SAN FRANCISCO • US Justice Department officials have recommended that a high-capacity undersea data cable system proposed by Google and Facebook bypass Hong Kong, citing potential national security concerns following China’s moves to exert greater control in the territory.
The Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) – pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – should connect the United States, Taiwan, and the Philippines as planned but not go through Hong Kong, a Justice Department committee recommended on Wednesday.
The high-capacity, low-latency fibre optic cable would “encourage” US communications crossing the Pacific Ocean to land in Hong Kong before continuing on to other parts of Asia, it reasoned. Its recommendation to the FCC contended that the cable network’s “proposed Hong Kong landing station would expose US communications traffic to collection” by Beijing.
The concerns have been heightened by Beijing’s “recent actions to remove Hong Kong’s autonomy and allow for the possibility that (China’s) intelligence and security services will operate openly in Hong Kong”, it said.
Google and Facebook four years ago announced plans to work with a China Soft Power subsidiary to connect Los Angeles and Hong Kong with a high-capacity Internet cable.
The PLCN was to stretch 12,800km under the Pacific Ocean in a first-of-its-kind direct link between the two locations. It will supposedly enable 80 million high-definition video conference calls simultaneously between Los Angeles and Hong Kong.