Hong Kongers searching for a virtual private network (VPN) upsurge more than six-fold last Thursday as Beijing plans to impose tough new security laws across Hong Kong, reflecting concerns over internet privacy and freedom of expression.
According to VPN provider Atlas VPN, a tool that helps its users bypass internet restrictions reported, the need for such tools has upsurged three-fold compared to the previous day.
Parallel to it, search interest in the term "VPN" grew by 1,680% on May 21 when compared to a day earlier.
On Friday, the number of people searching for a "VPN" hit an all-time high, citing data from Google trends.
"If Hong Kong falls under the same digital restrictions as Chinese citizend in the near future, then we can expect and even higher interest in VPN services," said Rachel Welsh, Chief Operating Officer of Atlas VPN.
Since 1997, Hong Kong has operated under a "one Country, two systems" rule which grants it autonomy like freedom of expression, unlike mainland China.
It also enjoys unrestricted internet, unilke its mainland, where the likes of Google and Facebook are restricted.
China's plan to impose national security legislation send chills through financial markets and drew swift disapproval from foregin governments, internation human rights and privacy focused groups.
Which lead to a backlash against Hong Kong and the Chinese government from the people of Hong Kong, who fear that the new legislation could lead to increased suveillance and censorship across the web and supppress freedom of speech in places like the mainland.
According to reports from Hong Kong police, more than 180 people were arrested on Sunday after authorities fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse anti-government protests over planned security legislation.
With this security legislationn, Beijing plans to tackle secession, subversion, and terrorist activities and as a result we could soon see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in Hong Kong, one of the world's leading financial hubs.
However, Hong Kong and chinese officials ensure investors that the law would not harm their interests and it only aims to target a minority of "troublemakers" who had posed "imminent danger" to China's national security.
But considering the recent actions China has been taking and also considering the dark past of the Chinese government which aims to have a total control over the web in their territory, it's hard to trust claims the officials are making.