Why is Hong Kong criminalizing a song
ohN LAW 5U Cheng Wing-chun, a 27-year-old Hong Konger, was the first person in the region to be convicted of insulting China’s national anthem. Mr Cheng posted a 94-second video to YouTube of a local athlete winning a gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, in which he substituted “Glory to Hong Kong” for China’s national anthem, “March of the Volunteers”. , with “Glory to Hong Kong”. an anthem for democracy. His conviction is a sign of things to come: the Hong Kong government wants to silence the song for good. A civil order, filed by the district’s Department of Justice (DoJ) in June, is pending. If it is granted – as it will probably be – the melody, lyrics and any changes to “Glory” will be prohibited; it will be illegal to distribute it. Even whistling the tune could get Hong Kongers in trouble. Why are the Hong Kong authorities stopping “Glory” now – and what will be the effect of the ban?
The catalyst was a series of gaffes. In March officials at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Bosnia and Herzegovina – who had discovered the “Hong Kong national anthem” online – played the catchy Cantonese tune instead of the Chinese anthem. This was the fifth such blunder at an international event in the past year. The Hong Kong government asked Google to drop “Glory” in its search results. But the tech giant refused, saying there was no evidence the song was illegal. The DoJ is now trying to force his hand.
The ban was the last blow to freedom in Hong Kong. Since the national security law was passed in June 2020, protest, free speech and independent local media have been suppressed. Authorities show no sign of releasing the grip. On June 4, more than 20 people suspected of celebrating the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 were arrested. On July 3 the government offered a bounty of HK$1m ($128,000) for information leading to the arrest of one of eight pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers who are now believed to be ‘ live in America, Australia and Great Britain. (Their adopted countries are unlikely to hand them over.) People have been arrested for misdemeanors, such as carrying a mobile phone with a sticker with a banned slogan or possessing “through” children’s cartoons. The use of the national security law to lock people up over a song is further proof of the government’s thin insecurity.
All of this is worrying for the international businesses that Hong Kong has tried to woo back since the end of the region’s covid-19 lockdown. The plan to ban “Glory” puts tech companies that host it on their platforms in a tight spot. Hong Kong’s national security law asserts jurisdiction over anyone in any country – of any nationality – who is deemed to have broken the law even if they have never visited the territory. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, said that between July 2020 and June 2022 content was removed globally 50 times due to Hong Kong laws.
A representative from the DoJ said the ban against “Glory” would be aimed at those trying to incite division or sedition, or to violate national security law, rather than the “world at large”. But the write-up lists 32 YouTube links that could be considered “doubtful”. If granted, tech giants will be forced to choose between global censorship of the song – opening them up to Western criticism – or exposing their Hong Kong offices and staff to raids, or even arrests . The anthem – which ended up on local charts shortly after the composition was recorded – has already disappeared from Apple Music and Spotify. Spotify says it was removed by the artist. ■