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Hong Kong orders streaming companies to take down protest song. Will they comply?

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Hong Kong's government wants everyone to stop listening to this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLORY TO HONG KONG")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTÍNEZ: It's an anonymously written protest anthem. The current Beijing-appointed leaders of the region say it's seditious and have ordered internet companies to take it down. Now will they comply? Here's NPR's Emily Feng.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: During 2019 demonstrations against Beijing's rule, someone wrote this protest anthem called "Glory To Hong Kong."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLORY TO HONG KONG")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in non-English language)

FENG: And it's become ubiquitous, even accidentally played as Hong Kong's official anthem at some sports matches. So earlier this month, Hong Kong's government filed an injunction seeking to prohibit anyone around the world from performing, sharing or broadcasting this song.

THOMAS KELLOGG: It was truly, breathtakingly broad.

FENG: Thomas Kellogg is a law professor who specializes in China at Georgetown University.

KELLOGG: They truly were seeming to wrap up almost the entire world, and it could target distribution platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and a number of other American companies.

FENG: Of course, enforcement could be difficult. Internet companies like Alphabet, which includes Google, could leave Hong Kong. That's what Google did in mainland China in 2010. It closed down its operations there, and Beijing now blocks all Meta and Alphabet services on the mainland. But...

LOKMAN TSUI: It's a sign of how far the Hong Kong authorities are willing to go to kill just one song.

FENG: That's Lokman Tsui, a fellow at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, an open internet research institute. Already, most versions of "Glory To Hong Kong" have disappeared from Spotify. And Tsui says...

TSUI: Then there's the other sort of unintended - or maybe intended, but consequence of the chilling effect of this injunction and sort of the self-censorship that it leads to.

FENG: For decades, Hong Kong has enjoyed unfettered internet access, unlike mainland China next door. But if the courts approve the government's request, that could be ending.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Taipei.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.