Hong Kong is a popular location for VPN companies to base themselves or to locate their servers, despite the fact it is owned by China, who is infamously restrictive in its internet censorship.
This is because when Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, it was designated a Special Administrative Region (SAR), which effectively granted the region autonomy in most internal matters (but not external ones such as defense and foreign affairs).
Before handing over power, the British appointed Hong Kong government developed a Hong Kong Bill of Rights, which protects its citizen’s freedom of speech and which China, unwilling to antagonize the international community, has by-and-large respected. There are therefore no websites which are blocked in Hong Kong (even those with political views antagonistic to the Chinese government).
However, the Chinese government does perform some monitoring of the internet, and there are reports of ‘politically sensitive’ posts being removed from online forums.
Data retention and logging
Simply put, there are no mandatory data retention laws in Hong Kong. Most Hong Kong based providers offer a ‘no logs’ service, and international companies are not required to keep logs relating to their Hong Kong servers (although some companies, notably US based ones, choose to do so).
Copyright and DMCA Takedown Notices
Part of China, Hong Kong has traditionally cared little about international intellectual property rights laws or copyright enforcement. However, in 2011 the government introduced the Copyright (Amendment) Bill which is intended, if passed into law, to beef up the legal framework for copyright protection in Hong Kong. Human rights activists have campaigned against the proposed legislation, claiming it threatens free speech by not have a ‘fair-use exception, which would damage the ability to post material involving satire and parody onto the internet.
At present however, there is little to compel VPN providers (or ISPs) to do anything other than ignore DMCA (and similar) takedown requests originating outside Hong Kong. They are of course subject to court orders issued by Hong Kong courts, but if they keep no logs (as they are not required to), then they will have no information to hand over. Individual VPN providers have differing policies however, so it is always best to check their Terms and Conditions.
With no mandatory data retention policy, and little interest (so far) in preventing copyright infringement, Hong Kong is a great base for VPN companies (and VPN servers), allowing them to guarantee their user’s privacy with little to no hindrance from legal restrictions or government intervention. The even better news is that unlike many other places, there is no serious threat to this freedom on the horizon.
With its proximity to mainland China, where the Great Firewall is in full effect, Hong Kong is a particularly well suited to those behind the Firewall who an anonymous VPN service to access the internet uncensored.