Hong Kong Government Now Directly Censoring Films In Hopes Of Shutting Down Protest-Related Documentaries
from the PUT-ON-A-HAPPY-FACE dept
The Chinese-run Hong Kong government is still finding more ways to suppress criticism. A new, very broad national security law pretty much criminalized protests or criticism of the Chinese government’s long list of intrusions and impositions into Hong Kong’s self-governance. The law allowed the regular police to become the internet police and the police state to become official with the appointment of law enforcement officials to prominent national security oversight positions.
Silencing journalists and critics was only the beginning. There are several ways the government can be criticized but those options are drying up. Rules were imposed that shut down art displays in Hong Kong, targeting anything the government felt might be “endangering national security” — a phrase that means anything critical of the Chinese government or its appointees in the Hong Kong government.
This form of censorship has been expanded to cover other creative expressions not previously directly targeted by the national security law.
Hong Kong’s legislature passed a new film censorship law on Wednesday to “safeguard national security,” though critics say it will dampen creativity in its world famous movie industry and further reduce freedoms in the former British colony.
This law gives Hong Kong’s chief secretary the ability to revoke film licenses if the works offend the Chinese government. It also subjects violators to HK$1 million fines and up to three years in prison. This is going to cause problems for Hong Kong’s film industry, which now must engage in self-censorship under the threat of imprisonment.
But the primary target of the new law isn’t Hong Kong’s commercial filmmakers. It’s the documentarians who have covered long-running protests of the Chinese government’s intrusions.
The biggest impact of the new censorship law, several say, will be on Hong Kong’s status as an international film hub and the city’s rich catalogue of lauded, thoughtful and often political films. Last week’s law allows Hong Kong’s security chief, John Lee Ka-chiu, to ban the screening of existing films if he determines they threaten national security. The one most often cited as a likely target is the 2015 film 10 Years, a dystopian and rather prophetic imagining of Hong Kong’s future, but there are many others.
“We have so many films critical of governments, especially from before 1997 when we were still a colony of Britain,” says the Inside the Red Brick Wall film-maker.
Unfortunately, the new law doesn’t really change much for those documenting protests and other anti-government activities. The targeting of other forms of art earlier in the year made it clear filmmakers would next be subjected to the ever-expanding national security law. Most filmmakers covering anti-government activities have already gone underground, working anonymously to document the always-getting-worse state of affairs in Hong Kong. Others have left the country entirely, realizing the situation is unlikely to ever improve.
Censorship like this may serve the purpose of allowing the government to continue getting worse without having to physically observe unhappy constituents expressing their displeasure through protests, creative works, or online comments. But it doesn’t actually make anyone like the government. It just forces them to hide their hatred a bit better. Some governments might find this act counterproductive, as it only creates more well-hidden enemies. But once a country decides it’s going to engage in this level of censorship, it has also decided it doesn’t need to answer to anyone, least of all the people who are now just doing time in the Hong Kong wing of the Chinese police state.