Hong Kong tries to outlaw uploads of unofficial and anti-Beijing anthem

State-sponsored SEO effort to send people to properly patriotic tune has its limits

The government of Hong Kong has sought an injunction to prevent performance and distribution, including online, of a song that has been mistaken for its national anthem.

The song is titled "Glory to Hong Kong" and was composed as part of protests against the winding back of democratic freedoms in the Chinese territory.

The ditty became popular among protestors and was widely shared – so widely shared that Google's search engine often produces results naming it the Special Administrative Region's (SAR) official anthem.

Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government strongly disapproves of the song and has fought Google long and hard to have the search giant tweak its algorithms to stop suggesting the tune has any connection to the SAR's government.

Indeed, Hong Kong does not have an official tune. China's national anthem – "March of the Volunteers" – is its national song.

Google mostly ignored requests to stop sending users to "Glory To Hong Kong", which led SAR authorities to conduct a search engine optimization campaign to direct netizens towards material describing Hong Kong's form of government and flag, and China's national anthem.

Those SEO efforts had some positive effect, in the view of local authorities.

But now Hong Kong's Department of Justice has sought an injunction from the High Court to prevent the following activities:

Broadcasting, performing, printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, disseminating, displaying or reproducing in any way (including on the internet and/or any media accessible online and/or any internet-based platform or medium) the Song, whether its melody or lyrics or in combination (including any adaptation of the Song, the melody and/or lyrics of which are substantially the same as the Song); and in particular to advocate the separation of the HKSAR from the People's Republic of China.

The Department's announcement of the injunction application says it's needed because, by inciting secession and sedition, the song contravenes China's National Security Law.

"The HKSAR Government respects and values the rights and freedoms protected by the Basic Law (including freedom of speech), but freedom of speech is not absolute," states the announcement. "The application pursues the legitimate aim of safeguarding national security and is necessary, reasonable, legitimate, and consistent with the Bill of Rights."

"In fact," a Government spokesman pointed out, "the injunction complements existing laws and serves to clarify to members of the public that acts mentioned above may constitute criminal offences; they should not take their chances and attempt to break the law."

It's currently hard to win a position of influence in Hong Kong without displaying a pro-Beijing bent, so it would be a little surprising if the injunction is not upheld. Pro-democracy media outlets and activists have already been silenced. Soon it may be illegal even to hum "Glory to Hong Kong". ®

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