Hong Kong’s Legislative Council will examine proposed legislative changes next week. If adopted, the new rules will impose up to three years in prison and a fine worth US$ 128,000. Productions that promote subversion, secession and terrorism are targeted. Controversy surrounds Nicole Kidman’s boutique shopping in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Taking their cue from Beijing, Hong Kong authorities plan to boost film censorship with a further squeeze on locally produced, distributed and screened films.
A series of amendments to the Film Censorship Ordinance are currently under review. If adopted they would enable the chief secretary to ban previously approved films and new projects considered a threat to national security.
The amendments will go before Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) next week. Penalties include up to three years in prison and a HK$ 1 million fine (US$ 128,000) for unauthorised screenings.
Described as “simple and straightforward”, the changes follow the adoption last year of a controversial national security law, used to crack down on pro-democracy protests and increase censorship.
Unveiling the amendments today, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said that there would be no appeal mechanism for bans issued on security grounds. In addition, his office will be able to delay the vetting of films for up to 28 days if necessary.
“The amendments this time are simple and straightforward,” Yau said. “The aim is to consolidate our legal foundation regarding film censorship work so as to prevent acts against national security.”
As Yau admits, “there is a chance that past movies could be banned from public screening.” Classic satires such as Stephen Chow’s From Beijing with Love and the dystopian tale Ten Years could be barred from public screening or pulled from DVD shelves.
The new guidelines would block films or series if they were found to be “enduring, supporting, promoting, glorifying or inciting” acts of subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.
Since the guidelines are so broad, they could be easily manipulated and abused, raising concerns among professionals, producers and commentators about the repercussions of the amendments on the film industry, with severe restrictions on creativity and freedom of expression in what was once considered "the Hollywood of the Far East".
Meanwhile, actress Nicole Kidman has become the centre of a controversy recently. The Australian star is currently taking part in a production in the city and was seen at a Central shopping boutique.
Kidman, who arrived on a private flight from Sydney, is in town to shoot an Amazon Prime series called Expats.
In order to allow her to work in the former British colony, local authorities waived the quarantine requirement for foreigners, sparking anger on social media. They justified her shopping trip as a part of “costume fitting.”
The government noted that its decision to exempt the actress from mandatory quarantine was “for the purpose of performing designated professional work, taking into account that it is conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.”
Given Hong Kong’s new guidelines on censorship, will a movie about expats pass muster or will it be banned?