Hong Kong | The ban on a song denounced as a form of “paranoia”

The banning by a Hong Kong court of a rallying song which was adopted a few years ago by hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators is part of a long series of repressive measures introduced under pressure from local authorities.

“It shows once again how paranoid the leaders of Hong Kong are,” notes Benedict Rogers, who heads Hong Kong Watch, in an interview., a British organization monitoring human rights developments in the former colony.

The introduction in 2020, at the initiative of Beijing, of a national security law which provides for heavy prison sentences for any act of “sedition” or “collusion with foreigners” made it possible to stifle any dispute, underlines the activist, who fears seeing access to the internet compromised in turn.

“The authorities have always refused to apply to Hong Kong the online censorship applied in mainland China to allow the city to maintain its international veneer, but I fear that things will change there too,” noted Mr. Rogers.

The court having approved the ban on singing Glory to Hong Kong indicated that an injunction was necessary, in particular to convince foreign online platforms like Google to remove all references to the work.

“I hope they don’t comply,” Mr. Rogers said.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a history professor at the University of California at Irvine who closely follows developments in Hong Kong, notes that the ban on the song is part of “a long process of strangling individual freedoms” in the ‘Ancient colony.

He fears, like Mr. Rogers, that the court’s stated desire to influence the content accessible online to Hong Kongers “sends the signal” that the Internet will also be widely censored in the near future as it has been. is elsewhere in China.

A “weapon” against Beijing

The song targeted by the courts was written by a pro-democracy activist in 2019 as the former colony was rocked by a wave of large-scale protests.

The announcement of an extradition project intended to allow the return of suspected criminals to mainland China had ignited the powder. The demands then broadened to the maintenance of fundamental freedoms that Beijing had undertaken to respect for the period of 50 years following the handover of the colony in 1997.

Singing Glory to Hong Kong was sung publicly at the time on numerous occasions, becoming virtually inseparable from the movement.

It includes passages emphasizing the need for the population to rebel and take up arms to ensure the maintenance of democracy.

The Chinese judge responsible for the injunction clarified that the author of the song – an activist known simply by his first name – had wanted to use it as a “weapon” against Beijing and had succeeded in his ends.

The work is “powerful in arousing emotions among certain fractions of society” and had the effect of “justifying and even romanticizing the protests”, underlined the magistrate according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

He specified that its use, apart from for academic or journalistic activities, represented a risk to national security and could not be tolerated.

A “dangerous” ban

A trial judge ruled otherwise in July, arguing that the injunction risked having limited effectiveness and would raise serious questions of freedom of expression.

The appeal decision shows that the “Hong Kong courts have lost all form of independence”, judge Benedict Rogers, who has for years denounced the pressure exerted by Beijing on the former colony.

The Chinese government, for its part, welcomed the judgment, arguing that it was indeed “necessary” to ensure lasting calm in Hong Kong.

The adoption of the national security law made it possible to quickly quell the demonstrations and led to the arrest of numerous activists.

Several leaders of the movement had gone into exile abroad for fear of reprisals from the authorities, who in recent years have attacked numerous journalists and media while censoring a long list of works.

Amnesty International’s China director, Sarah Brooks, said Wednesday that the court’s decision represented a “ridiculous” and “dangerous” ban and a further illustration of Beijing’s desire to flout its human rights commitments. person.

Singing a song should never be a crime.

Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International China Director

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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