YouTube announced on Wednesday (May 15) its intention to comply with a Hong Kong court order asking it to restrict access to videos of a political protest song, Glory to Hong Kong. The previous week, the court of appeal of the former British colony granted the local government’s request for a ban on this anthem, composed during the pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019. This court decision prohibits the interpretation and broadcast of the song and lists 32 YouTube videos that the government says are problematic.

The online platform therefore confirmed that it had blocked access to this content for users in Hong Kong, with immediate effect, which was noted by Agence France-Presse (AFP). Some of the affected pages now state that “this content is not available in this country due to a court order.”

“We are disappointed by the court’s decision, but we are complying with its withdrawal order. We will continue to explore appeal options to promote open access to information,” YouTube said in a statement. “This injunction pursues the legitimate objective of preserving national security and is necessary, reasonable, legitimate, proportionate,” justified a government spokesperson.

“Political censorship”

Hong Kong authorities initiated the prosecution in 2023 after sporting events in which Glory to Hong Kong was played as Hong Kong’s official anthem, instead of China’s March of the Volunteers. At the time, authorities asked Internet players such as Google to remove the song from their search results, without success. The United States said the ban was a blow to Hong Kong’s international reputation.

Lokman Tsui, Google’s former head of free speech for Asia, said it is “very disappointing that Google has decided to comply with a blatant demand for political censorship.” And according to Cornelius Hanung, of the human rights group Forum-Asia, this court decision is an “extraordinary measure”, bringing Hong Kong closer to countries “like Burma and Laos in terms of freedom of expression”.

More than 290 people have been arrested, 174 charged and 114 convicted – most of them pro-democracy politicians, activists and journalists – since Hong Kong’s national security law took effect in 2020, reinforced by a second law. in March.