Hong Kong moves to ban protest song mistaken for national anthem

Government cites ‘national security’ as it moves to ban popular Glory to Hong Kong song, from the 2019 protests.

People hold up their hands as they sing 'Glory to Hong Kong' in a shopping mall in 2019
Pro-democracy protesters gather to for a singing rally of Glory to Hong Kong at shopping mall in September 2019 [File: Philip Fong/AFP]

Hong Kong has gone to court to ban the song Glory to Hong Kong, which became the unofficial anthem of the 2019 mass protests and has been played in error at several sporting events since instead of China’s national anthem.

Hong Kong’s Department of Justice said it had applied for the court order to ban the performance, broadcast, sale or distribution of the song – including on the internet – on national security grounds because it had been “mistakenly presented” as the territory’s national anthem “repeatedly”.

As a Chinese territory, Hong Kong does not have its own national anthem but China’s March of the Volunteers.

“This has not only insulted the national anthem but also caused serious damage to the country and the HKSAR,” it said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to Hong Kong’s official name – the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The court order would mean anyone engaging with the song could be prosecuted for “secession” under the National Security Law, which was imposed in 2020, or the colonial-era sedition law.

The composer of Glory to Hong Kong remains anonymous but the Cantonese-language song emerged as a rallying call during the 2019 protests with the lyrics “break now the dawn, liberate our Hong Kong; in common breath, revolution of our times”, which echoed the protesters calls for change.

The song was played for a perplexed Hong Kong team at a rugby tournament in South Korea last November. It was also played at an international ice hockey match and at an Asian powerlifting event.

Sarah Brooks, the head of Amnesty International’s China team, called the latest move “absurd”.

“The Hong Kong government must end its increasingly fervent crackdown on freedom of expression,” Brooks said in a statement. “A song is not a threat to national security, and national security may not be used as an excuse to deny people the right to express different political views.”

The Hong Kong authorities have also called on Google to remove Glory to Hong Kong from its search results but the technology firm has refused to comply.

Source: Al Jazeera