The implications and consequences of Hong Kong’s sweeping pro-China ‘national security law’ of June 2020 continues to be felt, with the latest on Wednesday being that a new far-reaching film censorship law has been passed and implemented, which even works retroactively.
All films that are deemed a threat to national security can not be made, with Hong Kong’s chief secretary – which is considered the second highest office in the HK government – having sole discretion over what movies are “found to be contrary to national security interests,” according to Reuters.
Filmmakers, including movie creators and producers as well as documentary makers, could face up to a $128,000 fine and three years in prison if found in violation. The law appears designed to also impose a restrictive atmosphere of self-censorship given special licenses will be required to make and screen movies, with a group of inspectors being authorized to enter any production or viewing premises to ensure conformity to the law.
Though obviously subject to very broad interpretation by a mere one or a few powerful individuals in government (and no doubt also officials in Beijing), the law spells out that films are prohibited from any content aiming to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security.”
It was first announced last summer that censors would begin inspecting movies, and what’s worse is that the law can be retroactive, giving authorities the ability to purge past moves deemed as going against “patriotism”:
A new China-imposed security law and an official campaign dubbed “Patriots rule Hong Kong” has since criminalized much dissent and strangled the democracy movement.
…But the law passed on Wednesday by the city’s legislature — a body now devoid of any opposition — allows scrutiny of any titles that had previously been given a green light.
It 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”.
“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 was cited in Reuters as saying.
This has left many questioning the implications for popular movies and streaming services coming out of the West – for example even services like Netflix or Amazon streaming shows.
“Pro-Beijing lawmakers criticised the government for not including online streaming companies in the current wording, meaning services like Netflix, HBO and Amazon may not be covered but the new rules,” writes AFP. “In response, Commerce Secretary Edward Yau said all screenings, both physical and online, were covered by the new national security law.”
Thus this latest film censorship law has overnight brought the former British colony a huge step closer to living under the kind of Communist censorship regimen that exists on the mainland. Over in China, President Xi has launched a broad campaign that seeks to prevent the nation’s youth from being exposed to “effeminate” pop culture imagery coming from the West, including greatly restricting time spent playing video games.