A Hong Kong court on Wednesday granted a government request to ban a popular pro-democracy anthem, raising further concerns about free speech in the city.

The decision, which overturned an initial ruling, could give the government power to force Google and other tech companies to restrict online access to the song in Hong Kong. The decision threatens to deepen anxiety about the city’s status as an international gateway to China, away from its censorship controls.

At issue in the case is “Glory to Hong Kong,” which emerged in 2019 as an unofficial anthem for democracy protests and a flashpoint for the authorities, who considered it an insult to China’s national anthem. The song has been banned from Hong Kong schools and has drawn angry official rebukes when played, apparently by mistake, at international sports events.

Beijing has asserted greater control over the former British colony in recent years by imposing a national security law that has crushed nearly all forms of dissent. People convicted of posting seditious content online have gone to prison.

Lin Jian, a spokesman of China’s foreign ministry, said in a news briefing that the court’s verdict was a “legitimate and necessary move by Hong Kong to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of safeguarding national security and the dignity of the national anthem.”

In March, the Hong Kong government enacted new security legislation that criminalized offenses like “external interference” and the theft of state secrets, creating potential risks for multinational companies operating in the Asian financial center.

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