YouTube takes down channel of Hong Kong leader candidate

YouTube has taken down the campaign channel of Hong Kong’s sole candidate to become its next leader, citing compliance with US sanctions imposed against the former number two official.

John Lee had set up a Facebook page and a YouTube channel to promote his campaign, even though he is running uncontested in the election for chief executive on May 8, in which an Election Committee of about 1,500 people will select the city’s leader.

The committee is made up largely of pro-Beijing members, including legislators and representatives of different professions and industries in the city.

Mr Lee, who resigned as chief secretary earlier this month to run in the election, had been livestreaming his meetings with media and political figures in the city on both Facebook and YouTube prior to the termination of his YouTube channel.

He is among a group of top Hong Kong and Beijing officials – including current leader Carrie Lam – who were sanctioned by the US in 2020 for undermining the city’s autonomy and restricting its freedoms following Beijing’s imposition of a tough national security law on the semi-autonomous city.

Google, YouTube’s parent company, said in a statement that it “complies with applicable US sanctions laws and enforces related policies under its Terms of Service”.

“After review and consistent with these policies, we terminated the Johnlee2022 YouTube channel,” it said.

Mr Lee’s campaign office said it was disappointed by the decision.

“The termination reflects the flagrant hegemonic tactics employed by the US government. Imposing the so-called sanction on Mr Lee so as to intimidate him will not in any way affect his strong determination to continue to safeguard national security,” it said in a statement.

“Mr Lee’s election campaign will not be affected by Google’s decision. Mr Lee will continue to use his best efforts to reach out to the public to explain his platform and to hear their views through many different means and channels,” it said.

A spokesperson for Facebook, now called Meta, said Mr Lee will be allowed to “maintain a demonetised presence on Facebook and Instagram, and we have taken steps to prevent the use of payments services”.

His Facebook page remained accessible on Wednesday evening.

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