fear toward the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. "[The fact] that Beijing is willing to stoop so low in its effort to cast journalists and protesters in a bad light, suggests how scared it is of the Hong Kong protests."

Watch video 02:48

Hong Kong uses colonial-era law to arrest protesters

Similar Articles:

How to Remove Your Personal Information From Mylife, Intelius, Spokeo, Radius, and BeenVerified

How to Remove Your Personal Information From Mylife, Intelius, Spokeo, Radius, and BeenVerified

How to remove yourself from the top people-search sites (2018 update)

How to remove yourself from the top people-search sites (2018 update)

New Protest Tactics in Hong Kong

New Protest Tactics in Hong Kong

Court Finds NYPD Can’t Use Sealed Arrest Information Without Obtaining Court Order

Court Finds NYPD Can’t Use Sealed Arrest Information Without Obtaining Court Order