Downing Glory: Hong Kong government gets a breakthrough as protest song removed from top music sites globally

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Downing Glory: Hong Kong government gets a breakthrough as protest song removed from top music sites globally

A controversial song made popular during Hong Kong’s 2019 social unrest has been globally removed from several music platforms in an apparent breakthrough for the government after it secured a court order to ban the circulation of the tune earlier this month.

While video-streaming giant YouTube earlier said it would comply with the injunction to block “Glory to Hong Kong” in the city, different versions of the song had remained readily available on the platform and other music-streaming apps.

But the song was no longer available on Apple Music or Spotify on Friday, even with the use of a VPN, indicating the takedown was not limited to Hong Kong. But it was still accessible on Taiwan-based platform KKBox.

Dgxmusic, the production team behind the song, said it had received a notification from Scotland-based digital music distribution service Emubands that it would take down the song from all platforms “due to an injunction order by the Hong Kong court”.

“After we immediately attempted to search on various platforms, it is confirmed that the song had disappeared from iTunes and Apple Music in various regions,” a social media post by Dgxmusic said.

“We have expressed our opposition to Emubands, pointing out that the injunction does not have extraterritorial jurisdiction. More importantly, the song itself is not banned by the injunction.

“We hope to have the song reinstated as soon as possible.”

The Post has reached out to Emubands, Apple Music and Spotify for comment.

The Court of Appeal earlier ruled in favour of the government and granted an interim injunction over the song that authorities sought last year, ruling it had become a “weapon” that could be used to arouse anti-government and ­separatist sentiment.

03:13

Popular protest song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ banned after previous court ruling overturned

Popular protest song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ banned after previous court ruling overturned

The injunction 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, “March of the Volunteers”.

The court document listed YouTube videos of 32 versions of the song that could be found in breach of the intended injunction, including instrumental covers, as well as those sung in Mandarin, English, German, Dutch, Japanese and Korean.

“Glory to Hong Kong”, composed by demonstrators at the height of the anti-government protests five years ago, once topped search results for the query “Hong Kong national anthem” on Google.

The lyrics include the slogan “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”, later deemed by authorities to carry a secessionist meaning in the city’s first national security trial in 2021.

The protest song has been mistakenly played instead of the Chinese national anthem at several major sports events overseas, which prompted the government to urge United States-based Google to ensure “March of the Volunteers” appeared as a top search result for certain keywords.

The talks were unsuccessful and led to the government’s legal move to outlaw the song.

Last week, YouTube, owned by Google, said it had ­complied with the order by ­blocking access to 32 clips for viewers in the city. But searches found that apart from the specified clips, many versions of the song, including those marked as “backup”, were still available.

Lawyer Joshua Chu Kiu-wah, who specialises in technology law, said the injunction did not apply to content hosted outside Hong Kong.

“It is more plausible that Emuband’s recent action was the result of a commercial decision, such as weighing the economic benefits or negotiating a ‘pay to remove’ arrangement, rather than being directly compelled by the Hong Kong injunction order,” he told the Post.

Chu added that the softer, cooperative approach indicated by Hong Kong authorities might have also factored into Emuband’s decision.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said internet service providers had complied with the injunction order and his administration would notify relevant platforms about the court order if it noticed any non-compliance.

Barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who sits on the decision-making Executive Council, last week also suggested the government take a more middle-of-the-road approach in convincing streaming platforms to comply with the court order.

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