Hong Kong authorities announced, on Friday, that all films are subject to scrutiny, to ensure that they do not “violate national security”, under additional powers granted to the censorship body, in a new step in controlling political and artistic freedoms in the city.
The regional government said, in a statement, that “the film censorship law has been expanded to include any work or activity that may amount to a crime that poses a threat to national security.”
The new directives, which entered into force immediately, stated that “when considering the film as a whole, and the extent of its impact on viewers, the person performing the censorship mission must respect his duties to prevent any actions or activities that endanger national security.”
The statement noted “the common responsibility of the people of Hong Kong to safeguard the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.”
The new step means that the method of censorship of films used in mainland China has reached Hong Kong.
“An attack on freedom”
“This new censorship will make it more difficult for local filmmakers in Hong Kong to use their democratic rights to make artistic work and challenge unfair bodies of power,” Norwegian director Anders Hammer told AFP.
“It’s been two years since the pro-democracy protests began, and I regret to see another serious example of Beijing’s assault on civil liberties in Hong Kong,” added the director, who was nominated for an Oscar for his documentary “Do Not Split” on the Hong Kong protests.
Films are tightly censored in mainland China, where only a handful of Western commercial films and documentaries are allowed to be released each year, and Hong Kong’s “film censorship authority” has long been less strict.
A government spokesman stated that those responsible for censoring films will work to “balance between protecting individual rights and freedoms on the one hand, and protecting legitimate societal interests on the other.”
The authorities of Hong Kong, which enjoys semi-autonomous rule, launched a massive security campaign to root out opponents of Beijing after the city was rocked in 2019 by massive demonstrations punctuated by violence.
A new law imposed by China and an official campaign called “Patriots Rule Hong Kong” have criminalized most forms of dissent since then, and the pro-democracy movement has been clamped down, with films becoming the last target.