Hong Kong: YouTube complies with order to block protest song

Hong Kong: YouTube complies with order to block protest song
Hong Kong: YouTube complies with order to block protest song

Video platform YouTube says it is blocking access in Hong Kong to sites featuring a protest anthem after a court order. But it said it shared concerns that the move went against freedom of expression.

The video-sharing platform YouTube on Tuesday said it would block access inside Hong Kong to 32 links featuring the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” in compliance with a court injunction that provoked strong criticism from rights groups.

The Hong Kong government has deemed the song, which was sung widely at anti-government protests in 2019, to be a danger to security in the semi-autonomous Chinese region.

In approving the government’s application to ban the song, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal agreed it could be “weaponized” and used to incite secession.

What did YouTube say?

YouTube said that although it was complying with the recent injunction by the court, it was concerned that such moves could damage the city’s reputation as a reliable place to do business.

“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,” it said, adding that it shared the concerns of human rights groups that the ban undermined freedom of expression.

What do critics say of the ban?

Human rights groups and other observers see the ban on the song as another example of a gradual erosion of freedoms in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Critics say such prohibitions will also damage Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub.

“It is not a desirable situation from the perspective of free internet and free speech,” said George Chen, co-chair of digital practice at the Asia Group, a US-based business policy consultancy.

“If you start to send platforms 100 or 1,000 links for takedown every day, this will drive platforms crazy and also make global investors more worried about Hong Kong’s free market environment. How predictable and how stable the policy environment is matters a lot to foreign investors, and Hong Kong is now at a crossroads to defend its reputation,” Chen said.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have carried out a sweeping national security crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong during which many opposition figures have been jailed and liberal media outlets and civil society groups shut down.

The crackdown has come despite guarantees given by China that Hong Kong’s freedoms would be preserved under a “one country, two systems” formula.

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