Is the internet censored in Hong Kong? With all the protests that have happened this past year in Hong Kong, the relationship between Hong Kong and China has been international news. Most people are aware that China heavily censors its internet, but what about Hong Kong? Do you need a VPN in Hong Kong?
Prior to 1997, the year that Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule, the small territory was ruled by the British for more than 150 years. Even today, Hong Kong has remnants of English culture and life.
But the democratic foundation that the U.K. laid in Hong Kong is slowly being eroded. Now that China has been handed the reigns to Hong Kong, many changes – often behind the scenes and away from public scrutity – have been taking place.
Short Answer: At the moment, Hong Kong’s internet isn’t heavily censored like it is in China; however, it is heavily monitored. If you’re a traveler or expat, this should be concerning. For this reason, I recommended that you consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN) such as ExpressVPN that not only encrypts your internet traffic but also protects you from any future censorship.
See below for a more detailed explanation, where we’re going to discuss how the internet works in Hong Kong and, more importantly, China’s relationship with Hong Kong. This starts with one key concept: “One Government, Two Systems”.
Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use the services listed. Rest assured, I write from experience and only recommend those products that I use personally.
Hong Kong | One Government, Two Systems
The foundation of Hong Kong’s handover from the U.K. to China was the promise China made to allow Hong Kong to continue as a semi-autonomous region. This was eventually dubbed “One government, two systems”.
Despite Hong Kong’s relatively small size in relationship to China, it still technically maintains this two-systems type of government.
Confidence in this system has eroded over the past few years, however. Many Hong Kong residents and international observers have watched carefully as China surprisingly allowed for democratic elections…and then only presented China-approved candidates.
Even when the new high-speed train connection between Hong Kong and China opened up, China asserted its dominance by setting up customs on the Hong Kong side, essentially claiming sovereignty over the train station itself.
The question remains, though: as Hong Kong’s freedom slowly erodes and China gradually asserts its control, how will this affect the internet?
Internet Censorship in Hong Kong
I find it fascinating when digital boundaries reflect physical borders. Here’s what I mean: the moment you cross the border from Hong Kong into China on a train and your phone changes cell towers…the famous Great Firewall of China kicks in.
Fortunately, at least for the time being, the internet isn’t heavily censored in Hong Kong. You can still access Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and all of the other websites that are completely inaccessible in China.
That being said, especially with all the protests that rocked the city starting in the summer of 2019, the idea of internet censorship has been floated by members of the Hong Kong Cabinet. The moment that happens, the free Hong Kong internet we know now will be gone.
But the truth is, it’s not just censorship that you need to worry about in Hong Kong.
It’s Not Just Censorship, It’s Big Brother
The lack of internet censorship in Hong Kong is deceiving. Make no mistake – China owns Hong Kong. They are doing everything in their power to retain control of the region while still saving face internationally.
The internet in Hong Kong might not be censored, but it is closely monitored.
As a traveler or an expat in Hong Kong, this means one thing. Whatever you do on the internet, do it with the knowledge that China is watching and recording it.
For some people, this is completely acceptable. For me, it’s not. It’s not that I have something to hide. Rather, I don’t want to give what I don’t have to.
For this reason, I use what is known as a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. By connecting to an ExpressVPN server outside of China and encrypting my connection for security, I can access my email, banking and even just Google without the fear that “Big Brother” China is watching over my shoulder.
There are a number of great VPNs for China that I’ve used, and pretty much any of them will do the job. In my experience, however, I’ve had the most reliable service from ExpressVPN.
Final Thoughts | Internet in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is changing rapidly. What was true yesterday might not be true tomorrow.
Currently, Hong Kong’s internet is open and free. However, there’s a good chance that China will step in and change things in the next year or two. Either way, you need to be aware that the moment you step into Hong Kong, you have given up your digital rights to privacy. Whatever you do is being monitored.
Your only options are to shrug your shoulders and say “whatever”…or you can try to encrypt your internet traffic with a VPN like ExpressVPN. It’s what big corporations use to protect trade secrets and thankfully it’s available to us as consumers as well.
Do you feel comfortable giving up your right to digital privacy as you travel abroad? Leave a comment below to let me know.