An academic said on Friday that new guidelines for film censors simply formalise “red lines” that have become increasingly apparent in Hong Kong.
The government announced earlier on Friday that film censors will need to ban films that are deemed to be supporting or glorifying acts that could endanger national security, and has gazetted the amendments to the Film Censorship Ordinance.
“So in a way, it doesn’t change that much,” said Kristof Van den Troost, an assistant professor at the Chinese University's Centre for China Studies and a researcher on East Asian films.
“People knew there were red lines, and now they have been put into writing.”
Public screenings of films considered to glorify protesters involved in the 2019 unrest have also drawn fire from pro-government figures, who raised questions about whether they breach the national security law.
Van den Troost said local filmmakers have been more cautious since the controversy surrounding the screening of Inside the Red Brick Wall, a documentary about clashes between protesters and police at Polytechnic University in 2019.
He pointed out that the film had already been vetted by censors, who slapped it with a Category III rating, but it still faced problems in getting a public showing.
“There are clearly some topics now that are off-limits, especially when it comes to the depiction of protests in Hong Kong,” Van den Troost said. “I think that’s a very clear point that comes out with the new guidelines.”
But he said Hong Kong is still some way short of the type of film censorship seen on the mainland.
“So it’s not like the mainland where you have to do some pre-censorship, you have to get approval for your scripts, and then the film has to get censored again after it has been finished,” he said.
Some movie-goers told RTHK on Friday that they are concerned that stricter censorship will mean films they want to watch will not be available in the city.
“I feel like they will ban most of the movies that I like, which is very depressing. I like Black Panther, I like the Avengers, I like Frozen. I don’t really know where their line is,” a cinema-goer said.
"They might ban my favourite movie Mulan because they involved China with the movie," his friend said, adding that he is worried that Hong Kong will ban any movie that China does not like.
Another man said he is more concerned about what bans may follow.
“I am not surprised that the Hong Kong government does this. People will of course have fewer movie choices. But I think it’s more worrying that the government may block other channels where people receive information, such as news outlets,” he said.
“Will they ban us from watching Netflix, or access some overseas websites? All these things could happen and I think the government is testing our bottom line.”
Film censorship guidelines 'formalise red lines'
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