Hong Kong passes new film censorship law to protect national security

Hong Kong’s legislature has passed a new law banning films deemed to violate China’s national security interests, the latest blow to freedom of expression in the territory.

Punishment for violating the law includes up to three years imprisonment and $130,000 in fines.

Critics say the legislation will stifle the vibrant local film industry.

Last year, China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that effectively outlawed dissent.

The legislation, which came after huge pro-democracy protests in 2019, criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Critics say it is aimed at crushing dissent but China says it is meant to maintain stability.

The film censorship law was approved in the opposition-free Legislative Council. It gives the chief secretary, the second-most powerful figure in the city’s administration the power to revoke a film’s licence if it is found to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security”.

Experts and content producers have raised worries about the impact of the legislation, which does not cover films posted online, on creativity and freedom of expression.

The arts industry was already being targeted even before the new law. In June, a local theatre pulled the award-winning documentary Inside The Red Brick Wall, also about the 2019 protests, and its distributor lost government funding.

Book publishers have admitted to self-censoring and the largest pro-democracy paper, Apple Daily, closed earlier this year amid a national security investigation.

Meanwhile, many opposition figures are already in prison or in exile.