Hong Kong Previous films will be screened for violations of national security under a tough new censorship law in the latest blow to political and artistic freedoms in the city.
Authorities announced in June that the financial center’s oversight board would examine any future films for content that violates the security law. But on Tuesday they unveiled a tightened new censorship law that would also cover any addresses previously given the green light.
“Any movie for public viewing, past, present and future, needs approval,” said Commerce Secretary Edward Yao.
Authorities have launched a sweeping crackdown on critics of Beijing after democratic protests rocked the financial center two years ago. Since then, a new China-imposed security law and an official campaign called “Patriots Rule Hong Kong” have outlawed much dissent and stifled the democratic movement.
The Security Code prohibits anything the authorities consider separatism, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces.
Almost all those arrested under the law are democracy activists. A legislative brief presented to reporters on Tuesday referred to recent documentaries that “glorify” or “incite” the protests.
The new law must be approved by the city legislature — which is almost certain, given that any opposition has been cleared up over the past year.
The maximum penalty for viewing illegal films will rise to up to three years in prison and a fine of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($130,000).
Titles deemed a national security risk by the censor would not be able to be challenged through the usual channels. Instead, they will have to start a judicial review in Hong Kong courts, which is a lengthy and costly legal procedure.
Authorities can also revoke viewing licenses for places where titles appear “contrary to national security interests.”
The law would bring Hong Kong much closer to the Chinese mainland, where films are rigorously screened and only a handful of Western films or documentaries see commercial releases each year.
Hong Kong has historically boasted a thriving film scene, and for the greater part of the latter half of the last century, Cantonese cinema was world-class.
The city still maintains some major studios, a handful of famous directors and a thriving independent scene, but new political red lines are drawn every month.
The announcement of the new censorship law on Tuesday came in the form of Nicole Kidman filming an Amazon-funded series in the city Based on a book about the gilded life of the “expats” in the city.
Authorities allowed Kidman and her film crew to bypass the coronavirus quarantine, sparking public outrage last week.