Hong Kong judge defers ruling on ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ ban

Hong Kong judge defers ruling on 'Glory to Hong Kong' ban

A judge in Hong Kong on Monday deferred ruling on a petition to ban the online distribution of a popular pro-democracy protest song, which could further challenge how technology companies operate in the Chinese territory.

After asking the government to be more specific about the breadth of its request, the judge set another hearing for July 21.

Authorities in Hong Kong are cracking down on anything they consider a threat to national security, targeting individuals with arrests and prosecutions.

The issue at Monday’s court hearing, “Glory to Hong Kong,” has been a particular flashpoint for the government because it is considered the anthem of protests that have challenged China’s campaign to crack down on political dissent in the former British colony .

The government last week filed a court petition arguing that “Glory to Hong Kong” was used to “insult” China’s national anthem. While not naming any defendants, the filing included 32 links to the song on YouTube. And in December, the Hong Kong authorities criticized Google to display protest song under search results for Hong Kong national anthem.

On Monday, Judge Wilson Chan of the High Court in Hong Kong pressed a representative for the government on several points, including clarifying the types of defendants the petition applies to.

“The judge was trying to make sure that some basic things had to be met if he was going to grant the injunction today,” said Kevin Yam, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Asian Law based in Melbourne, Australia.

The effect of the case on how tech companies operate in Hong Kong remains to be seen.

Google and Meta established offices in Hong Kong a decade ago, and today each has several hundred employees. Twitter opened an office in 2015 but closed it two years later. It no longer has staff in the city.

Companies could use a common technique known as geo-blocking if forced to remove links related to the song from their online platforms for users in Hong Kong, according to Meta Public for Greater China. said George Chen, former head of policy and managing editor of The Asia Group, a consulting firm based in Washington.

Google’s parent company Alphabet declined to comment. Meta did not respond to requests for comment.

Tensions between tech companies and Hong Kong officials escalated in 2020 after Hong Kong passed a sweeping national security law aimed at quashing opposition to the ruling Communist Party. The matter was not formally brought up under the National Security Act on Monday, but the government cited it last week as a reason the court should accept its request.

Since the law was passed, requests by authorities to remove material on the Internet have increased. Hong Kong authorities demanded the removal 183 items According to Google, the 10-year peak is mostly due to an overall increase in requests related to national security, from services such as YouTube and Google Search, in the second half of 2022. The company denied about half of those requests.

joey dong Contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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