YouTube blocks Hong Kong protest anthem after court injunction bans song in the city

By AP News


YouTube has blocked access to videos of a protest song in Hong Kong to comply with a removal order, days after a court approved an injunction to ban the song in the city

Hong Kong YouTube Protest Song

HONG KONG (AP) — YouTube has blocked access to videos of a protest song in Hong Kong, days after court approved an injunction banning the song in the city.

“Glory to Hong Kong” was an anthem of anti-government protests in 2019. YouTube said that it would comply with a removal order and block access to over 32 YouTube videos of the song that were deemed to be “prohibited publications” under the injunction.

Attempts to access the YouTube videos from Hong Kong on Wednesday showed that they were unavailable. A message showed saying that “This content is not available on this country domain due to a court order.”

In approving the government's application to ban the song, the court agreed it could be “weaponized” and used to incite secession.

“We are disappointed by the court’s decision but are complying with its removal order by blocking access to the listed videos for viewers in Hong Kong,” YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., said in an emailed statement.

“We’ll continue to consider our options for an appeal, to promote access to information,” the company said, adding that it shared the concerns of human rights organizations about the chilling effect the ban would have on free expression online.

Links to the 32 videos on YouTube will also not show up on Google Search for users in Hong Kong, according to YouTube.

George Chen, co-chair of digital practice at Asia Group, a Washington-headquartered business and policy consultancy, said it is worth watching how aggressively Hong Kong authorities will be in ordering internet platforms to remove the song.

Chen, who was the former head of public policy for Greater China at Meta, said that if the government begins sending platforms hundreds of links to remove every day, that would likely undermine investor confidence in Hong Kong.

“That will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation as a leading financial center because we know how important a free flow of data and information means to a financial center,” he said. “So the government should be very careful and be aware of some unintended consequences that may impact its economic recovery and investors’ confidence.”

Internet and social media platforms such as YouTube typically have policies for removal requests from governments.

“Glory to Hong Kong” was often sung by demonstrators during massive anti-government protests in 2019. The song was later mistakenly played as the city’s anthem at international sporting events, instead of China’s “March of the Volunteers,” in mix-ups that upset city officials.

Authorities earlier arrested some residents who played the song in public under other offenses, such as playing a musical instrument in public without a permit, local media reported.

Critics have said prohibiting broadcast or distribution of the song further reduces freedom of expression since Beijing launched a crackdown in the former British colony following the 2019 protests. They have also warned the ban might disrupt the operation of tech giants and hurt the city’s appeal as a business center.


Associated Press writer Kanis Leung contributed to this report.


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