Hong Kong has spent more than HK$600 billion ($76.44 billion) on various pandemic relief programs over the past three years, forcing it to run rare budget deficits.
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Google and OpenAI, which entered into a partnership Microsoftrestricted access to its powerful AI chatbots in Hong Kong as concerns grew about how China’s influence would affect its ability to maintain an open internet, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
While the companies did not say why, the newspaper said observers believe the expansion in the city could expose the company to liability under China’s national security law, which criminalizes criticism of the government.
Recently also the Hong Kong Ministry of Justice tried to block the pro-democracy song “Glory to Hong Kong” was circulated online, citing 32 instances where it appeared on Googleown YouTube. Court hearings in the case are scheduled to continue next month, according to the newspaper.
Other companies have also taken steps to filter content that reaches Hong Kong. Disney has decided not to bring two episodes of “The Simpsons” that contain references to criticism of the Chinese government to its Hong Kong streaming service, the newspaper reported.
The incidents come amid rocky relations between the US and Chinese governments. Some American platforms, such as Facebook and Google, do not work in China due to restrictions on freedom of expression. While Hong Kong has long served as a center for international trade that has been able to allow for a freer flow of information, actions by the Chinese government in recent years have made its future more uncertain.
The newspaper pointed to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong survey from March, which found that 38% of respondents were either optimistic or very optimistic that Hong Kong could maintain free access to the world’s Internet over the next three years.
“We remain committed to making information available to users,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC. “While we’re still in the early stages of building Bard and expanding its language capabilities, we’ll be looking for ways to bring it to more places and people around the world.”
Representatives for Apple, Disney, Microsoft, OpenAI and Tencent did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.