Pro-democracy protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong has disappeared from the Apple and Spotify streaming sites, ahead of a government bid to ban all forms of the song, and its derivatives.

Update: Spotify says distributor removed ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ from platform

The song – associated with the 2019 protests and unrest – dominated the Apple iTunes charts last week after the government sought legal injunctions to ban “unlawful acts” relating to the song, its melody, lyrics and all derivations.

Screenshot of search results for Glory to Hong Kong. photo: Screenshot
Screenshot of search results for Glory to Hong Kong in Chinese. photo: Screenshot

A search for “Glory to Hong Kong” in Chinese on Apple Music on Wednesday showed only a version of the song in Hokkien by The Chairman – a Taiwanese rock band. An English-language search only showed a Vietnamese rendition, whilst the search result for the original song’s creator – “Thomas DGX YHL” – yielded a blank page.

Entries for the song on Spotify were unplayable on Wednesday, though it is unclear if the two streaming platforms – or the composer – pulled the song.

Glory to Hong Kong
Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Different variations of Glory to Hong Kong still exist on Google’s YouTube, including an English version, a Korean version, a choral version, and a version that compiles performances of the song from different countries – all uploaded by Dgx music, the original creator’s channel.

Dozens more clips, including recordings of musicians and buskers’ performances of the song, commentary videos, and news reports are still on the streaming platform. A total of 11 variations uploaded by “Thomas DGX and the Hongkongers” can still be accessed on Taiwan-based streaming service KKBox.

Recordings of the song can still be found on Soundcloud.

Meta, Google, Soundcloud and other streaming platforms did not respond to HKFP’s request for comment. HKFP has contacted Spotify and Apple. Twitter responded to enquiries with a “poop” emoji.

‘Seditious intent’

Last Monday, the government submitted a writ detailing the proposed restrictions in the hope of obtaining an interim injunction and injunction. It has also called on those who object to the application to file their grounds of opposition within seven days of obtaining copies of relevant documents.

The government’s writ seeks to ban the “broadcasting, performing, printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, disseminating, displaying or reproducing [Glory to Hong Kong],” including on the internet, with a secessionist or seditious intent, or with intent to violate the national anthem law. Anyone who assists others to commit such acts relating to the song would also be liable.

Glory to Hong Kong Spotify
This screenshot dated June 7, 2023 shows the “Glory to Hong Kong” album on streaming platform Spotify before it disappeared. Photo: Screenshot.

This Monday, the Court of First Instance adjourned the hearing to deal with the Department of Justice’s application until July 21.

A data scientist told HKFP this week that it is too early to tell if a ban would lead to Google, or other tech firms, leaving the city.

It is not the first time Apple has appeared to take action over content it hosted amid government criticism. In October 2019, when the city saw a wave of anti-extradition protests, a crowdsourced, volunteer-run protest map was removed by Apple from its app store. The tech giant in a statement said that the map had been used “in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong,” and to “target and ambush police, [and] threaten public safety.”

It came a day after Chinese state-backed media outlet People’s Daily slammed Apple for supporting pro-democracy protesters.

Anthem mix-ups

The months-long anthem saga began last November, when the protest song was heard at a Rugby Sevens game in South Korea after an intern reportedly downloaded it from the internet.

Similar mix-ups occurred at international sporting finals, including at a prizegiving ceremony of a weightlifting championship in Dubai and most recently at a February ice hockey game in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Ice Hockey Match Hong Kong Iran National anthem blunder
The protest song Glory to Hong Kong was heard instead of China’s Marches of the People during an ice hockey match between Hong Kong and Iran on February 28. Photo: Screenshot, via Hokejaški Savez Bosne i Hercegovine.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Hong Kong’s national anthem law is China’s March of the Volunteers.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.