Hong Kong should take middle-of-road approach in convincing tech giants to enforce protest song ban, adviser says

Hong Kong should guard against creating the impression that an inclusive society is being disregarded in the interests of national security if authorities step up efforts to curb the spread of a protest song despite Google’s compliance with an injunction, a government adviser has cautioned.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a member of the key decision-making Executive Council, was speaking on Thursday, a day after the tech giant blocked Hong Kong users from accessing 32 videos of “Glory to Hong Kong” on YouTube following the court order. But some versions remained accessible on the site, as did others on other music streaming services Apple Music, Spotify and KKBox.

Speaking to the Post, Tong said Google’s compliance reflected that the Hong Kong government’s injunction order served a “basic purpose” that was to “let all service providers know the law is not on their side”.

Tong, also a senior counsel, advised the government to adopt a “middle-of-the-road approach” in persuading platforms to recognise the merits of the injunction. He suggested that dialogue would be more effective than legal disputes in addressing the issue.

“Under ‘one country, two systems’, we must be careful not to give people the impression that we are neglecting Hong Kong’s status as an inclusive society while safeguarding national security,” Tong said, referring to the principle governing ties between the city and the central government. “After all, you can never eliminate [this song] from the whole world.”

Ronny Tong, also a senior counsel, has advised the government to adopt a “middle-of-the-road approach” in persuading platforms to recognise the merits of the injunction. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

The injunction’s lack of usefulness was one of the reasons cited by Justice Anthony Chan Kin-keung of the High Court as he dismissed the government’s initial bid for the order.

The Court of Appeal last week ruled in favour of the government and granted the interim injunction. Links to the 32 YouTube clips were listed in a schedule attached to the government’s initial application filed last June.

The Asia Internet Coalition, whose members include Spotify and Apple, said last week it was assessing the order’s implications to “determine its impact on businesses”. It said on Thursday it had no further comment on the matter.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, the honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, urged the government not to dwell on the issue any longer.

He added that global internet giants were unlikely to block all search results for the song because such a move would also restrict access to news content, which is explicitly exempted by the court order.

The order bans people from “broadcasting, performing, printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, disseminating, displaying or reproducing [the song] in any way” with the intention to incite others to separate Hong Kong from the rest of the country, commit a seditious act or insult the national anthem.

George Chen, co-chair of digital practice at Washington-based consultancy The Asia Group, said the government needed to minimise the so-called chilling effect in enforcing the order, otherwise outsiders might form the perception the city was increasingly restricting internet freedoms.

He also urged the government to focus more on public education instead of removing content.


“Platforms are just tools. It’s like you buy a knife and the knife is the tool. You can use a knife to cook or you can stab people,” said Chen, who is also Meta’s former head of public policy for Greater China.

“The government should focus more on how to build more mutual trust with its people and let the people make their own calls on what they can share or say and why some content now hits the limit of free speech in Hong Kong.”


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