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Hong Kong authorities to censor films that ‘endanger national security’

Hong Kong authorities to censor films that ‘endanger national security’
People walk past a cinema in Hong Kong. The city’s censors have big given expanded powers to vet films on national security grounds. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Hong Kong censors are to vet all films for national security breaches under expanded powers in the latest blow to the city’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 China-imposed security law and an official campaign dubbed “Patriots rule Hong Kong” has since criminalised much dissent and strangled the democracy movement. The latest target is films.

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 offence 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.

Yet there are growing signs of mainland-style controls over the cultural and art scenes in Hong Kong.

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 multimillion-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.


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