YouTube Blocks ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ Protest Anthem After Court Order

‘We are disappointed by the Court’s decision but are complying with its removal order,’ YouTube responded to the injunction.

Following a Hong Kong court injunction on May 8, YouTube will block the anti-extradition song “Glory to Hong Kong” based on the user’s geographic location. A total of 32 video links to the song will no longer appear on the Google search page in Hong Kong.

A spokesperson for YouTube, part of Mountain View-based Alphabet in California, said video geoblocking would take effect immediately for viewers in Hong Kong.

On May 15, The Epoch Times tried to access one of the videos on YouTube in Hong Kong, only to find the player showed, “According to the law, this content cannot be shown in your country/area.”

However, the video platform giant criticized the court’s ruling as casting doubt on the Hong Kong authorities’ efforts to promote the digital economy and restore its business reputation. It said it shared human rights groups’ concerns that the content ban would stifle freedom of expression online.

“We are disappointed by the Court’s decision but are complying with its removal order,” YouTube said in a statement. “We’ll continue to consider our options for an appeal, to promote access to information.”

National Anthem’ of Hong Kong

Glory to Hong Kong” is a protest anthem widely sung during the anti-extradition movement in 2019. Due to its popularity, the song is called “the national anthem” of Hong Kong and has been used in several international competitions instead of the Chinese national anthem.

An example is a Rugby Sevens game in South Korea in 2022, when an intern reportedly downloaded it from the internet, mistakenly thinking it was Hong Kong’s national anthem.

The Hong Kong authorities accuse the song of promoting subversion, arguing that its lyrics contain slogans ruled by the court to constitute “sedition” and that the song, repeatedly referred to as the Hong Kong national anthem, is “insulting” to the real national anthem (March of the Volunteers) and has caused “serious damage” to China and Hong Kong.

An investigation by the authorities found that the organizers’ playing the wrong song originated from Google: Searching for “Hong Kong National Anthem” with Google will lead to the results of “Glory to Hong Kong.”

In November 2022, The Epoch Times searched Google for “Hong Kong national anthem” in Chinese, English, and Korean, with the top results all being “Glory to Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong authorities repeatedly negotiated with Google to request that “March of the Volunteers” be placed at the top. Google responded that the search results were formed by algorithms and could not be tampered with manually, so it rejected the request.

In June 2023, the Hong Kong Department of Justice announced plans to ban 32 video links to the song, including music videos, pure music, orchestra versions, sign language versions, and different language versions etc.

In July 2023, the High Court rejected the proposed ban on the song, citing possible “chilling effects” on free speech.

In August 2023, the Department of Justice appealed the rejection.

On May 8, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal granted the Department of Justice’s appeal for a ban on the song, overturning the lower court judgment.

Court of Appeal judges Jeremy Poon, Carlye Chu, and Anthea Pang wrote that the composer of the protest song had intended it to be used as a weapon.

“In the hands of those with the intention to incite secession and sedition, the song can be deployed to arouse anti-establishment sentiments,” the judges wrote.

A protester holds his hand against his chest as he sings the Glory to Hong Kong protest "anthem" during a demonstration in Times Square shopping mall in Hong Kong on Sept. 12, 2019. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
A protester holds his hand against his chest as he sings the Glory to Hong Kong protest “anthem” during a demonstration in Times Square shopping mall in Hong Kong on Sept. 12, 2019. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

‘Freedom of Speech Essential for Financial Center’

Yan Baogang, former director of i-CABLE Finance Info Channel, believes that the Hong Kong court’s decision will make international enterprises and professionals stay away from operating in Hong Kong, considering that the city is already one of the few places in the world where ChatGPT is banned.

“Obviously, the SAR (special administrative region) government does not want to deal a heavy blow to the confidence of foreign investors after the legislation of Article 23, and maintaining [Hong Kong]’s position as a financial center is still an important task for Beijing,” he wrote in a column for The Epoch Times.

“Therefore, according to Paul Lam (Secretary for Justice), it is only ‘anxious’ to see Google’s response to the injunction, not that it wants to enforce the court injunction against Google.

“However, if the United States does ban TikTok, Beijing may take more countermeasures. At that time, Hong Kong officials will be under pressure to take action against social media platforms. I’m afraid that even YouTube and Gmail will have to be taken off the shelves by then.”

Mr. Yan believes that the saddest part of the whole incident is that the SAR government has completely lost its “bargaining” power, the option of maintaining its autonomy.

“In other words, the SAR government officials do not even bother to maintain their autonomy and just do whatever the central authority tells them to do,” he wrote.

“Freedom of information and speech is a prerequisite for a financial center because it is the only way investors can be sure that their investments and property rights are protected.

“Today, Hong Kong has a good chance to further erode this last bastion of freedom in the name of national security. By then, there will be no more pluralistic dissenting voices in the society, only an overwhelming ‘unanimity.’ I am afraid it does not really matter whether or not an ‘Internet blockage’ is in place by then.”

Reuters contributed to this report. 


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