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Hong Kong: ‘Absurd’ attempt to ban protest song a clear violation of international law


Responding to the Hong Kong government’s bid to seek a court order to prohibit people from singing, broadcasting or distributing the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong”, the Head of Amnesty International’s China Team, Sarah Brooks, said:

“The Hong Kong government’s absurd campaign to outlaw a song shows just how little respect it has for human rights.

“Banning ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ would be in clear contradiction of international human rights law and standards, despite the government falsely claiming that such a move would be consistent with the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and international human rights treaties binding on Hong Kong.

“It is a further concern that the government has tried to justify the banning request by referring to the deeply problematic National Security Law. Under international human rights standards, expression cannot be punished on national security grounds unless the authorities demonstrate an intention ‘to incite imminent violence’. The singing, broadcasting or distributing of ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ – whether in a school, on a street, in a shopping centre, or as an anthem in a sports stadium – patently does not meet this threshold.

“The Hong Kong government must end its increasingly fervent crackdown on freedom of expression. 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.”


Hong Kong’s Department of Justice said on Tuesday 6 June that it seeks to ban the “broadcasting, performing, printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, disseminating, displaying or reproducing in any way” of the song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’, which gained particular prominence during 2019 mass protests in the city.

The song’s lyrics and melody would also be banned. A protest slogan that also appears in the song, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” is already banned under the National Security Law as it has been deemed a call for “secession”.

On Tuesday, the government said people who engage with the song in any of the ways described could be prosecuted either under a colonial-era “sedition” law or charged with “secession” under the National Security Law, the latter potentially leading to life imprisonment. Since 2020, the government has increasingly used the overly broad “sedition” charge to crack down on legitimate expression.

‘Glory to Hong Kong’ has been played in place of Hong Kong’s national anthem at some recent sporting events involving teams or athletes representing the territory. Hong Kong’s official national anthem is the Chinese national anthem, ‘March of the Volunteers’.

UN human rights independent experts have repeatedly expressed concerns about the expansive definition of Hong Kong’s National Security Law and its arbitrary application.

The UN Human Rights Committee, in its July 2022 review of the Hong Kong government’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN human rights treaty binding on Hong Kong, noted the undue restrictions on a wide range of rights facilitated by the National Security Law and recommended repealing the National Security Law and sedition provisions under the Crimes Ordinance. 

According to international human rights standards, neither peaceful advocacy for a change in government or government policy, nor criticism or even insult to a state’s institutions or its symbols, must be prohibited on national security grounds.

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