Two years after Hong Kong cracked down on pro-Democracy demonstrators, the local legislature has passed a new film censorship law, according to multiple reports. As part of the measure, Hong Kong’s powerful Chief Secretary now can revoke a film’s license if it conflicts with China’s national security interests.
The Hong Kong stricture is an outgrowth of a China-imposed 2020 national security law that “effectively outlawed dissent,” according to the BBC.
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The national security law bans anything authorities deem to be secessionist, subversive or a result of collusion with foreign entities. Commerce Secretary Edward Yau said all distribution, both physical and online, was covered by the new national security law, according to AFP.
Kiwi Chow, whose documentary about the 2019 protests, Revolution of Our Times, was shown at Cannes this year, told Reuters the Hong Kong law would “worsen self-censorship and fuel fear among filmmakers.”
The moves are part of a spate of cultural retrenchments of late in the Middle Kingdom. Just this week, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter got his NBA franchise removed from Tencent-run streaming platforms after he criticized “the Chinese government’s brutal rule.”
In 2019, a single tweet from then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong got the entire league nixed from national broadcaster CCTV. It was over a year before China would again allow league games on state TV.
Last month, the Chinese government called for a ban on what it termed “effeminate men,” asking instead that “revolutionary culture” be touted. Previously, the regime cracked down on online gaming among minors, boy band culture, gambling and cryptocurrency. The moves are part of discouraging what it sees as unhealthy attention to celebrities and certain distracting activities.
Among the most prominent figures impacted has been Alibaba boss Jack Ma who, with his Alibaba Pictures, is no stranger to moviemaking himself. After China’s richest man publicly questioning the country’s economic policy last year, regulators quickly changed the rules on IPOs in retribution. Ma’s Ant Group was forced to pull what could have been the biggest IPO ever. As of this week, Alibaba had lost nearly half its value during that period, a staggering $373 billion.
The situation is so daunting that even Amnesty International announced this week that it will be closing its Hong Kong office.
“This decision, made with a heavy heart, has been driven by Hong Kong’s national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government,” said Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chair of Amnesty’s International Board.
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