Google has a “moral obligation” to stop a democracy protest song appearing in search results, Hong Kong’s leader said Tuesday, as row over China’s national anthem widened to include the tech giant.

Hong Kong officials have been infuriated by a series of mistakes at international sporting events in recent weeks when a protest song has been played instead of China’s national anthem for the city’s athletes.

Their ire has increasingly focused on Google after it emerged that the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong” routinely appears at the top of the page when people search for Hong Kong’s anthem.

City leader John Lee told reporters on Tuesday that Google should ensure China’s national anthem — which the city’s athletes compete under — comes at the top of the search page. 

“If any company is in anyway responsible, it has that moral obligation,” he said. 

“There are ways to do it,” Lee added.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on October 25, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Lee’s comments came a day after Hong Kong’s security chief Chris Tang said Google had refused to change the search results, something he said was an issue of “great regret”. 

According to Tang, a former police chief, Google said its search engine results were governed by an algorithm, not human input.

Both Tang and Lee have countered that Google has been willing to amend search results to abide by local laws, including privacy laws in the European Union.

Lee said his administration would reach out again to Google to pursue the matter.

Google has not yet responded to requests for comment.

When HKFP searched for “Hong Kong national anthem” in English using incognito browsing mode on Tuesday, the top result was the Wikipedia page for Glory to Hong Kong.

China’s national anthem is “March of the Volunteers”, a rousing song born out of the Communist Party’s struggle to liberate the country from Japanese occupation.

“Glory to Hong Kong” was penned during huge protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019 and became hugely popular within the city.

It is now all but illegal to sing the song or play its melody under a sweeping national security law that was imposed to crush those protests.

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