YouTube blocks account of Hong Kong’s only leadership candidate

John Lee, Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary for Administration and candidate for the Chief Executive Election, leaves at the Election Affairs Office after submitting his candidacy, in Hong Kong, China April 13, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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  • Campaign channel removed to comply with US sanctions
  • Lee is Hong Kong’s only leadership candidate
  • A former security official is under US sanctions
  • Has the support of Beijing

HONG KONG, April 20 (Reuters) – YouTube on Wednesday blocked the account of Hong Kong’s only presidential candidate, John Lee, over U.S. sanctions against him, while Facebook owner Meta said that he could keep his account but not use the payment services.

The move, which does not affect his chances of getting a job, follows the imposition of US sanctions on Lee and other Hong Kong and Chinese officials in 2020 for what Washington said was their role in the restriction of the city’s freedoms under a national security law imposed by Beijing. in June this year.

YouTube owner Alphabet Inc said it deleted Lee’s campaign account to comply with US sanctions laws as the former Hong Kong security chief and No. 2 official prepares for a leadership election on May 8.

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“Google complies with applicable United States sanctions laws and enforces related policies as part of its Terms of Service. After review and in accordance with these policies, we have terminated the Johnlee2022 YouTube channel,” the company said. in an email response to Reuters.

Separately, Facebook owner Meta Platforms (FB.O) said that while Lee may maintain “demonetized presences” on Facebook and Instagram, he has taken steps to prevent the use of payment services. Lee’s Facebook page was still visible on Wednesday.

‘INTIMIDATION’

Lee, a former deputy police commissioner, said the blocking would not affect his uncontested bid to lead Hong Kong for the next five years.

“These so-called sanctions against me are unreasonable, intimidating, exerting intentional pressure, trying to force me to hesitate. But as I have repeatedly stressed, this unreasonable behavior will only convince me that I am doing the right thing. “, said Lee during a press briefing.

“As for some (social) media (platforms) that I won’t have access to, I’m disappointed but it won’t affect my election efforts.”

While the internet in mainland China is heavily censored and access to foreign social media platforms and many news sites is blocked, Hong Kong enjoys more freedoms under the “one country, two systems” framework. agreed when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Critics of the Hong Kong government say these freedoms are being eroded by Beijing, which authorities deny.

Lee, who has support from Beijing, aims to replace Chief Executive Carrie Lam who will step down on June 30 after governing the city during a period of unprecedented anti-government protests and COVID-19.

He is expected to announce his policy platform this month, according to media reports.

Lee picked nearly 150 heavyweights, including the city’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, and other powerful businessmen and politicians, to join his team of advisers in a bid to show a broad support for his candidacy.

A former career police officer, Lee is expected to prioritize security issues if he gets the top job, after pushing for new legislation to fully implement Beijing’s sweeping national security law.

Authorities in Hong Kong and China say legislation was needed to restore stability after widespread anti-government protests in 2019.

Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, it has had four chief executives, all of whom have struggled to balance the democratic aspirations of some residents with the vision of China’s communist rulers.

The four leaders were backed by China and were chosen by an “election committee” made up of Beijing loyalists.

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Reporting by Josh Ye and Clare Jim, additional reporting by Alun John; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree, Vinay Dwivedi and Gareth Jones

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