Orders for movie censors to spot national security breaches when assessing shows

2021.06.11

Film censors in Hong Kong must play their part to safeguard national security by exercising vigilance to prevent possible breaches when evaluating a movie, according to revised guidelines announced on Friday.

Amendments to the guidelines for censors under the Film Censorship Ordinance were gazetted in the morning, the government’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said. The changes took effect on the same day.

The city implements a censorship regulatory framework in which films are examined and classified based on whether they portray violence, horror, indecent language or insults to race or religious beliefs, among other considerations.

In accordance with Hong Kong’s national security law, the local government was duty-bound under the constitution to safeguard national security, the bureau said.

Among the four key amendments, censors are required to be vigilant to the depiction or treatment of any act that may amount to an offense endangering national security or jeopardize Hong Kong’s safeguarding of national security.

They must also be alert to any movie content that is objectively and reasonably capable of being seen as endorsing, supporting, promoting, glorifying, encouraging or inciting such an act.

Censors who are considering a movie and its effect on viewers should have regard to their duties to prevent and suppress activities endangering national security, and also pay heed to the common responsibility of Hongkongers to safeguard state sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity.

“Having regard to the fundamental importance of safeguarding national security and to effectively prevent or suppress any act or activity endangering national security,” the censor may come to the conclusion that the movie is not suitable for exhibition, the amendments say.

“The film censorship regulatory framework is built on the premise of a balance between protection of individual rights and freedoms on the one hand, and the protection of legitimate societal interests on the other,” a government spokesperson said.

“Although fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression in the exhibition of films, should be respected, the exercise of such rights is subject to restrictions provided by law that are necessary for pursuing legitimate aims, such as respecting the rights or reputation of others, and the protection of national security or public order, or public health or morals.”

A Hong Kong documentary, “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” was earlier pulled from local screening after the pro-Beijing camp claimed the production incited violence. State-run media Ta Kung Pao also harassed participants at a private viewing event held by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

The show, produced by the independent movie company Ying E Chi Cinema, was shot on campus at Polytechnic University over the course of a bloody two-week police siege of the location at the peak of tumultuous citywide protests in 2019. “Red brick wall” refers to the iconic facade of the university.

Beijing-loyal forces said it promoted Hong Kong independence and sought to overthrow the government. They asked the authorities to stop sponsoring Ying E Chi Cinema.

The documentary won the best editing prize at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam, and in April, the Taiwan International Documentary Festival selected it as the opening show.

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