Google gives in to Hong Kong, blocks fake national anthem on YouTube

'Disappointed' by court’s decision, US giant complying in HK, considering appeal

Google has complied with a May 8 order from a Hong Kong court to ban the pro-democracy protest song often mistaken for a national anthem, "Glory to Hong Kong," by blocking 32 videos on YouTube in the mega-city.

The videos specified in the writ of summons [PDF] no longer appear on the platform from a Hong Kong IP address. Instead, Hong Kong viewers receive a message stating the content is "not available on this country domain due to a court order."


Glory to Hong Kong on YouTube - click to enlarge

The order prohibits "Broadcasting, performing, printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, disseminating, displaying or reproducing" with seditious intent or in a way where the song could be mistaken as the national anthem.

After the ban passed last week, the city’s Secretary for Justice Paul Lam reportedly detailed that “relevant internet service providers” would be notified.

But by Sunday, Lam reportedly revealed the government had informed YouTube owner Google and was "anxious" for a response.

"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. We'll continue to consider our options for an appeal, to promote access to information," a Google spokesperson commented.

The song emerged in the Special Administrative Region of China in 2019 during protests against a law that allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China. The song advocates for the liberation of Hong Kong and unity to fight for freedom.

Despite its roots as a protest song, it is commonly mistaken as Hong Kong's national anthem, thanks to the sometimes inconvenient nature of SEO.

This has led the song to even being mistaken by organizers of sporting events as the official national anthem. The song has mistakenly been played to stadium audiences before games – even when Hong Kong coaches have submitted the correct song.

That correct song is China's national anthem, "March of the Volunteers", as Hong Kong is considered a part of China.

When asked about Google's "disappointment" in the court's decision to ban the song, China’s foreign minister Wang Wenbin said:

"Given its constitutional responsibility to safeguard national security and the dignity of the national anthem, it is only legitimate and necessary for the Hong Kong SAR to stop anyone from using and disseminating relevant song to incite secession and insult the national anthem."

In the past, Google has denied government requests to move around ranks on grounds that algorithms are automated and it only removes content considered illegal.

In August, Hong Kong's High Court rejected a government bid to make online dissemination of the song illegal, but times and laws in Hong Kong have since changed. ®

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