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Hong Kong loses cinematic freedoms as Beijing continues anti-democratic crackdown

Hong Kong people attend an outdoor film screening on November 10, 2020.

Hong Kong people attend an outdoor film screening on November 10, 2020.
Photo: Anthony Wallace / AFP (Getty Images)

Hong Kong film censorship to suspend film distribution that threaten “National security” according to a government announcement on Friday who will actually bring Beijing-style censorship of films in the semi-autonomous region. Film crackdown is just the latest push against Hong Kong freedoms by increasing aggressiveness government in Beijing.

“The censor must be vigilant in the representation, representation or treatment of any act or activity that may constitute an offense endangering national security,” according to the new guidelines published online. Friday.

The term “national security” will almost certainly be to be interpreted broadly in Hong Kong to include anything that mainland Chinese film censors consider subversive in any way.

“When considering a film as a whole and its effects on viewers, the censor must take into account 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 ”, according to the edited film advice.

Film and internet cEnsors in China are extremely authoritarian, and Hollywood has come under fire over the past decade for editing blockbuster films to please the Chinese government. Sometimes only the Chinese version of a movie is changed, like when Alien: Alliance has been edited in 2017 before playing in china to pull off a gay kiss. Even more disturbingly, sometimes the final cut of a movie is edited for the whole world in order to please Beijing, like when Disney whitewashed a Tibetan character in the Marvel superhero movie Dr strange.

Why would Hollywood give in to pressure from China? The country is the second largest film market in the world and American films are often far away less popular than domestic entertainment. China doesn’t need Hollywood, but Hollywood definitely needs China.

Hong Kong cinema has flourished over the past century with John Woo’s action films, kung fu comedies by Stephen Chow, and the dramas of Ann Hui, to name a few. But the the openness that allowed Hong Kong filmmakers to make great art is slowly fading, along with the pro-democracy movement.

Hong Kong operated under a semi-autonomous structure with the Chinese central government in Beijing since the territory was handed over from the UK in 1997. Nicknamed ‘one country, two systems’, Hong Kong is said to have a version of liberalism standards that existed under British rule, but these are quickly disappearing as China grows impatient with not being able to roll tanks in the streets.

As Variety points out, no one in the Hong Kong film industry has been allowed to comment on or push back on the new censorship rules, which are in a way just a formal statement of what has happened in recent years. . For example, the pro-democracy documentary “Inside the red brick wall” was shot by Hong Kong cinemas in March after pressure from mainland China.

The Hong Kong government issued a statement along with the new guidelines for film censors, pretending to defend free speech.

The regulatory framework for film censorship is based on the principle of a balance between the protection of individual rights and freedoms on the one hand, and the protection of legitimate societal interests on the other, ”said an anonymous spokesperson in the government press release posted online.

“Although fundamental rights (including the right to freedom of expression in the showing of films) must be respected, the exercise of these rights is subject to the restrictions provided by law which are necessary for the pursuit of objectives. legitimate, such as respect for the rights or reputation of others, and the protection of national security or public order, or public health or morals, ”the statement continued.

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