Anonymous website ramps up doxxing of Hong Kong activists

It publishes personal details of individuals it says have broken new national security law

Pro-democracy activist Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a "cockroach" since her personal phone number was posted online.
Pro-democracy activist Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a "cockroach" since her personal phone number was posted online. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Since her personal phone number was posted online, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a "cockroach".

She is not alone.

A sophisticated and shady website called HK Leaks has ramped up its "doxxing" - where people's personal details are published online - of Hong Kong political activists, targeting those it says have broken a sweeping new national security law.

Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent doxxing site targeting democracy activists since it first emerged last year.

The website continues to operate despite requests last year from Hong Kong's Privacy Commissioner to remove all personal profiles, and it has been referred to the Hong Kong police for investigation. To date, however, no one has been charged over the doxxing campaign.

Home addresses, social media profiles and telephone numbers feature alongside descriptions of individuals' alleged "crimes".

The website published information on at least 14 people it claims broke the security law - a charge which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison - within weeks of the legislation being imposed by Beijing on the city, an Agence France-Presse investigation found.

"When it first happened, I was very stressed," said Ms Ng, who chairs the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

"I received some phone calls and messages from 'blue ribbon' people on Facebook," she said, referring to government supporters who adopted the colour because it is associated with the police.

"Every now and then, I receive a mass of WhatsApp messages, thousands of stickers. They call us cockroaches," she added.

"They know they will make people very scared. But I'm not afraid, because this is my freedom and I will defend my freedom."

TARGETED

When it first happened, I was very stressed. I received some phone calls and messages from 'blue ribbon' people on Facebook.

HONG KONG PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST CAROL NG, referring to government supporters who adopted the colour because it is associated with the police.

HK Leaks has so far posted the personal details of more than 2,000 people it deems guilty of various "misdeeds" - a tenfold increase in a year.

Registered on a Russian server, it is specifically designed to evade prosecution, experts say.

It uses so-called bulletproof anonymous hosting and regularly shifts domains. Online traffic has increased to about 230,000 annual unique page views, according to SiteWorthTraffic.

The site claims more than 2,000 police and pro-China individuals have been doxxed by activists.

Prominent pro-democracy leaders Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, co-founders of the disbanded Demosisto party, are on the site under a subsection named "Hong Kong independence rioter", while media mogul Jimmy Lai is also listed.

Also among the 14 alleged national security law offenders to have been doxxed are well-known activists Tony Chung, Nathan Law and Ray Wong.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2020, with the headline 'Anonymous website ramps up doxxing of Hong Kong activists'. Print Edition | Subscribe