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Hong Kong protest song tops iTunes charts after government seeks court ban


Hong Kongers rush to download a popular protest song after the government of the Chinese territory applied for a court order that could force US tech giants like Google and Meta to block access to it.

“Glory to Hong Kong,” which was written in 2019 and quickly adopted by the citywide pro-democracy protest movement, topped the local iTunes chart for two days this week, despite pro-Beijing politicians warning residents to avoid it. from their devices.

The government’s filing on Monday listed 32 YouTube videos, which can now be blocked and deemed “inflammatory”.

The song, which has also been uploaded to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, has repeatedly been incorrectly played at international sporting events instead of “March of the Volunteers”, the Chinese national anthem, and was condemned by the Hong Kong government.

Beijing responded to the 2019 demonstrations with a sweeping crackdown on dissent in the city and in 2020 imposed a national security law threatening life imprisonment for broadly defined crimes such as “subversion” and “conspiracy with foreign forces”.

Activists have fled or been imprisoned, school curricula have been revised for patriotic content, public libraries have removed sensitive titles from their stacks, and independent media outlets have been forced to cease operations.

“I want to keep a record,” said a local in his 20s who downloaded the song on Wednesday following news of the government’s request. “I’m more concerned if the big companies gave in to this.”

As Hong Kong attempts to revive its status as a global financial center, the government’s application has led to growing liability issues for foreign tech companies operating in the area.

“Tech companies like Google and Meta don’t have too many options to deal with a court order,” said George Chen, Meta’s former Greater China public policy chief and now general manager for Hong Kong and Taiwan at the Asia Group. think tank in Washington.

“They can fully comply, or partially comply, or ignore it,” Chen added. “Partial compliance usually means blocking something for local users only,” which is known as “geo-blocking.”

YouTube parent company Google and Facebook parent company Meta declined to comment. Apple and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Hong Kong’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the government’s request on Monday.

The city’s leader, John Lee, has been urging Google for months to tweak its search results to put the Chinese national anthem above “Glory to Hong Kong.” Google has denied this.

Under the court order filed this week, the song’s “melody or lyrics or any combination” would be banned to avoid “inciting others to secede.”

The song’s composer, who uses the initial T, told the Financial Times in 2019 that it was written to be “spiritual . . . solidify their (protesters) will”.

One of the lyrics is the line: “Now break the dawn, free us Hong Kong. In common breath: Revolution of our times!”, a protest slogan that has been deemed illegal by the Hong Kong government.

“Ideas, they’re bulletproof,” said T.

According to attorney Ken KC Lee, even whistling the tune could have legal ramifications if the warrant is granted. “It will be a major step,” he said.

Last year, a harmonica player was arrested after playing “Glory to Hong Kong” outside the British consulate during a vigil mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Chen, the former Meta executive, raised the prospect that the local offices and staff of US tech giants will face legal consequences. “It is no longer business as usual for technology companies in Hong Kong,” he said.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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