Hong Kong asks court to block protest anthem from circulating online

Hong Kong asks court to block protest anthem from circulating online

Following the emergence of “Glory to Hong Kong” as the unofficial anthem of pro-democracy protesters in 2019, the Hong Kong government has tried to prevent its use. It has banned the song from schools. When it was mistakenly played instead of the Chinese national anthem at a rugby match in South Korea last year, the Hong Kong government demanded an investigation.

Authorities this week asked a court to ban public performances and online dissemination of “Glory to Hong Kong”. The move could implicate US technology companies such as Google and set up the first legal test of how much control the Hong Kong government can exercise over online content.

The government said in a statement that Hong Kong is seeking a ban on the distribution or reproduction of the song “in any way”, including adaptation of its “melody or lyrics”. statement on Tuesday. It said the song was used to “insult” the Chinese national anthem, “The March of the Volunteers”, causing “serious harm to the country” and Hong Kong. The date of the hearing has not been set at the request of the court.

Hong Kong authorities first criticized Google to display protest song under search results for Hong Kong national anthem.

“We have already sent a request to Google to pin the correct national anthem, but sadly Google refused,” said Chris Tang, Hong Kong’s security secretary, at a news conference in December. “I find this explanation unimaginable, and Hong Kong people will not tolerate it.”

The government’s request for a court injunction against the protest song, made on Monday, is the latest attempt by Hong Kong to root out the remaining vestiges of political dissent in the city, a former British colony that once enjoyed greater political autonomy . Under China’s president, Xi Jinping, Beijing’s drive to protect Hong Kong national security has undergone a significant shift from its days as a prosperous hub for foreign businesses.

Last week, an annual vigil marking the anniversary of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was shut down by authorities, who arrested protesters and suspected mourners.

Applying for a court injunction against Hong Kong’s protest anthem, the government cites its national security law, which was enacted in 2020 and gave Beijing sweeping powers to crack down on political crimes including separatism and collusion .

George Chen, former head of public policy for Greater China at Meta and managing director of Asia Group, a consulting firm, said a court injunction, if granted, would make accessing content in Hong Kong more complicated and costly for US tech companies. Will give , He said the government’s decision to use the courts was “opening the doors.”

“Glory to Hong Kong” can be found in Hong Kong on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube of Meta, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet.

According to ming paoThe court application, a centrist Chinese-language newspaper, cited 32 links on YouTube related to the song.

Google and Meta declined to comment. Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

American technology companies generally follow the regulations of the countries and regions where they operate and sometimes remove content. The possible scope of the injunction in Hong Kong was unclear. Critics say the national security law was written with the intention of policing conduct outside Hong Kong.

“Anybody in the world can violate Hong Kong’s national security law,” said Lokman Tsui, former head of free expression for Asia Pacific at Google. “The question is whether this injunction is similar in scope.”

Mr Tsui said Hong Kong’s refusal to comply with the court’s decision could put the company’s employees and business in the region at risk.

For now, efforts to suppress the song appear to have fueled a wave of interest: On Wednesday, eight different versions of “Glory to Hong Kong” topped iTunes’ singles chart in Hong Kong.

For years, even though China was largely closed to foreign Internet companies, Hong Kong remained an exception – a hub where foreign businesses could operate relatively freely from the censorship controls they face on the mainland. do.

Willy Lam, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a think tank in Washington, said the Hong Kong government’s efforts to stifle speech could further damage the city’s image as a financial and economic hub for China and Asia. .

“We have already seen many multinational businesses moving their personnel to Singapore and other places,” Mr Lam said. “Now there will be fewer multinationals to base themselves in Hong Kong.”

“This is another nail in the coffin for Hong Kong,” he said.

joey dong Contributed reporting.

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