Hong Kong beverage company Vitasoy is requiring employees to sign a personal data-processing consent form agreeing to share personal information about them and their family members, according to a media reports.
Some netizens in Hong Kong have expressed concern over the company's new ruling, with one user saying "They are just making soya milk and earning a living. Why the intrusion all of a sudden?" Another user said: "I am happy that I stopped buying their products".
A Hong Kong-based brand strategist said on LinkedIn that she was asked for similiar information when applying for a job at Nielsen Hong Kong, and refused to comply. "This incident is so problematic. The family members should have a right to say no to Vitasoy," she said in her post.
In Vitasoy's case, information that will reportedly be collected includes work history and affiliations with associations and other groups. If required by law enforcement agencies in the future, the company will disclose this information to them.
In the case that employees fail to provide the consent form, the company said that it may not be able to perform duties outlined in employee contracts such as the payment of salaries. Stand News reported that some employees who have worked at the company for over a decade said the new requirement has made them panic.
Vitasoy told Hong Kong Free Press that the request was made because of a computer system upgrade, and they “approached staff members seeking their authorisation of migrating general personal information to the new system". It added that it had always dealt with personal information on staff “in a strict and careful manner,” and all documents were “reviewed and revised by the external legal counsel to ensure compliance.”
Vitasoy has reportedly ask employees to provide personal info of not just themselves but also their family members, believed to be related to July 1 police stabbing attack (see attached tweet). Here’s Hong Kong artist Luke Ching Chin Wai’s response. https://t.co/QedhvCTWrW pic.twitter.com/OKrMCD32Ad— Vivienne Chow (@VivienneChow) August 29, 2021
Meng Zhaoda, director-general of the United Labour Union, expressed concern over the new ruling, saying that the company may be breaching privacy regulations. He added that if employees are required to provide association membership information, this means that union members will have to disclose their participation. This could be in violation of the Employment Ordinance, which prevents discrimination against trade and worker unions.
It’s perhaps not a coincidence that Vitasoy was recently at the centre of a public backlash following a politically charged crime committed by a Hong Kong employee. The employee stabbed a police officer before fatally injuring himself in Causeway Bay on July 1 as the city marked the 24th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule. According to investigations, the employee left behind several suicide notes declaring his hatred of the police, his opposition to the Beijing-imposed National Security Law, and his intention to kill an officer.
The company then circulated an internal memo expressing its condolences to the employee’s family, which it later said was not approved by the company. The incident sparked outrage on Chinese social media, leading to calls for a boycott and some brand ambassadors to pull their partnerships with the brand.