A popular protest song from Hong Kong is no longer available on several music streaming platforms, including Apple Music and Spotify, after the city government issued a court order banning the tune, Nikkei Asia reports.

The song Glory to Hong Kong can’t even be found in Meta’s Instagram audio pictures. For now, the song is only available on YouTube.

Is the performance a mistake?
Authorities in Hong Kong are trying to ban the pro-democracy song after organisers of several international sporting events “mistakenly” performed it instead of China’s national anthem. However, the removal of the song from music platforms comes about a month before the Supreme Court is due to rule on 21 July – a possible example of pre-emptive self-censorship that could set a new precedent.

The reason?
The band DGX Music, which is also the creator of the song, announced that it had encountered technical issues unrelated to the streaming platforms and apologized for the temporary service disruption.

Clues to the crime?
“Glory to Hong Kong” was the unofficial anthem of protesters during the mass demonstrations in 2019. However, after a court found that the lyrics “Free Hong Kong, revolution of our time” could incite a crime under Beijing’s imposed national security law the song became illegal.

Are human rights being violated?
Activist groups said banning the song violates international human rights law and further undermines freedom of expression in the former British colony, which has already blocked access to several websites deemed a threat to national security. The reduction of space for free expression is seen as undermining Hong Kong’s reputation as an international business hub.

“If big platforms like Google decide to leave Hong Kong due to regulatory concerns, it will certainly give Hong Kong a big hit in terms of global investors’ confidence,”

said George Chen, managing director for The Asia Group, a Washington-headquartered business and policy consulting firm.

Charles Mok, a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and a former legislator in Hong Kong, said tech platforms have to take into account geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China. Avoiding potential repercussions from U.S. politicians would be one major factor, he added.

In mainland China, the government maintains complete control over the internet and censorship is widespread.

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