China’s Foreign Ministry has called out the United States’ “hypocrisy and double standard” after Google took down a Beijing-backed Hong Kong chief executive candidate’s YouTube channel.
John Lee Ka-chiu’s campaign office was reportedly informed by Google about the removal of Lee’s YouTube campaign channel in compliance with U.S. sanctions on Wednesday.
In a statement, Tam Yiu-chung, head of Lee’s campaign office, said the action was “very regrettable and completely unreasonable, but we think they can’t stop us from spreading our candidate’s message – our campaign’s message – to the public.”
Washington imposed sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials, including Lee, due to their roles in the gradual decimation of the city’s and political freedoms after passing China’s national security law in 2020. Lee was the security minister at the time and was promoted to chief secretary, the second-highest-ranking position in the city’s government, afterward.
The U.S. blocked the American assets of officials such as Lee and Chief Executive Carrie Lam. American businesses are prohibited from conducting transactions with them as part of the sanctions against them.
Lee, a police officer-turned-politician, is the only Beijing-backed chief executive candidate approved to run for the upcoming May 8 election. The last time a sole candidate ran for the position was during the 1997 handover.
In a statement on Thursday, Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin accused the U.S. of interfering with Hong Kong’s internal affairs by “using different excuses” and of having “evil intentions in destroying Hong Kong’s chief executive election,” adding that Google was complicit.
“It is completely wrong and unreasonable. We firmly oppose this,” Wang said.
The Hong Kong government also echoed Wang’s statement by opposing Google’s removal of Lee’s YouTube channel.
“[The government] expresses extreme outrage at any form of interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong by foreign forces, which includes affecting the smooth holding of the chief executive election through undermining the freedoms of speech and of information dissemination, as well as the fairness and impartiality of the internet,” a spokesperson said.
Bernard Chan, Lam’s top advisor, said the removal of Lee’s YouTube campaign channel was “unfortunate” and an “isolated incident,” adding that “these channels felt helpless, involuntary too, amid international political wrestling.”
Lee claimed to be “unfazed,” seeing the recent removal as something that “galvanized him to soldier on in his campaign for the May 8 election by a 1,454-member group of voters.”
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Lee asked the public to leave messages on his Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp about their suggestions for the future of the city.