Hong Kong will appeal the High Court’s decision to reject its request to wipe a controversial protest song from the city’s internet, a move that could overturn a rare victory for free speech in the city.
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong will appeal the High Court’s decision to reject its request to wipe a controversial protest song from the city’s internet, a move that could overturn a rare victory for free speech in the city.
The city’s justice department said in a statement Monday that it “considered it necessary to appeal” the court’s decision last month to block an interim injunction. That measure would have made it illegal for anyone with criminal intent to perform or broadcast Glory to Hong Kong.
Reiterating that disseminating or distributing the song was a national security crime, the government said in the statement that the injunction was crucial for safeguarding the city.
“The judge handling the appeal will be under extreme pressure to grant the injunction, since the government is signaling that this injunction is a significant priority,” said Thomas Kellogg, an executive director of the Center for Asian Law.
The government’s decision to appeal represents a further politicization of the court system, he added. A court date hasn’t been set to hear the appeal.
If the government exhausts its appeal options in Hong Kong, Chief Executive John Lee could potentially turn to Beijing. Last year, the city leader asked China’s national legislature to intervene after losing a bid in the city’s courts to block media mogul Jimmy Lai from being represented by a UK-based lawyer in a national security trial.
READ MORE: Hong Kong Fails to Bar Protest Song in Surprise Court Ruling
Wiping Glory to Hong Kong from the city’s internet would directly challenge the freedoms that differentiate the former British colony from mainland China. It would also raise the legal risks for Silicon Valley tech giants — from Alphabet Inc. to Apple Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc. — that quit the mainland Chinese market years ago due to onerous censorship demands.
The government’s appeal, which could head to the city’s Court of Appeal, would challenge a surprise defeat to an administration that’s chalked up a string of legal victories against publishers and journalists accused of endangering Chinese national security. Those rulings have had a chilling effect on a once free-wheeling global commercial hub.
Still, several pro-Beijing politicians voiced support for the government’s appeal after it was announced.
Starry Lee, Hong Kong’s sole representative member on China’s top legislative body, said she “firmly supports the country and the SAR government to firmly defend national dignity,” on a Facebook post Monday, referring to Hong Kong as a special administration region.
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