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US decision a 'blow' to HK's status as telecom hub, says legislator

The US government decision to exclude Hong Kong from a trans-Pacific cable was "severe blow" to the city as a telecom hub, a key industry figure said Thursday.

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday it had approved an application from Google to operate the 13,000km Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) cable between Taiwan and the US West Coast.

But Google did not seek permission for the final leg between Hong Kong and Taiwan, even though it is ready for service.

The DOJ said "a direct connection between the US and Hong Kong would pose an unacceptable risk" to national security and law enforcement interests.

Charles Mok, the IT industry representative in the Hong Kong Legislative Council, said the decision was "not a surprise."

It had been public knowledge for at least six months that the FCC held such views about Hong Kong and was delaying approval of the cable.

More than a month ago, Facebook and Google had amended their applications, excluding Hong Kong and terminating the cable in Taiwan, Mok pointed out.

"It is a severe blow to Hong Kong's status as a hub for telecommunications and underseas cable in the region," he said.

"The obvious reasons – behind what the US claims to be concerns over their national interest – must be the widely perceived deterioration of Hong Kong's One Country Two Systems, rule of law, freedom of information and the media, and the increasing interference from China."

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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