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The YouTube app logo is seen on a smartphone. Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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YouTube to block Hong Kong protest anthem videos after court order

21 Comments
By Jeffrey Dastin and James Pomfret

Alphabet's YouTube on Tuesday said it would comply with a court decision and block access inside Hong Kong to 32 video links deemed prohibited content, in what critics say is a blow to freedoms in the financial hub amid a security clampdown.

The action follows a government application granted by Hong Kong's Court of Appeal requesting the ban of a protest anthem called "Glory to Hong Kong." The judges warned that dissidents seeking to incite secession could weaponize the song for use against the state.

In comments criticizing the court order, YouTube said the ruling would raise skepticism around the Hong Kong government's work to foster the digital economy and reclaim its reputation as a predictable place for doing business.

"We are disappointed by the Court's decision but are complying with its removal order," YouTube said in a statement, saying it shared human rights groups' concerns that the content ban could chill free expression online. "We'll continue to consider our options for an appeal, to promote access to information."

Some observers, including the U.S. government, say the ban will further undermine Hong Kong's international reputation as a financial hub, and raise concerns about the erosion of freedoms and its commitment to the free flow of information.

"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 Washington DC-based business policy consultancy. He is also former head of public policy for Greater China at Meta.

"Now the question is how far and how aggressive the government wants to go," Chen added. "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."

Industry groups, including the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents big tech firms like Meta, Apple and Google, have said keeping a free and open internet in Hong Kong is "fundamental" to maintaining the city's edge.

The Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The action is not a worldwide first for the U.S. technology sector or Google parent Alphabet, which has restricted items when legally required to do so. In China, it has removed content.

In 2010, Google took its search engine out of mainland China, where YouTube is not available.

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

Eventually, links to the videos will no longer show up on Google Search in Hong Kong as the company's systems process the changes, YouTube said. Attempts to view the song on YouTube from Hong Kong displayed the message: "This content is not available on this country domain due to a court order."

Hong Kong does not have an official anthem. "Glory to Hong Kong" was written in 2019 during widespread pro-democracy protests that year, becoming an unofficial alternative anthem to China's "March of the Volunteers."

In recent years, Hong Kong officials have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for a sweeping national security crackdown on dissent that has seen many opposition democrats jailed and liberal media outlets and civil society groups shuttered.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee that its freedoms would be preserved under a "one country, two systems" formula.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that stopping the song's spread was necessary for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.

© Thomson Reuters 2024.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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"We are disappointed by the Court's decision but are complying with its removal order," YouTube said in a statement, saying it shared human rights groups' concerns that the content ban could chill free expression online.

But obviously not "disappointed" or "concerned" enough to pull out of totalitarian China, so your words mean nothing.

Any company that does business in China is helping the CCP oppress the people of not only China, but the world. Alphabet et al are part of the problem.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that stopping the song's spread was necessary for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.

The CCP is scared of a song. Just shows its insecurity, and how much it fears the people.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Industry groups, including the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents big tech firms like Meta, Apple and Google, have said keeping a free and open internet in Hong Kong is "fundamental" to maintaining the city's edge.

Just pull out. That city is dead now.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Pathetic, insecure Communist China and the miserable puppet territory Hong Kong.

Banning a song from being sung or played in public shows the paranoia of the freedom-hating Chinese - particularly Xi the Pooh.

The first stanza of the English version :

We pledge No more tears on our land

In wrath, doubts dispell’d we make our stand

Arise! Ye who would not be slaves again:

For Hong Kong, may Freedom reign!

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee that its freedoms would be preserved under a "one country, two systems" formula.

Which of course has been shown not to have happened, yet there are still people clamoring for China and its fellow authoritarian global partners to have even more power and control around the planet, some playing the CCP's game are venal 'westerners' like Elmo from X among others, for sale to the highest bidders. The venal CCP has been able to profit and grow around the world because corruption, unsurprisingly ,attracts the corrupt, while the most corrupt deplete the planet of resources and further pollute it. Same as it ever was, but at least some living in democracies have a chance to limit how greedy their leaders can be.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

there are still people clamoring for China and its fellow authoritarian global partners to have even more power and control around the planet, some playing the CCP's game are venal 'westerners' like Elmo from X among others

That's correct.

Those doing the bidding for democracy and freedom-hating China range from the countless paid "commenters" supporting them on every online platform and website, all the way up to former PMs and Presidents of nations being paid $Millions to present Communist China as "harmless" and "benevolent". Former Australian PM Keating is a prime example.

Take their words of all these grubs with a grain of salt.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Those doing the bidding for democracy and freedom-hating China range from the countless paid "commenters" supporting them on every online platform and website

Very true.

Transparent sock puppets cheerleading everything from China or other countries for that matter

I remember reading ridiculous posters writing in faked poor English. Infantile nonsense.

I’m sure you’ve seen this too.

Preposterous people.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

isabelleToday  02:28 pm JST

"We are disappointed by the Court's decision but are complying with its removal order," YouTube said in a statement, saying it shared human rights groups' concerns that the content ban could chill free expression online.

“ But obviously not "disappointed" or "concerned" enough to pull out of totalitarian China, so your words mean nothing.

Any company that does business in China is helping the CCP oppress the people of not only China, but the world. Alphabet et al are part of the problem. “

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that stopping the song's spread was necessary for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.

“ The CCP is scared of a song. Just shows its insecurity, and how much it fears the people. “

Well said.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

For all of the reasonable, democratic, peace-loving people of the world, Please stop buying absolutely anything at all from this deceitful, vicious, and depraved country - this is the only way to stop the tyrannical repressive Chinese government in it's tracks, and ensure that China, in it's current mode, fails.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@Isabelle: The CCP is scared of a song

The 'want you to believe they're he-men', act tough when they have bigger guns, jails and thermobaric weapons, but run for their safe rooms when they hear certain songs or see rainbows.The cowardly have always been with us, and have backed authoritarianism and ultra-nationalism.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Nip it in the bud. No singing songs that’ll lead to brick throwing thugs funded by the West.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

quercetumToday 06:46 pm JST

Nip it in the bud. No singing songs that’ll lead to brick throwing thugs funded by the West.

The "thugs" were John Lee's police, and the organized crime gang members they colluded with. The people just wanted the rights that were guaranteed to them under the Sino-British Joint Declaration: the one that the CCP tore up.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_misconduct_allegations_during_the_2019%E2%80%932020_Hong_Kong_protests

And the song came after John Lee's thuggery began. You have the cause and effect the wrong way around.

But that's to be expected from CCP acolytes, who merely parrot what their authoritarian masters tell them.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Where is Musk to speak out when you need him?

Its the CCP that is censoring, so it must be ok!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This action, when dictatorship governments weaponize the judicial system to choke any semblance of free speech, freedom of association, freedom of expression has to be harshly challenged by a global community that cherishes the freedoms we have now taken for granted.

The Government of China must be afforded no quarter, this despot regime is a menace, a belligerent force, an enemy of every freedom, human right we hold close to our hearts.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

“ But obviously not "disappointed" or "concerned" enough to pull out of totalitarian China, so your words mean nothing.

Any company that does business in China is helping the CCP oppress the people of not only China, but the world. Alphabet et al are part of the problem. “

This is typical Western oppositional thinking.

It is what Blinken said: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu". It's shows a lack of strength to take on the enemy alone or just with your allies and is a form of authoritarian mindset. You just obey us. If you’re not for us then you’re against us.

China's approach to diplomacy is clear: non-alignment: we're not for Russia, we're not against Ukraine.

Russia, as the world's second largest military power, does not need the support of any country.

It is absurd for China to be seen as supporting Russia simply because it has not complied with the US sanctions policy against Russia.

China simply wants to continue doing business with Russia, and China is ready to continue doing business with Ukraine.

It’s perfectly fine to play the field. Japan does the same with the U.S. and China. The Tatemae is with the US but the money is coming from China.

Any company that does business in China is helping the CCP oppress the people of not only China, but the world. Alphabet et al are part of the problem. “

YouTube is not pro -CCP. Pure nonsense.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

quercetumToday 07:38 pm JST

This is typical Western oppositional thinking.

Absolutely nothing to do with "Western." It is anti-authoritarian. There are plenty of us throughout the world, of all colors and creeds.

YouTube is not pro -CCP. Pure nonsense.

Not overtly, but by implementing CCP censorship it is supporting the CCP's authoritarian rule. It is therefore, as I said, part of the problem.

And the article isn't about Russia, but...

Russia, as the world's second largest military power, does not need the support of any country.

Apart from Chinese machinery and parts, Iranian drones, North Korean arms and ammunition, diplomatic support from all these countries, etc. etc...

It’s perfectly fine to play the field.

But it's not perfectly fine to support a country that has brutally invaded another, for no reason other than its leader's dreams of conquest. That is what China is doing through its "no limits" partnership with comrade Putin and its refusal to condemn the invasion.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Hong Kong has been taken over by a totalitarian govt.

Youtube provides some level of freedom to the people there.

Google has to weigh the greater good. Do they block 50 videos after a court order and keep the thousands and thousands of others up or do they leave ASAP?

I'm in the group that thinks "some" influence in a country while still allowed is better than none. Hong Kongers - those who have been there since before Xi - know their freedoms are effectively gone and they will lose more and more every year.

They have a way out, if they choose to leave. This is a Darwin-level test. So many are failing to see it is THAT important. They need to sell everything they can in Hong Kong and relocate to a different country ASAP.

10 yrs from now, CCP will have changed so many laws as to make Hong Kong the same as mainland China - with very little freedom of speech. They've already lost the ability to complain about the govt. Whenever that happens anywhere, get out now. Run.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

quercetumToday 07:38 pm JST

China's approach to diplomacy is clear: non-alignment: we're not for Russia, we're not against Ukraine.

Russia, as the world's second largest military power, does not need the support of any country.

It is absurd for China to be seen as supporting Russia simply because it has not complied with the US sanctions policy against Russia.

China simply wants to continue doing business with Russia, and China is ready to continue doing business with Ukraine.

Except the way this is working out in practice is a complete fraud: China backs Russia at the UN despite the fact that the war is existential for Ukraine. It also steps in to receive all of the economic benefits and unleashes Iran and North Korea to do the dirty work of sending weapons. China is like a mob boss pretending to lead a clean life.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@MartimuranoMay Re: Please stop buying absolutely anything at all from this deceitful, vicious, and depraved country

Financially damaging the people of HK, merely makes them victims twice over. You should never lump a people with their government or condemn them for what their government does. You should stand with them against their government.

All internet services have to obey local laws wherever they operate. YouTube has been geoblocking videos from day 1, all over the place, mostly on copyright grounds.

Dictatorships have no legitimacy, so any potshot you take at them is just. It is amusing just how little it takes to upset them. Troll them when you can, or takes lumps out of them. Just don't get caught.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Afraid of a song, lol

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Good, thanks YouTube..

GO CHINA !!..

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

That so called "Anthem" was a fake one !

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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