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YouTube Blocks Access to Protest Anthem in Hong Kong

YouTube said on Tuesday that it would comply with a court order to block users in Hong Kong from viewing a popular democracy anthem, raising concerns about free speech and highlighting the increasing fraught environment for tech companies operating in the Chinese territory.

Last week, a Hong Kong court granted a government request to ban the song, “Glory to Hong Kong,” listing 32 links to videos on YouTube. Judges said the song was a “weapon” that could be used to undermine national security.

The court said the injunction was “necessary to persuade” technology companies to “remove” the songs from their platforms.

A representative of YouTube said in a statement that the company would “continue to consider” an appeal of the court’s ruling but would comply with the order.

“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,” the representative said.

Like most tech companies, Google has a policy of removing or restricting access to material that is deemed illegal by a court in certain countries or places.

The High Court building in Hong Kong. A court there last week granted the government an injunction giving it the power to ban “Glory to Hong Kong.”Credit…Leung Man Hei/EPA, via Shutterstock

Links to the videos would also stop showing up on Google search results for users in Hong Kong after they become unavailable on YouTube to viewers in the region, according to the company representative.

Since demonstrations rocked the city in 2019, “Glory to Hong Kong” has been a flashpoint for the authorities who considered it an insult to China’s national anthem. The song has been banned from Hong Kong schools.

Beijing has asserted greater control over the former British colony in recent years by imposing a national security law that has crushed nearly all forms of dissent. People convicted of posting seditious content online have gone to prison.

In March, the Hong Kong government enacted new security legislation that criminalized offenses like “external interference” and the theft of state secrets, creating potential risks for multinational companies operating in the Asian financial center.

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