Hong Kong Passes Film Censorship Law To “Protect National Security”

HONG KONG, Oct. 27 (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday passed a new film censorship law to “protect national security,” though critics say it will hamper creativity in its world-famous film industry and further curtail freedoms in the former British colony.

China imposed a sweeping national security law on its most turbulent city last year, and Hong Kong’s legislature runs out of opposition lawmakers after massive resignations from the pro-democracy camp in protest the eviction of certain colleagues.

The Hong Kong government has stated that the Film Censorship Act targets content deemed to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that may endanger national security.”

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The law empowers the Hong Kong chief secretary, the second most powerful figure in the city administration, to revoke a film’s license if it turns out “against the interests of national security.”

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

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

Critics, however, have expressed concern that the new law will harm Hong Kong’s vibrant film industry, whose production ranges from Bruce Lee’s innovative martial arts films to arthouse films by the famous director Wong Kar-wai.

“Adding national security clauses to the bill is clear political censorship,” said Kenny Ng, associate professor at the Film Academy at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“It’s heavy. The film industry will need time to adjust.”

Since the National Security Law was introduced in response to mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, most politicians and opposition activists have been jailed, either under the new law or for d other alleged crimes, or fled into exile.

The examination of education, arts, media and culture has intensified. Book publishers admitted to self-censorship, cinemas released a protest documentary, and a university canceled a press photography exhibition. A contemporary art museum said the National Security Police could control its collections. The pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily closed its doors in June as part of a national security investigation.

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Authorities reject description of their actions as a “crackdown” on civil society and claim that the rights and freedoms promised in Hong Kong upon its return to Chinese rule in 1997 remain intact, but national security is a “red line” “.

Filmmaker Kiwi Chow, whose documentary “Revolution of Our Times” chronicles the 2019 protests and premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, says the bill harms the local film industry by curtailing “freedom to to create”.

“It will worsen self-censorship and fuel fear among filmmakers,” Chow told Reuters.

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Additional reporting by Hong Kong Newsroom; Editing by Marius Zaharia and Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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