China bans popular ode to Hong Kong

Be careful what you whistle on your way to work in once-free Hong Kong.



May 14, 2024 - 2:10 PM

Jimmy Lai, founder and owner of the Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong, remains in prison for supporting pro-democracy protests. Chinese authorities are now forbidding promotion of the popular song "Glory to Hong Kong." (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images/TNS)

A sure sign that you’re living in a dictatorship is that the government dictates what you can sing. That’s now the policy in Hong Kong, er, Little Beijing, as a court has endorsed the government’s plan to ban “Glory to Hong Kong.”

The song became popular in 2019 amid pro-democracy protests, and Hong Kong has warned that playing or even posting it online can violate national-security and sedition laws. Authorities have arrested a housewife and a delivery worker who posted the song on social media, and last week a Hong Kong appeals court granted the government’s request for an injunction that goes further.

The ruling restricts “broadcasting, performing, printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, disseminating, displaying or reproducing” the song “in any way including on the internet and/or any media accessible online and/or any internet-based platform or medium.”

The court ruling is no surprise, since it would take a brave judge to defy the government. “To effectively curb the criminal problems at their root, it is important that internet platform operators . . . take down problematic videos of the song,” the government argued last year. 

It sought to make it clear to tech companies “by way of a court order” that the song is “prohibited by Hong Kong law” and “should therefore be removed and not be allowed to be uploaded to their platforms.”

Rules published in 2020 let Hong Kong authorities order social-media companies to remove posts deemed a threat to national security, and local employees who fail to comply can face imprisonment or fines. Google and other digital platforms that still operate in Hong Kong will now be under pressure to make sure the song never appears when you search.

Be careful what you whistle on your way to work in once-free Hong Kong. You could end up in Stanley Prison, like publisher Jimmy Lai and other political prisoners.

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