Protest song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ now banned in city

HONG KONG — “Glory to Hong Kong,” a popular protest song, will be banned after Hong Kong’s appeal court on Wednesday overturned a previous ruling in favor of free speech.

The court injunction prohibits the melody and its lyrics from being broadcast, performed, shared or reproduced, including on the internet, with intention to incite others to violate the national security law.

The verdict raises concerns over free speech and exerts renewed pressure on Google, which operates YouTube, and other internet players.

The court stressed that it was not a complete ban on the song, with exemptions for media reporting and academic purposes.

The ruling added that the injunction seeks to prevent potential criminal activities and dispel misunderstandings, with immediate intervention necessary due to the seriousness of the matter.

While the court agreed the injunction could have a “chilling effect” on free speech, it disagreed with the previous judge’s assessment of discretion and the wide-spread impact of the injunction.

The court said that while it respected the chief executive’s evaluation of the song’s national security implications, it emphasized it made an independent decision free of political influence. The independence of the judiciary is a widespread concern after Beijing imposed a national security law in mid-2020 that has crushed dissent and allowed the city’s leader to appoint national security judges.

The government has sought to remove 32 online links of the song on YouTube, which was often played during the anti-extradition protests in 2019 and was used to express dissent.

The song was later mistakenly played as the city’s anthem at international sporting events, instead of Chinese national anthem “March of the Volunteers,” which spurred the city’s authorities to take tangible actions to stop any chances for the protest song to be aired.

The original song is sung in Cantonese, but there are other versions in languages including English, Japanese and Korean. There have also been different compositions under various arrangements and instruments, such as orchestra, acoustic and rock versions.

What appears to be especially problematic for the Hong Kong government is the lyric which includes “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times,” arguably the most widespread slogan during the 2019 demonstrations.

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