A Hong Kong judge on Monday postponed a decision on a petition to ban online distribution of popular pro-democracy protest songs in a lawsuit that could further challenge the way tech companies operate on Chinese territory.
The judge set another hearing for July 21 after asking the government to be more specific about the scope of the request.
Hong Kong authorities crack down on anything deemed a threat to national security, subjecting individuals to arrest and prosecution.
The song at issue at Monday’s court hearing is:Glory to Hong Kong,has become a particular flashpoint for the government because it is seen as the national anthem of protests against China’s campaign to suppress political dissent in former British colonies.
The government filed a court petition last week, alleging that “Glory to Hong Kong” was used to “insult” the Chinese national anthem. The filing contained 32 links to the song on YouTube, although the defendant’s name was not disclosed.And in December, Hong Kong authorities criticized Google showing the protest song under the search results for the Hong Kong national anthem.
On Monday, Hong Kong High Court Judge Wilson Chan pressed government representatives on a number of points, including clarifying the types of defendants to which the petition applies.
“The judge was trying to see if some basics would be met if he was going to grant the injunction today,” said Kevin Yam, a senior fellow at the Center for Asian Law at Georgetown University in Melbourne, Australia. Stated.
It remains to be seen how the incident will affect the business operations of tech companies in Hong Kong.
Google and Meta established offices in Hong Kong over ten years ago and now each have up to several hundred employees in Hong Kong. Twitter opened an office in 2015 but closed two years later. There are no more employees in the city.
The two companies may use a common technique known as geoblocking if they are forced to remove links related to the song from their online platforms for Hong Kong users, said former Meta’s Greater China. Public Policy Officer and Managing Director George Cheng said. A member of the Asia Group, a Washington-based consulting firm.
Google’s parent company Alphabet declined to comment. Meta did not respond to a request for comment.
When Hong Kong passed a wide range of legislation in 2020, tensions began to rise between tech companies and Hong Kong authorities. national security law Its purpose is to eradicate opposition to the ruling Communist Party. Monday’s case was not formally filed under the national security law, but the government last week cited it as a reason why the court should grant the request.
Since the law was passed, there has been a surge in requests by authorities to remove content from the internet.Hong Kong authorities sought exclusion 183 cases Requests from services such as YouTube and Google Search will reach their first peak in a decade in the second half of 2022, Google said, largely due to an overall increase in national security-related requests. The company declined about half of those requests.
Joy Don Contributed to a report from Hong Kong.