Hong Kong court rejects government ban on protest song

Demonstrators widely sang and played the anthem during pro-democracy protests in 2019

The song has Cantonese lyrics and urges people to assert their freedom (photo: Kin Cheung/AP/dpa/picture alliance)
The song has Cantonese lyrics and urges people to assert their freedom (photo: Kin Cheung/AP/dpa/picture alliance)


Hong Kong's High Court on Friday "declined to grant" a government injunction to ban the protest song "Glory to Hong Kong," saying it might undermine freedom of expression.

Demonstrators widely sang and played the anthem during pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Why was there an injunction request?

Authorities had deemed the song seditious after China imposed a national security law to crack down on dissent in the former British territory.

However, Hong Kong officials lodged the injunction bid after the music — which appeared as a top search engine result for the city's anthem — was mistakenly played at several international events, including rugby and ice hockey competitions.

Hong Kong's government has pressured Google to display China's national anthem as the top result in searches for Hong Kong's anthem instead of the song, but without success.

Google said it would only remove the song if the government presented a court order proving it violated local laws.

The government said the lyrics contained a slogan that could constitute a call for secession.

"Glory to Hong Kong" emerged in August 2019 amid massive and sometimes violent democracy demonstrations that saw millions protest to demand political freedoms.

It features Cantonese lyrics that call upon people to "break now the dawn, liberate our Hong Kong; in common breath, revolution of our times."

The injunction would have banned the song from being disseminated or performed "with the intention of inciting others to commit secession or with a seditious intent."

What did the court say?

Judge Anthony Chan said in his ruling that banning "Glory to Hong Kong" would raise serious freedom of expression issues.

 "I cannot be satisfied that it is just and convenient to grant the injunction," said Judge Anthony Chan in his ruling. "This application is accordingly dismissed."

"I believe that the intrusion to freedom of expression here, especially to innocent third parties, is what is referred to in public law as 'chilling effects,'" he wrote.

"Whilst I entirely accept that no chilling effect is intended behind the injunction, it is the duty of the Court to keep in mind that there is a whole spectrum of Hong Kong people" with varying degrees of knowledge about the injunction, Chan explained.

A proposed extradition law allowing authorities to send Hong Kong criminal suspects to the mainland for trial sparked the 2019 protests.

The government withdrew that bill, but the protesters widened their demands to urge direct elections for the city's leaders and accountability on the part of police.

In 2020, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at quelling political dissent.

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