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National Security Law: Hong Kong to start censoring films

National Security Law: Hong Kong to start censoring films

 

Hong Kong censors are to vet all films for national security breaches under expanded powers announced on Friday; in the latest blow to the financial hub’s political and artistic freedoms.

 

Authorities in semi-autonomous Hong Kong have embarked on a sweeping crackdown to root out Beijing’s critics; after huge and often violent democracy protests convulsed the city in 2019.

 

A new security law imposed by China and an official campaign dubbed; “Patriots rule Hong Kong” has since criminalised much dissent and strangled the democracy movement.

 

Films are just the latest target.

 

In a statement on Friday; the government said the Film Censorship Ordinance had been expanded to include “any act or activity; which may amount to an offense endangering national security”.

 

“When considering a film as a whole and its effect on the viewers; the censor should have regard to his duties; to prevent and suppress acts or activities endangering national security, and the common responsibility of the people of Hong Kong to safeguard the sovereignty; unification and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China,” the new guidance, which is effective immediately, states.

 

 

 

Films are rigorously vetted on the Chinese mainland and only a handful of Western films or documentaries ever see a commercial release each year.

 

Hong Kong’s Film Censorship Authority has traditionally employed a much lighter touch.

 

Historically, the city has boasted a thriving film scene and for much of the latter half of the last century, Cantonese cinema was world-class.

 

In more recent decades, slick mainland Chinese and South Korean blockbusters have come to dominate the regional film scene.

 

But Hong Kong still maintains some key studios, a handful of lauded directors, and a thriving indie scene.

 

Yet there are growing signs authorities want to see an increase in mainland-style controls over the cultural and art scenes in Hong Kong.

 

Over the past week, health officials have conducted spot checks on a protest-themed museum and a separate exhibition; stating neither have the correct licenses.

 

The museum had been operating for years without issue.

 

In March, an award-winning documentary about Hong Kong’s massive pro-democracy protests was pulled hours before its first commercial screening after days of criticism from a pro-Beijing newspaper.

 

 

 

 

It said the film’s content breached the new national security law.

 

Earlier this year a university cancelled a prestigious press photography exhibition; that featured pictures of the 2019 protests, citing security concerns.

 

And M, a multi-million-dollar contemporary art museum expected to open soon; has said it will allow security officials to vet its collection for any security law breaches before it opens to the public later this year.

 

A government spokesperson said film censors would strike a “balance between protection of individual rights and freedoms on the one hand, and the protection of legitimate societal interests on the other”.

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