The Hong Kong legislature has passed a film censorship law to ostensibly prevent the media from criticizing the ruling communist Chinese party. Following mainland China’s imposition of a national security law on the island city in 2019, citizens of Hong Kong have steadily lost their rights and freedoms.
The film censorship law was approved in the opposition-free Legislative Council, and gives the chief secretary the power to revoke a film's licence if it is found to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security,” the BBC reported.
The chief secretary is the second most powerful figure in Hong Kong.
Those found in violation of the law can be punished for up to three years in prison, and face fines of up to HK$1 million, which is the equivalent of $128,400 USD.
“The goal is very clear: it’s to improve the film censorship system, to prevent any act endangering the national security,” said Commerce Secretary Edward Yau to the Legislative Council, Reuters reported.
Despite offering resistance online, Hong Kong’s citizenry remains relatively powerless in the face of increasingly draconian laws.
“This year, for the first time since 1969, the Oscars were not broadcasted in Hong Kong, matching decisions in mainland China, despite an unprecedented nomination for a Hong Kong-born director,” Reuters reported.
Hong Kong was once the film capital of Asia, producing action movie stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The films produced in Hong Kong came to be synonymous with the gritty urban look of early- to mid-90s films, with Kowloon’s claustrophobic streets contrasted by its bay — a defining look for urban Asia outside of Tokyo.
Most of these films received little to no direct support from the government and were developed as a thoroughly commercial enterprise with a focus on comedy and action. The result was a slightly derivative form of Hollywood content, in which creators were free to express their artistic visions without kowtowing to the demands of authorities.
“The new film rules in Hong Kong will have a chilling effect,” said Joe Piscatella to The Hollywood Reporter. “One of the last vestiges of free speech in Hong Kong is now gone. The result is self-censorship by filmmakers who now have to question what might run afoul of the new rules and increased scrutiny by financiers and distributors who now must consider that very same question.”
During the Olympics earlier this year, police in China arrested a man for booing China’s national anthem at a public broadcast of the games. The continued crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong has also prompted a 1.2 percent drop in the city’s total population, the biggest decline since the city began collecting records in 1961.
As reported by Rebel News earlier this month, tens of thousands of Hongkongers have left for Britain, Canada, and other countries due to the crackdown, which has seen most of the city’s political opposition imprisoned and its education system revamped to promote pro-China propaganda