Hong Kong’s legislature passed a new film censorship law, banning films deemed to violate China’s national security interests that critics say will dampen creativity of Hong Kong’s vibrant local film industry and further reduce freedoms in the former British colony.
The Hong Kong government said the film censorship law was aimed at content deemed to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security.”
Punishment for violating the law includes up to three years imprisonment and US$130,000 (£95,000) in fines.
Last year, China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that effectively outlawed dissent.
The legislation, which came after huge pro-democracy protests in 2019, criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Critics say it is aimed at crushing dissent but China says it is meant to maintain stability.
The film censorship law was approved in the opposition-free Legislative Council. It gives the chief secretary – the second-most powerful figure in the city’s administration – the power to revoke a film’s licence.
Experts and content producers have raised worries about the impact of the legislation, which does not cover films posted online, on creativity and freedom of expression.
Filmmaker Kiwi Chow, whose documentary Revolution of Our Times about the 2019 protests was featured at the Cannes Film Festival this year, told Reuters news agency the law would “worsen self-censorship and fuel fear among filmmakers”.
The arts industry was already being targeted even before the new law. In June, a local theatre pulled the award-winning documentary Inside The Red Brick Wall, also about the 2019 protests, and its distributor lost government funding.
Book publishers have admitted to self-censoring and the largest pro-democracy paper, Apple Daily, closed earlier this year amid a national security investigation.
Meanwhile, many opposition figures are already in prison or in exile. (Source: BBC)