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Hong Kong protest anthem removed by distributor after court injunction

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A Hong Kong protest anthem was removed by a UK digital music distributor from streaming platforms on Friday following a court injunction in the Chinese territory, the music creators said, as judges warned that dissidents could use the song against the state.

Chinese and Hong Kong flags are seen at the waterfront during a foggy day in Hong Kong, Reuters/Tyrone Siu

A Hong Kong protest anthem was removed by a UK digital music distributor from streaming platforms on Friday following a court injunction in the Chinese territory, the music creators said, as judges warned that dissidents could use the song against the state.

DGX Music, a group of mostly anonymous musicians, said on Friday that EmuBands notified it that "Glory to Hong Kong" would be taken down from all platforms, including iTunes and Apple Music, due to the injunction.

"We have expressed our opposition to EmuBands, pointing out that the injunction does not have extraterritorial jurisdiction," DGX Music said on Instagram. "More importantly, the song itself is not banned by the injunction."

DGX Music hopes to have the song back in distribution as soon as possible, it added.

EmuBands, based in Glasgow, Scotland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Glory to Hong Kong" was written in 2019 during widespread pro-democracy protests, becoming an unofficial alternative anthem to China's "March of the Volunteers." Hong Kong has no official anthem.

Hong Kong's Court of Appeal on May 8 granted an application by the government to outlaw the song, overturning a lower court judgment that had rejected such a ban because of its possible "chilling effects" on free speech.

YouTube, part of Mountain View-based Alphabet in California, has geoblocked banned videos for viewers in Hong Kong since mid-May.

The government will continue to monitor the situation for any non-compliance with the court order, Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee said on Tuesday. "If we notice such instances, then we will notify the platform of the contents of the court order."

The U.S. government has said the ban will further undermine Hong Kong's international reputation as a financial hub. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that stopping the song's spread was necessary for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.

The injunction has no extraterritorial effect, said Eric Lai, a fellow with the Center for Asian Law at Georgetown University, in an interview. "Indeed the court ruling didn't impose a blanket ban on the song. It allows exemptions to journalistic and academic activities."

"A blanket ban or removal cannot help enforce the exemptions of the ruling," Lai added.

Lokman Tsui, a fellow at the Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, said the Hong Kong government has pressured companies to censor a song around the world, "just because they feel it's embarrassing them."

By Jessie Pang

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