Hong Kong asks the court to stop the dissemination of the protest anthem online

After “Glory to Hong Kong” emerged as the unofficial anthem of pro-democracy protesters in 2019, the Hong Kong government attempted to block its use. The song has been banned from schools. When it was accidentally played last year instead of the Chinese national anthem at a rugby match in South Korea, the Hong Kong government demanded an investigation.

This week, authorities asked a court to ban the public performance and online publication of “Glory to Hong Kong”. The move could baffle US tech companies like Google and set the first legal test of how much control the Hong Kong government can exercise over online content.

Hong Kong is seeking to ban the song’s distribution or reproduction “in any form,” including alterations to its “melody or lyrics,” the government said in a statement. statement Tuesday. He stated that the song was used to “insult” the Chinese national anthem, “March of the Volunteers”, causing “serious damage to the country” and Hong Kong. No date has been set for the court to hear the request.

The former Hong Kong authorities Criticize Google to display the protest song under the search results for Hong Kong’s national anthem.

“We have already sent a request to Google to install the correct national anthem, but unfortunately Google refused,” said Chris Tang, Hong Kong’s security minister, at a press conference in December. I find this explanation out of the question, and Hong Kong people will not tolerate it.

The government’s request for an injunction against the protest song, on Monday, is Hong Kong’s latest attempt to root out what remains of political dissent in the city, a former British colony that once enjoyed more political autonomy. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Hong Kong has undergone a stark shift from its days as a thriving hub for foreign companies to a frontier in Beijing’s campaign to safeguard national security.

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Last week, an annual vigil held in memory of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was closed off by officers, who arrested and detained protesters and suspects.

In applying for an injunction against Hong Kong’s protest anthem, the government is citing the National Security Law, which was enacted in 2020 and gave Beijing sweeping powers to crack down on what it views as political crimes, including separatism and collusion.

If an injunction is granted, it would likely make content moderation in Hong Kong more complicated and expensive for US tech companies, said George Chen, managing director of Asia Group, a consulting firm, and former head of Greater China public policy at Meta. . He said the government’s decision to use the courts was “a door opener”.

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

according to Ming Baoa central Chinese-language newspaper, the court’s application cited 32 YouTube links related to the song.

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

US tech companies typically follow the rules of the countries and regions in which they operate, and sometimes remove content. The potential scope of an injunction in Hong Kong was not clear. Critics say the national security law was written with the intention of policing behavior even outside Hong Kong.

“Anyone in the world can violate Hong Kong’s national security law,” said Lukman Cui, former head of freedom of expression for Google’s Asia-Pacific region. “The question is whether this injunction is similar in scope.”

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Cui added that refusing to comply with a decision by the Hong Kong court could endanger the company’s employees and businesses in the region.

For now, efforts to suppress the song seem to have prompted a wave of interest in it: On Wednesday, eight different versions of “Glory to Hong Kong” topped the iTunes singles charts in Hong Kong.

For years, even as China was largely closed off to foreign internet companies, Hong Kong remained an exception — a hub where foreign companies could operate relatively far from the censorship controls they would face on the mainland.

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

“We have already seen many multinational companies move their employees to Singapore and other places,” said Lam. “Now there will be fewer multinational companies choosing to set up headquarters in Hong Kong.”

“This is another nail in Hong Kong’s coffin,” he added.

Joy Dong Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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