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Chinese officials slam YouTube for deleting account of Hong Kong’s expected next leader


YouTube said it suspended the official campaign channel of John Lee, the only candidate to become Hong Kong’s next chief executive, Wednesday. Google (GOOGL)owner of the platform, said it was simply complying with US sanctions.

A Google spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday that it had “terminated the YouTube channel Johnlee2022” after reviewing US laws and YouTube’s Terms of Service. He did not specify.

On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry accused “certain American companies” of being “political tools” for the US government, saying the US had “malicious” intentions to “disrupt” the Hong Kong election.

“No pressure or sabotage ploy can affect the smooth running of the Chief Executive election or curb the overwhelming trend of a return from chaos to stability in Hong Kong,” said Wang Wenbin, chief executive. word of the ministry, to the journalists questioned on the subject during a press briefing. .

In a statement Thursday evening, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government also said he expressed “strong opposition” to an American “social media company” regarding the removal of Lee’s campaign channel.

The government “and all sectors of society have firmly opposed and expressed their extreme outrage at any form of interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong by foreign forces”, which include issues related to the election by the city of its next ruler, the spokesperson added.

Google declined to comment on official Chinese objections on Friday.

In 2020, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on nearly a dozen Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials – including Lee – for their involvement in introducing a new national security law in the city. .

The legislation – which has been hugely controversial – prohibits any activity that Beijing considers to constitute secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, and allows Chinese state security to operate in the territory.

Lee, a former police officer who rose through the ranks to become the city’s chief security officer and then its chief secretary, the second-highest political post, addressed YouTube’s restriction against him on Wednesday.

“I’m disappointed that I can’t use the platform, but it won’t affect my campaign and outreach efforts,” he told reporters.

Lee also mocked the penalties, calling them “unreasonable” and “an act of intimidation.”

Asked if he would penalize companies that comply with US sanctions, such as Google, if he becomes chief executive, Lee said he would “act according to Hong Kong law.”

Restrictions on Facebook

YouTube’s decision has raised questions about whether the politician will also be cut off from other Western social networks.

On Wednesday, Meta addressed the issue, saying Lee could stay on his platforms, Facebook (Facebook) and Instagram, but would not be allowed to use their advertising tools.

Lee “may maintain a demonetized presence on Facebook and Instagram, and we have taken steps to prevent the use of payment services,” the social media giant said in a statement, adding that “as an American company , we operate under the constraints of the United States”. laws, which vary according to the circumstances”.

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“If we identify accounts maintained by or on behalf of individuals on the U.S. government’s Specially Designated Nationals List, we have a legal obligation to take certain action,” he said, referring to a list of individuals sanctioned by Washington.

The Hong Kong government spokesman said on Thursday that “the so-called ‘sanctions’ imposed by the United States are a gross interference in the internal affairs of the People’s Republic of China.”

He added that the government was opposed to any action that could undermine “the freedoms of expression and dissemination of information, as well as the fairness and impartiality of the Internet”.

Lee is set to be chosen as Hong Kong’s next leader by a largely pro-Beijing committee of lawmakers and industry representatives on May 8.


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