Hong Kong passes law that can censor even past films, to safeguard 'national security'

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Oct 28, 2021, 11:06 AM(IST)

Trailer of Chinese movie ‘My Country, My Parents’ is seen outside cinema, in Hong Kong Photograph:( Reuters )

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It also empowers Hong Kong's chief secretary to revoke the screening license of past and current films that are deemed 'contrary to the interests of national security'

Hong Kong authorities have passed a new law censuring films that it perceives to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security.”

The new censorship law is an extension of China’s national security law which was imposed in the restive city last year in response to the 2019 pro-democracy protests, in which most opposition politicians and activists were jailed, either under the new law or for other alleged crimes or have fled into exile.

The censorship law, which was passed on Wednesday by the city’s legislature, allows scrutiny of any titles that had previously been given a go-ahead.

It also empowers Hong Kong's chief secretary to revoke the screening license of past and current films that are deemed “contrary to the interests of national security”.

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Punishment for violating the law included up to three years imprisonment and fines of up to HK$1 million ($128,400).

“The goal is very clear: it’s to improve the film censorship system, to prevent any act endangering the national security,” Commerce Secretary Edward Yau told the Legislative Council.

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According to the law, film censorship inspectors can enter and search any premises suspected of displaying unlicensed movies without a warrant and titles which it deems as a security risk.

The law prohibits the victims from taking a legal course via the usual channels. Instead, they will now have to launch a judicial review in Hong Kong's courts, a long and costly legal procedure.

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Yau said all the screenings, including physical and online—meaning Netflix, HBO, Amazon— are covered in the current law.

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The new censorship rules bring Hong Kong much closer to the Chinese mainland, where films are rigorously vetted and only a handful of Western movies or documentaries see a commercial release each year.

Historically, Hong Kong boasted a thriving film scene and for much of the latter half of the last century, Cantonese cinema was world-class.

The city still maintains some key studios, a handful of lauded directors and a thriving indie scene, but new political red lines are being drawn each month.

Since the new rules were announced one film director announced she had shelved her project because of cuts demanded by censors.

(With inputs from agencies)

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