YouTube Shuts Down Channel of Future Hong Kong Leader

YouTube Shuts Down Channel of Future Hong Kong Leader
The tech giant claimed it was following U.S. sanction rules as it shut down John Lee's YouTube account. (Image: Jeremy Moeller, Getty Images)

Today, YouTube pulled the channel of John Lee, the sole candidate for the 2022 Hong Kong Chief Executive election, the Associated Press reports. Despite running unopposed, Lee began promoting his campaign on both Facebook and YouTube.

Who is John Lee?

John Lee is a politician in Hong Kong currently running for Chief Executive of the region. Earlier this month, John Lee announced his intention to run for Chief Executive after officially resigning from his then position as Chief Secretary. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive is elected by a majority of the 1,500 seat Election Committee, and according to a press release from the Hong Kong government, Lee received 786 votes. Bloomberg reports that this makes the election, scheduled for May 8, “fait accompli” meaning already decided, basically.

Why did Google target John Lee?

As of today, John Lee’s official YouTube channel–JohnLee2022–is officially shut down, leading users to a 404 page. The move was made by Google in an alleged effort to follow U.S. sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials reported Reuters, citing a statement by YouTube and Google’s holding company Alphabet Inc. These sanctions were announced in 2020 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which named John Lee as one of the officials. The sanctions read:

Today, the Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on 11 individuals for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly of the citizens of Hong Kong. These actions were taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13936, “The President’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization,” which President Trump issued on July 14, 2020. E.O. 13936 declares a national emergency with respect to the situation in Hong Kong, including recent actions taken by the People’s Republic of China to fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic processes, and provides for the imposition of sanctions on actors engaged in these malign activities.

The Department of the Treasury further alleged that Lee, a former police officer, instated a new police force tasked with enforcing a Hong Kong security law, which is a highly controversial set of laws in Hong Kong. Meta Platforms followed suit with a similar penalty, allowing John Lee to keep his Facebook presence, but denying him the privilege of monetisation, reports Reuters citing Meta.

Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.