Google-owned YouTube blocked the campaign account of Hong Kong’s only leadership candidate, John Lee, on Wednesday, citing U.S. sanctions against the former No. 2 official.
Lee was among a group of 11 top Hong Kong and Chinese government officials sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, including current Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, for curtailing political freedoms under Beijing’s national security law that was imposed in June of 2020.
Lee had set up Facebook and YouTube accounts for his campaign in preparation for elections on May 8 even though he is running uncontested in the vote to replace Lam, who is not seeking another term.
“Google complies with applicable U.S. sanctions laws and enforces related policies under its Terms of Service. After review and consistent with these policies, we terminated the Johnlee2022 YouTube channel,” the company said in an email regarding the use of its streaming platform.
Separately, Facebook owner Meta said it has to observe U.S. law and prevent the former police officer and security secretary from using its payment services, but that it would allow him to keep his “demonetized presence” on Facebook and Instagram.
“If we identify accounts maintained by or on behalf of people on the U.S. Government’s list of Specially Designated Nationals, we have a legal obligation to take certain action,” the company said in a statement, according to Bloomberg.
Lee said the move will not affect his bid to lead the financial hub for the next five years.
"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 behavior will only make me convinced that I’m doing the right thing," Lee said at a media briefing.
Lee had been live-streaming his meetings for media and political figures on Facebook and YouTube before he was suspended from the platforms.
YouTube has previously suspended high-profile figures including former U.S. President Donald Trump and convicted sex offender R. Kelly; however, it is unusual for the platform to bar election candidates.
"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," he said.
The vote involves 1,500 members of the election committee who will select Hong Kong’s new leader. Lee has already secured 768 nominations from the committee, higher than the 188 required to run.