Lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill that allows authorities to ban movies which are "deemed to be contrary to the interests of national security”, as they urged the government to extend the ban to online videos as well.
Under the new law, authorities could pull films that have already been approved for screening if they are considered to be glorifying or supporting acts that could endanger national security.
Before endorsing the amendment to the film censorship ordinance, several councillors said they wanted the government to extend the regulation to cover not only movies to be screened in theatres, but also online videos.
But commerce minister Edward Yau insisted that such an extension requires careful and comprehensive studies.
"We hope the bill will commence as soon as possible, to enhance the film censorship system and to plug the loopholes," he told the council.
"If we are to add online regulation, it'd go beyond the original intent of the ordinance, not to mention the technological and enforcement considerations."
Yau added the law change won't affect the actual operations of the film industry, saying officials believe that the vast majority of movies won't have anything to do with national security.
He said the sector can follow clear cut regulations and won't cross red lines by mistake.
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Michael Luk agreed, saying there are also national security laws in the US yet "no one would complain that Hollywood is not free".
"There are also bottom lines and red lines in the US. Nobody would make a film glorifying bin Laden, or terrorist groups, or Al-Qaeda," Luk said.
Under the new law, the maximum penalties for showing unapproved films are raised from one year in jail and a fine of HK$200,000 to three years in jail and a fine of HK$1 million.