Hong Kong Shuts Down Internet Providers

On Friday March 3, 1995, the offices of Asia On-Line were raided by officers of Hong Kong's Commercial Crime Bureau accompanied by officials of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority, or OFTA. Our equipment was seized and our on-line services were shut down. According to the police at the time of the raid, police statements since and the wording of the search warrant, the raid was for operating a telecommunications service without a licence.

This raid occurred while we were in active dialog with OFTA about obtaining proper licensing. I myself held a meeting with OFTA four days before the raid. I was told that the licensing issue was still under investigation and that our services were not in danger. However, to be on the safe side, we wrote a letter to OFTA and began the process of applying for a PNETS licence anyway. OFTA has also publicly stated that the telecommunications ordinance, which was written long before the Information Super Highway existed, has many grey areas that needed clearing up before the licensing issue could be resolved. In a letter of January 19, OFTA said that it would advise us on licensing requirements and procedures once their investigations were complete.

OFTA now claims that it did not initiate the raids and only took part as technical advisers. They further said in a statement that the raid was part of a CCB investigation into computer hacking. The police have never made any mention of computer hacking.

We believe miscommunication between these two organisations has resulted in a serious blunder which could affect Hong Kong's worldwide reputation for freedom of information and fair business practices. About 10,000 people have suddenly been cut off from their worldwide links through the Internet, some of whom rely on this for their livelihood. Potentially 40 million people on the Intemet have been cut off from Hong Kong. In short, Hong Kong has been isolated from the world's Information Super Highway.

Six other companies offering similar services were also raided and shut down on the same day.

Asia On-Line Limited, Suite 501, Gitic Centre, 28 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong. Tel: (852) 2866 6018, Fax: (852) 2520 5463, Modem: 2520 5784, 2520 5911, 2520 5828, Email: