Hong Kong Proposes Three Years in Prison for Screening Banned Movies

Hong Kong Proposes Three Years in Prison for Screening Banned Movies

Film censors in Hong Kong have proposed new rules that would include steep fines and up to three years in prison for screening movies that are banned, according to a new report from the Hong Kong Standard. The proposal comes as political leaders in China seek to curtail freedoms in Hong Kong and Beijing makes a region that was previously semi-autonomous not-so-autonomous anymore.

The harsh new proposal was announced by Hong Kong Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah at a press conference on Tuesday, according to the Standard, and included several new components. Aside from jail time, anyone caught screening a banned film could be slapped with a $US1 ($1) million HK fine, roughly $US130,000 ($180,310) in U.S. currency.

Hong Kongers first learned in June that Beijing was going to crack down on films in the region, a city with a rich history of cinema, from the action films of John Woo to the kung fu movies of Stephen Chow, just to name a few.

The proposal would formalise the new censorship regulations brought by the Film Censorship Authority and would apply retroactively, suggting that even if movies were previously shown in Hong Kong, those old films are held to the same censorship scrutiny as newer films. As the Standard points out, that might make films like the 2015 dystopian sci-fi drama Ten Years illegal retroactively.

From the Standard:

The changes to the ordinance would require a censor to consider whether a movie contains content which endanger national safety.

Based on national security grounds, Chief Secretary for Administration would have the power to cancel a movie’s permission for screening obtained previously – meaning old movies would also fall under regulation.

If authorities are of the view that a movie may endanger national safety, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development should have power to extend the movie assessment period for 28 days each time.

The proposal will be heard on September 1 at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, a governing body that’s been completely purged of democratic-leaning legislators over the summer.

It’s tragic to see what’s happening in Hong Kong, as Beijing crushes dissent and tech companies sell out out protesters who risked their lives for freedom in the formerly autonomous region. And it’s not clear how far politicians in China will go to make sure Hong Kong continues to stay in line during coming years.