Hongkong.com Users to Protest Posting Ban

In response to a ban on politically sensitive postings at local portal Hongkong.com, a group of Hongkong.com users has issued a call over the Internet for a massive posting of messages on the site supporting freedom of speech.

The protest is planned for June 4, the politically sensitive anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in Beijing.

On a Web site run by the group, http://www.freehongkongcom.net, members say their aim is to preserve freedom of speech in Hong Kong. As one of Hong Kong's most popular sites, Hongkong.com should not sacrifice users' legal right to free speech in exchange for the approval of the Beijing government, according to the Web page.

Hongkong.com is operated by Hongkong.com Corp., a unit of Hong Kong-based China.com Corp.

The group's site urges visitors to voice their opinions on June 4 in Hongkong.com's discussion forums and chat rooms in support of the free speech campaign. The group's call for action was simultaneously posted in various discussion forums and message boards frequented by local Internet users.

The planned protest is a result of Hongkong.com officials censoring politically sensitive phrases in the site's chat rooms and forums. Postings that contained phrases such as "independence for Taiwan" and "free Tibet" have been censored by Hongkong.com on the grounds that these views are not welcomed by the company.

Among the dozens of posted replies to the calls to protest for freedom of speech on Hongkong.com, most appeared to express support for the group's plans.

Some went further, however, suggesting that hackers stage a denial-of-service attack against Hongkong.com on June 4.

Whatever does happen on June 4, Hongkong.com is prepared to handle any potential attack, said Jane Cheng, communications manager of Chinadotcom, the parent company of Hongkong.com.

"Our engineers, especially those on the night shift, have been warned to pay special attention to the traffic of the site. Those who are off duty will be on standby," Cheng said.

"Our systems will also be able to detect any anomalies in (the online activities of) our visitors. If we are attacked maliciously, we'll filter and cut off that traffic," Cheng said, adding that the company is confident that its operations will not be interrupted in case of such an attack.

Earlier this month, Hongkong.com posted on its site the portal's posting policy. The policy stated that the main purpose of the Hongkong.com portal is to provide news and information relating to finance, entertainment, lifestyle, sports and e-commerce. For the benefit of the majority of users, the site will not accept content that is considered provocative and divisive, the statement said.

According to Susan Chan, public relations director of China.com, the company censors comments posted on the site on a daily basis, at least.

"We're a commercial site, we don't want statements that are too over the top," said Cheng. "In order to maintain order on the site, the opinions expressed here need to be in compliance with our content policy."

Hongkong.com, in Hong Kong, can be reached at at http://www.hongkong.com.

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