HONG KONG (Reuters) – YouTube blocked the account of Hong Kong’s sole leadership candidate John Lee on Wednesday as part of US sanctions against the city’s former No. 2 official who said the move will not affect his bid to lead the financial hub for the next five years.
Alphabet, which owns YouTube, said on Wednesday it had taken down Lee’s campaign account to comply with US sanction laws as he prepares for a leadership election on May 8.
Separately, Facebook owner Meta Platforms said that while Lee can keep “demonetized presences” on Facebook and Instagram, it had taken steps to prevent use of payments services. Lee’s Facebook page was still visible on Wednesday.
Lee, a former deputy commissioner of police and security secretary, was sanctioned along with other Hong Kong and Chinese officials for what Washington described as their role in curbing city’s freedoms under a sweeping national security law Beijing imposed on the city in 2020.
Authorities in Hong Kong and China say the legislation was necessary to restore stability following widespread anti-government protests in 2019.
“Those so-called sanctions on me are unreasonable, are bullying, are intentionally pressuring, trying to force me to be hesitant. But as I’ve repeatedly stressed, this unreasonable behaviour will only make me convinced that I’m doing the right thing,” Lee said at a media briefing.
“With regards to some (social) media (platforms) which I will have no access to, I feel disappointed but this will not affect my election effort.”
Lee is seeking to replace Chief Executive Carrie Lam who will step down on June 30 after governing the city through a period of unprecedented anti-government protests and COVID-19.
Google told Reuters in an emailed statement: “Google 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.”
Lee is backed by the central government in Beijing and is expected to announce his policy platform later this month, media reports said.
Lee has secured 786 nominations from the 1,500 members of the election committee in charge of selecting Hong Kong’s new leader, higher than the 188 nominations required to run.
A former career police officer, Lee is widely expected to prioritise security issues if he gets the top job, having previously urged new legislation to fully implement a sweeping national security law Beijing imposed on the city in 2020.
(By Josh Ye and Clare Jim; Reporting by Josh Ye and Clare Jim; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Vinay Dwivedi)