KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 ― Hong Kong’s legislative council has passed a bill that allows authorities to pull out movies that run counter or harm national security.
While Western media claimed the move “the latest crackdown on freedom of expression in the Asian financial hub”, Global Times reported that experts see the move as a necessary step to ensure room for creativity in the film industry and maintain social order.
The bill stated that national security factors must be taken into account when censoring a movie to be screened in local cinemas.
It targets content deemed to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security”.
The bill will empower Hong Kong’s chief secretary to revoke permissions on previously approved films if they are found to be detrimental to national security.
Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah reportedly said the bill was to improve movie management and prevent acts that may endanger national security.
The movie industry will remain mostly unaffected by the bill, as the vast majority of the films do not involve such concerns, Yau added
He said by clearly specifying the legal requirements for the movies, it will help the industry better comply with rules and prevent stepping beyond the “red line” by mistake.
On suggestions that the amendment should be implemented on internet movies as well, Yau said it only applies to films screened in cinemas.
In March 2019, the screening of the documentary Inside the Red Brick Wall covering black-clad riots at a campus in Hong Kong in 2019 was pulled from a local cinema hours ahead of its scheduled showing.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the bill would turn movie censors into gatekeepers of the law with penalties as high as HK$1 million (RM534,316) and three years in prison for those who screen non-approved content.
Inspectors can search without a warrant a premises showing a film, including company offices or a private members’ club, and the Hong Kong Film Censorship Authority can demand more information about screenings.