Calling upon Cellebrite to terminate phone-hacking cooperations with Hong Kong Police

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【Petition: Calling upon Cellebrite to terminate phone-hacking cooperations with Hong Kong Police】


Earlier this month, Beijing has unilaterally imposed a sweeping national security law upon Hong Kong, with ill-defined terms, more presence of Chinese agents in Hong Kong and high possibility of extradition to China’s secret courts and black jails. As the law has completely undermined the city’s rule of law and judicial independence, we start this petition to call upon Cellebrite and other digital forensic companies to terminate cooperations with China and Hong Kong’s police forces and security agents.

Israeli forensics company Cellebrite has a long history helping Hong Kong police forces to crack into activists’ mobile devices. Earlier this year, Joshua Wong’s iPhone was crashed by police forces with Cellebrite’s data-extraction technology, let alone nearly 4,000 devices of detainees police cracked into last year.

However, more than just activists, the new security law also covers ordinary citizens and foreigners. According to Article 43 of the law, police can search electronic devices without warrant and court scrutiny. The law also criminalizes sharing of information under the vague offences of "colluding with foreign forces" and "unlawfully provides State secrets or intelligence concerning national", according to Article 29. In the case of China where the security law has been put in place for years, journalists, lawyers, and financial institutions have long become the victims under the law, in particular, the loosely-defined offences like "leaking state secrets" and "inciting subversion". As earlier as in 2005, Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10-year prison for sharing a CCP’s Tiananmen memo abroad. Another veteran journalist Gao Yu was also thrown into prison for downloading widely circulated CCP’s documents from the Internet and sharing them online.

Cellebrite claims its technology is used to create a “safer world.” But once Beijing has imposed a loosely-defined law that covers foreigners inside or outside the city, digital intelligence cooperations with this authoritarian regime are de facto imperilling the personal safety of all western nationals. Especially under rising China’s wolf-warrior diplomacy in recent years, foreign nationals have been subject to mainland-style arbitrary detention and prosecution to serve Beijing’s political ends, from Reuters reporter Anthony Grey to Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. With a broader scope of threats than other western democracies, all cooperations with China and Hong Kong under the new law would be a direct assault on the safe world instead.

To safeguard personal safety and confidentiality of citizens, journalists and foreigners travelling, working and living in this city, we are now calling upon the world to join our petition and urging Cellebrite and other digital forensic companies to terminate all phone-hacking cooperations with Hong Kong police forces and related security agencies.