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Censorship in Hong Kong extends to the film industry

Posted by on 2021/08/25. Filed under Breaking News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

It is a new step in the implementation of a national security law that extends censorship beyond the media to film and television. Reuters said the move was a new sign of further shrinking freedoms in Hong Kong.

In 2019, there were months of mass protests against Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedoms. In an attempt to control the situation, Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong in June last year, and launched an all-out crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said the amendments were aimed at implementing the national Security Law in different areas and providing clear guidance to the film industry so that it would not be misapplied.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive in Council on Tuesday passed and introduced the Film Censorship (Amendment) Bill 2021 into the Legislative Council.

There are four legislative proposals in the bill: 1) Clearly stipulate that prosecutors must consider whether the screening of films is detrimental to national security, and provide a clear legal basis for them to make a decision; 2) To empower the Chief Secretary for Administration to revoke a certificate of approval or exemption issued for a film whose release, in his opinion, would be detrimental to national security; 3) The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development may extend the time limit for the censor to make a decision on a film to allow sufficient time for the censor to deal with cases involving national security considerations; 4) The current film censorship appeal mechanism does not apply to cases involving national security matters. In other words, films deemed detrimental to national security cannot be appealed.

The Bill also gives film censors the right to request film information, including the time, date and place of release, from the approved film producers; Empower police authorized by the authority to enter and search any place with a court warrant to enhance law enforcement capacity; The maximum penalty will be increased to 3 years’ imprisonment and/or HK $1 million for the release of films not exempted or approved.
The bill will be gazette on Friday, with the first and second reading in the Legislative Council on September 1.

Prior to the official introduction of the bill, the Hong Kong Government had issued new guidelines in June this year, requiring the Film, Press and Articles Control Office (” EPRS “) to add “national security” considerations to the screening of films. The new guidelines require the OFFICE to look at how the film depicts acts or activities that may “constitute an offence against national security”, and if the impact on viewers of the film as a whole “is likely to endanger national security or the maintenance of national security, the censors should conclude that the film is not suitable for release”.

The BBC reported that after the government’s new film censorship guidelines were published, the production team of A short film set against the backdrop of a wave of protests in Hong Kong in 2019 announced that they had cancelled plans to show it at a local short film festival because they could not get permission to show it in time.
Film censorship is not new in Hong Kong. But for too long, censorship has focused on violent acts, robberies, murders, pornography, and often to create age-appropriate ratings, with little scrutiny of political content.

British authorities banned some films in Hong Kong decades ago for political reasons. But censorship began to loosen around the 1997 transfer of sovereignty, and some Hong Kong films critical of or satirical about the Communist Party were allowed to be shown in Hong Kong, though not on the mainland.

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