Charles Mok: Well myself, I start­ed out in the Internet world prob­a­bly when I was a stu­dent. You know, fresh­man year we got to use the Internet. When I got into college—that was almost thirty-five years ago. But after­wards, lat­er on in Hong Kong, I start­ed one of the ear­ly Internet ser­vice providers back in the mid to late 1990s. And then work­ing with oth­er peo­ple, we basi­cal­ly brought the com­mer­cial Internet to Hong Kong from the days of nar­row­band con­nec­tiv­i­ty, modems, dialup, to broadband. 

And now my role mov­ing beyond from more of a com­mer­cial Internet ser­vice provider back­ground or role, I’m now in the leg­is­la­ture. So I can say that I work for the gov­ern­ment, because in the leg­is­la­ture we only get paid by the gov­ern­ment to be against the gov­ern­ment. So my role as a leg­is­la­tor these days I think is to help enhance the aware­ness about the var­i­ous issues, and maybe tack­le some of the mis­un­der­stand­ing about Internet and tech­nol­o­gy and IT in gen­er­al from the com­mu­ni­ty. You know, we are faced with all these ques­tions and prob­lems about the Internet. People talk­ing about cyber­bul­ly­ing, peo­ple talk­ing about ter­ror­ism, or all these frauds on the Internet. And peo­ple talk­ing about all these wor­ries about secu­ri­ty and pri­va­cy on the one hand, and on the oth­er hand we’re talk­ing about open data and shar­ing, you know. Where do we get the bal­ance? How do we get more peo­ple to real­ly under­stand the social as well as to some extent also the tech­nol­o­gy behind it So that they can make the right deci­sion for them­selves or for their chil­dren, or even for young peo­ple to under­stand where the Internet is going to—which direc­tion it’s going to, and to decide for them­selves where they can take their own inno­va­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty to be a part of the future of the Internet and this whole tech­nol­o­gy evolution.

So I think on a grander scale I would hope that I would be able to enhance the sort of com­mu­ni­ty under­stand­ing and actu­al­ly also advise or push the gov­ern­ment in cer­tain direc­tions to make sure that you know in terms of reg­u­la­tions and laws and so on, they would be hope­ful­ly doing the right thing. And not set­ting up a laws that would be counter to the devel­op­ment of this tech­nol­o­gy and how peo­ple use it and first and fore­most prob­a­bly also how to pro­tect the free­dom of expres­sion on the Internet.

Intertitle: Describe the cur­rent state of the Internet both glob­al­ly and in Hong Kong.

Mok: Well I think the state of the Internet today gen­er­al­ly is that it’s used by more and more peo­ple and dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple. The aver­age peo­ple some­times, some­how prob­a­bly not the kind of peo­ple that the Internet was orig­i­nal­ly designed for. A lot of the com­mon users, young people—even old­er peo­ple these days. But par­tic­u­lar­ly in Hong Kong I think— Okay, back to what I was say­ing before. I think that there are pros and cons in that. Obviously the more com­mon peo­ple and [indis­tinct] peo­ple with a less­er tech­nol­o­gy back­ground and so on, they might be using the Internet in such a way that the Internet was­n’t orig­i­nal­ly designed for. And there comes most of the prob­lems that peo­ple per­ceive the Internet has these days in terms of secu­ri­ty, pri­va­cy, or frauds and all kinds of problems. 

But in par­tic­u­lar I think where we are in Hong Kong today, I think the biggest con­cern on the mind of a lot of the Internet users is how do we pre­serve a free and open Internet in Hong Kong, par­tic­u­lar­ly because we’re in a very pre­car­i­ous and inter­est­ing sit­u­a­tion of one coun­try, two sys­tems with­in the People’s Republic of China, and we are prob­a­bly the only place, or one of the two only places in the whole of the People’s Republic of China with a free and open Internet. Ourselves and maybe to an extent also the Macau Special Administrative Region. 

Now, we under­stand and know that is a very important—the most impor­tant part of the suc­cess of the Internet and how we use it for busi­ness and life and so on. But obvi­ous­ly China itself has this Great Firewall that is also very sophis­ti­cat­ed and get­ting more and more sophis­ti­cat­ed every day. So how do we bal­ance and how do we make sure that that kind of reg­u­la­tion is not going to hap­pen in Hong Kong? I think that is in the back of the mind of many of the users here, that they know that they have to make sure that they main­tain the free and open Internet that we have here. 

Intertitle: What action should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

Mok: I think aware­ness is most impor­tant. People should be aware that you know, there might be dif­fer­ent ways that either the gov­ern­men­tal or oth­er peo­ple or oth­er author­i­ties or oth­er even busi­ness inter­ests may come out and have cer­tain pro­pos­als or actions that might influ­ence or impact their right to use the Internet, users’ rights. Things such as you know, in the name of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty, in the name of secu­ri­ty and pri­va­cy, and so on. 

And of course you know, tech­nol­o­gy and the Internet is impact­ing lots of the tra­di­tion­al ways of think­ing and the ways of oper­a­tions, ways that things are being done. And every day, in any parts of the world, even in the Western world, this is hap­pen­ing. So we need to make sure that users are also still going to be aware of these issues and not just go about and sim­ply wor­ry­ing Okay, I get my broad­band, I get my wire­less access. Is fast enough or if it’s cheap enough?” You know, those con­sumer issues aside, how do we make sure that users under­stand that poli­cies that may have to do with intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty to begin with, or issues or laws that have to do with cer­tain rights to use the Internet may have an impact on their free­dom of expres­sion or even free­dom of access in the future.