Hong Kong: Human rights concerns remain after anniversary of menacing SIM card registration program

A year on from the introduction of legislation on the SIM Card Registration Programme (SCRP), human rights concerns still remain imminent. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns this legislation as it makes it difficult for journalists to protect their sources.

Man checks his phone on the streets of Hong Kong. Credit: Anthony Wallace / AFP

Hong Kong’s legislation on SIM card registration was originally announced on June 1 2020, and enacted on September 1 2020. It requires people to provide their names, identity document numbers, copy of identity documents and date of birth. The programme gives licensees 120 days to have the registration system ready and gives 360 days to SIM card users to register their existing cards.

The program also allows police to force licensees to provide registration records if they get a warrant, unless in “certain urgent or emergency situations.” There are growing concerns surrounding the vague nature of this exception. The government has failed to address these concerns of excessive discretion being afforded to law enforcement authorities.

The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said the legislation was introduced as an attempt to prevent crime. Under-Secretary for Security, Sonny Au, claims it is a preventative program that targets online shopping scams, the impersonation of government officials, human trafficking and home-made bomb attacks.

Amnesty International Hong Kong (AIHK) urged the government to review this legislation as it claims that the SCRP “posts consideration risks to the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and anonymity overall”. The AIHK also argues that the program is inconsistent with the principles of legality in the United Nations Human Rights Report.

The Hong Kong Free Press said, “Almost 60 per cent of Hong Kong people fear police will get new powers to acquire personal data from telecommunications companies.”

The IFJ said: “The ambiguity of the SIM Card Registration Programme poses a great threat to the rights of journalists in the region. The IFJ urges the government to withdraw this legislation immediately in order to ensure freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram