Why Hong Kong residents and visitors now need to use a VPN

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Following a turbulent year filled with protests, China has passed a new national security law which will give it greater power over Hong Kong and its citizens.

The controversial law will criminalize secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces but it will also limit freedom of speech in Hong Kong and make it so residents are no longer able to protest. Full details of the new law were only revealed after it came into effect on Tuesday and it will apply to both permanent and non-permanent residents of Hong Kong. 

Under the law, Beijing will set up a new security office in Hong Kong to deal with national security cases. The city will also have to establish its own national security commission to enforce the law alongside an adviser appointed by Beijing.

The Chinese government will have full power over how the law should be interpreted. This means that if the law conflicts with any existing laws in Hong Kong, the new national security law will take priority.

National security law ramifications

When the law was first proposed, VPN downloads soared in Hong Kong as residents worried that they would soon face the same internet restrictions that people living in China do. 

Unlike in China where residents rely on VPN services to get around the country's Great Firewall, Hong Kong currently maintains an open internet with few restrictions on free speech online. Many foreign social networks and services including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more that are blocked in China are legal in Hong Kong, though residents fear they may not be for long.

Now that the law has passed, both Hong Kong residents and even visitors will need to use a VPN to get around any online restrictions that Beijing may put in place. If popular Western sites and social media networks are blocked in China, there is a good chance that they will also soon be blocked in Hong Kong.

VPNs are set to become a valuable tool for the people of Hong Kong to protect their anonymity and privacy during China's crackdown on the city.

  • Also check out our complete list of the best VPN services


Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.