10/27/2021, 18.10
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Films that threaten national security banned in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council has approved changes to the film censorship law. It could be extended to online videos, putting at risk masterpieces like "From Beijing with love" and "Ten Years". For Commerce Secretary, there will not be any fallout on East Asia’s Hollywood.

 

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong’s Legislative Council approved the Film Censorship (Amendment) Bill 2021, which authorises banning films on national security grounds.

Several pro-Beijing lawmakers called for the ban to be extended to web videos, a measure that according to Commerce Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah needs to be studied carefully.

The chief secretary of the administration (Hong Kong’s second most powerful office holder) will now be able to pull previously approved films if they "glorify" or "support" behaviour contrary to national security.

The decision, pushed by the central government for months, delivers another blow to the system of freedom that Hong Kong’s Basic Law should guarantee.

Analysts note that any public activity in Hong Kong is now a potential security threat, including honouring Tiananmen victims or celebrating Taiwan's National Day.

After the approval of the national security law in June 2020, imposed by Beijing, Hong Kong authorities arrested and imprisoned dozens of pro-democracy leaders involved in the anti-government protests in 2019.

Many of them, such as Catholic publishing magnate Jimmy Lai, are waiting to go on trial.

Targeted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government, independent newspapers, pro-democracy organisations, trade unions, and student groups have shut down.

Yesterday’s amendment increases sanctions against those who screen or sell censored films – from one year in prison and 200,000 HK dollars (US$ 25,715) in fines to three years in prison and a fine of one million HK dollars (US128,575).

Yau said the change will not negatively impact Hong Kong's film industry, considered East Asia’s Hollywood. According to several observers however, limits on creativity and freedom of expression will damage production.

Michael Luk, a pro-Beijing lawmaker from the Federation of Trade Unions, told RTHK that there are "red lines" even in the United States, where no films can “glorify bin Laden, al-Qaeda or [other] terrorist groups.”

Nevertheless, many film industry insiders and film buffs are concerned that famous films such as From Beijing with Love and Ten Years could be withdrawn.

The first, a satirical work by Stephen Chow, looks at corruption in China; the second portrays a bleak future for Hong Kong under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

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