World (AP)

Hong Kong court to decide whether to ban broadcast and distribution of protest song | AP News

Hong Kong court to decide whether to ban broadcast and distribution of protest song | AP News

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong court will hand down a closely-watched decision over whether to ban the broadcast and distribution of “Glory to Hong Kong,” a protest song after the government asked it to do so in the name of national security.

The song was written during the 2019 anti-government protests and its lyrics call for democracy and liberty. But it has been mistakenly played at several international sporting events instead of China’s national anthem, “March of the Volunteers.” The decision is expected next Friday.

Critics worry a ban will further shrink the city’s freedom of expression, which has become increasingly threadbare under Beijing’s crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement — and pose challenges to the operations of tech giants.

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Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and was promised it could keep its Western-style civil liberties intact for 50 years after the handover. But the openness and freedoms that were once hallmarks of the city have been eroding following the enactment of a Beijing-imposed national security law and other political changes.

Last month, the government sought an injunction to target anyone who uses the song to advocate for the separation of Hong Kong from China. It also wanted to prohibit actions that use the song to incite others to commit secession and to insult the national anthem, including such acts carried out online.

During a hearing Friday, Judge Anthony Chan heard arguments surrounding the potential ban, including the utility of the order, before reserving his judgement until next week.

Benjamin Yu, a lawyer who represented the government, highlighted the national security risks the song could trigger and suggested an order in favor of the government would make a material difference.

He pointed to the effectiveness of the injunction orders handed down to prevent protesters to disrupt the operations of the airport and railway network at the height of the 2019 movement.

But lawyer Abraham Chan, who provided arguments to assist the court but not representing anyone in the case, said the national security law already existed, questioning why a civil order would work more effectively. Imposing the ban could be potentially counter-productive, he added.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association on Tuesday said the government agreed not to cover any lawful journalistic activities in relation to the song under its proposed ban after accepting the association’s suggestion.

The Hong Kong government has tried to push Google to display China’s national anthem as the top result in searches for the city’s anthem — instead of the song — but to no avail.

Google told the government to present a court order proving the song violated local laws before it could be removed, according to Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong. The government therefore decided to deal with the matter by legal means, he said in an interview with a local broadcaster. Google did not immediately reply to a request for comment.