For decades, the Hong Kong film industry has enthused global audiences with ballet filming, epic martial arts fantasies, idle comedy and sleek romance. Now, under Beijing orders, local officials will scrutinize such works with a view to protecting the People’s Republic of China.
The city government on Friday said it would start blocking the distribution of films which are estimated to undermine national security, marking the official arrival of Chinese-style censorship at one of Asia’s most famous film centers.
The new guidelines, which apply to domestically produced and foreign films, are the latest sign that Hong Kong, a Chinese semi-autonomous territory, is being reshaped by a security law passed last year to quell anti-government protests.
With the blessing of the Communist government in Beijing, Hong Kong authorities have changed school curricula, removed books from library shelves, and shifted to rigged elections. Police have arrested pro-democracy activists and politicians, as well as a high-profile newspaper publisher.
And in art, the law has created an atmosphere of fear.
updated rules announced on Friday that Hong Kong censors considering a film for distribution to search not only for violent, sexual and vulgar content, but also for the way the film portrays actions that could constitute an act that endangers national security.
Anything that is objectively and reasonably capable of being perceived as supporting, supporting, promoting, glorifying, encouraging or encouraging such acts is a possible basis for considering a film unsuitable for exposure, the rules now say.
The new rules do not limit the scope of a censorship to just the content of movies.
When considering the effect of the film as a whole and its potential effect on those who can see the film, the guidelines say, the censor should consider the duties to prevent and suppress the act or activity that endangers national security.
A Hong Kong government statement on Friday said: The regulatory framework of film censorship is built on the premise of a balance between the protection of individual rights and freedoms on the one hand, and the protection of legitimate social interests on the other.
The ambiguity of the new provisions is consistent with what security laws say critics are their vaguely defined violations, which give authorities a broad breadth to target activists and critics.
How do you raise funds? asked Evans Chan, a filmmaker who has faced problems in showing his work in Hong Kong. Can you go public and say that this is a film about certain points of view, certain activities?
Even feature filmmakers, he said, will be left to wonder if their films will be overturned by the new law. It is not just a matter of making activist films or making political films, but the general filmmaking scene in Hong Kong.
At its peak during the decades after World War II, the urban film industry enjoyed a worldwide impact coming from film, unleashing the twists and turns of the popular genre and nurturing authors like Wong Kar-wai and Ann Hui. The influence of Hong Kong cinema can be seen in the work of Hollywood directors including Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, and in films such as The Matrix.
Recently, political unrest in Hong Kong has been of great interest to artists and documentarians, even if their work has ever tried to appear in front of an audience.
It was a screening of a documentary about the 2019 protests canceled at the last minute this year after a pro-Beijing newspaper accused the film of encouraging the overthrow. University of Hong Kong promoted its student union cancel the screening of a film about an imprisoned activist.
The show went on as planned. But a few months later, said the university would prohibit the collection of membership fees on behalf of organizations and would prohibit the management of its finances as punishment for its radical acts.
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