Hong Kong: Tech companies must challenge protest song injunction

Hong Kong: Tech companies must challenge protest song injunction - Digital

Thousands gather at Hong Kong Stadium to sing the anthem before a World Cup qualifying game, 2019. Photo credit: Studio Incendo/ Wikimedia Commons


On 20 June 2023, ARTICLE 19, Human Rights Watch, and 22 other human rights and digital rights organisations sent an open letter to the heads of Apple, Google, Meta, Twitter, and Spotify, asking them to file a legal appeal with the High Court of Hong Kong opposing a potential injunction against the broadcasting and distribution of the 2019 protest song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’. If the Court upholds the government’s request for an injunction, it would bar tech companies from hosting the song on their platforms, with potential penalties for non-compliance. The measure would effectively censor the song and be a breach of intermediary liability principles, a cornerstone of internet freedom. Due to the vague, overbroad, and extraterritorial nature of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, used as the basis for seeking the injunction, there are further serious concerns about how the potential injunction could apply to global censorship.

Dear Daniel Ek, CEO, Spotify; Tim Cook, CEO, Apple Inc; Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet Inc and Google LLC; Linda Yaccarino, CEO, Twitter Inc; and Mark Zuckerburg, CEO and Chairperson of Meta Platforms Inc:

Re: Hong Kong injunction seeking to ban ‘Glory to Hong Kong’

We are writing to you on behalf of more than 24 civil society organisations regarding a legal injunction being sought by the Hong Kong government that would effectively ban intermediaries from broadcasting or distributing online, including on YouTube, the 2019 protest song, ‘Glory to Hong Kong’.  

The Hong Kong High Court has summoned all parties to the case to provide their views before the court on 21 July, 2023. We urge you to intervene to oppose the injunction, which would have a disastrous impact on the rights to freedom of expression and access to information not only in Hong Kong, but globally. 

The injunction, if ordered by the court, would prohibit anyone from ‘[b]roadcasting, performing, printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, disseminating, displaying or reproducing in any way’ the song and its lyrics ‘with the intent of…inciting others to commit secession,’ ‘with a seditious intention,’ or ‘in such a way…as to be likely to be mistaken as the national anthem’ of Hong Kong,  ‘suggest that the [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] is an independent state… with intent to insult the national anthem’. The injunction would apply to ‘any internet-based platform or medium’ and its global operations. 

The definitions of these actions are overly broad and vague. Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law makes it a criminal offence to advocate secession from China by committing various acts that do not involve ‘force or threat of force’, including peaceful actions, such as speeches or even songs. The Crimes Ordinance defines ‘sedition‘ in overbroad terms and provides a low threshold for conviction as long as the court is satisfied that a speech or publication intends to cause ‘hatred or contempt’ against the government, ‘raise discontent’ or ‘promote feelings of ill-will’ among Hong Kong residents. Since 2020, the Hong Kong government has used these laws to criminalise dissent and violate the right to freedom of expression of people in Hong Kong. In September 2022, a man was arrested for ‘sedition’ for playing ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ on a harmonica in Hong Kong.

We note with heightened concern that this injunction would be used to censor ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ globally, building on the growing tendency of Hong Kong authorities to apply abusive laws for actions committed outside Hong Kong’s territory. In June 2023, Hong Kong authorities charged a 23-year-old Hong Kong woman with ‘doing…acts with seditious intention’ for Facebook posts that advocate Hong Kong independence while she was studying in Japan. The Hong Kong government was responsible for 50 instances in which Meta said it was forced to remove content globally between July 2020 and June 2022.  

We note that in Canada and the United States, Google opposed a global content removal injunction in Google v. Equustek Solutions Inc. 

We urge you to take similar actions in Hong Kong and oppose the Hong Kong government’s petition for an injunction by visiting Wan Chai Police Station in Hong Kong on or before 21 June to accept service, and then file an opposition within seven days. It is critical that internet intermediaries take a collective stance against Hong Kong’s censorship. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, which affects the rights of freedom of expression and access to information around the world. 



Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU)

Chicago Solidarity with Hong Kong

Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation)

DC4HK (Washingtonians Supporting Hong Kong)

Dialogue China

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Freiheit für Hongkong e.V.

Georgetown Center for Asian Law

Hong Kong Affairs Association of Berkeley (HKAAB)

Hong Kong Democracy Council

Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles

Hong Kongers in San Diego

Hong Kongers in San Francisco Bay Area

Hong Kong Professional Network

Hong Kong Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Judicial Reform Foundation

PEN America

Penn State Students For Hong Kong Representative


Safeguard Defenders


Torontonian HongKongers Action Group (THKAG)

We The Hongkongers


View the letter in PDF