June 19, 2021

With global impacts, China’s censorship of Hong Kong’s ill-fated film industry is expanding

For decades Now, at Beijing’s behest, local authorities will investigate such works with the aim of protecting the People’s Republic of China.

The city government said Friday that it would begin Prevent the distribution of images They are seen as undermining national security, marking the official arrival of the Chinese-style censored landscape, one of Asia’s most prestigious film production centers.

New guidelines applied to domestically produced and foreign films have come as a sharp challenge to Hong Kong’s artistic attitude, where government-protected freedom of expression and irrelevant local culture have promoted the city with a cultural vibe other than the mainland.

They also represent the Chinese government’s expansion of its grip on the global film industry. Inevitably for China’s burgeoning box office Hollywood studios. Big budget products Do your best to avoid hurting Chinese audiences and Communist Party auditors Others Find an expensive way to see what happens when they don’t.

Hong Kong’s terrace film industry is a pillar of identity, such as its food, its rising sky or its financial services sector.

During its heyday as the capital of filmmaking for decades after World War II, the city sparked the most popular genre films and developed outsiders such as Wong Kar-wai and Ann Hui. It is made up of international stars Jackie Chan, Zhou Yoon-Fat, Andy Lau and Tony Leung. The influence of Hong Kong cinema can be seen in the works of Hollywood directors, including Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, and in blockbusters such as The Matrix.

Since the return of the former British colony to China in 1997, censorship concerns in Hong Kong’s creative industries have grown exponentially. But the worries that were once theoretically perceived are frighteningly real. City in 2019.

So while some in the local film industry say they feel completely safe from the new censorship guidelines released on Friday, they are concerned about the wide scope of the rules, not just which films are screened in Hong Kong, but how they will be affected. Produce and whether they are manufactured.

“How do you raise funds?” Asked Evans Chan, a filmmaker He faced difficulties in screening his work In the city. “Can you openly come to the crowd and say that this is a film about some perspectives, some actions?”

He said even filmmakers would be surprised by the tense expectation that their films would violate safety laws. “It’s not just a matter of activist filmmaking or political filmmaking, it’s the overall scene of filmmaking in Hong Kong.”

This is the latest indication of how completely Hong Kong is being transformed by Beijing’s security law, which has taken over the city’s purpose. Pro-democracy movement But has crushing implications for aspects of its character.

With the blessing of the Communist government, there are Hong Kong authorities School curricula were changed, Pulling books Moved away from the library shelves Change the elections. Police have made arrests Pro-democracy activists and politicians As well as A top newspaper publisher.

In the arts, law has created a Atmosphere of fear.

The Updated rules Hong Kong auditors announced Friday that they need to look not only at the violent, sexual and abusive content, but also on how the film operates “could be a crime that endangers a national security.”

Possible reasons and rules now state that a film considered to be “objectively and reasonably perceived, endorsed, supported, encouraged, glorified, encouraged or inspired by such acts” is unfit for exhibition.

The new rules do not restrict the purpose of an audit judgment to the content of a film.

The guidelines state that “when considering the impact of the film as a whole and its impact on the persons who are likely to see the film, the audit should consider its obligations to prevent and suppress any action or activity that endangers national security.”

A Hong Kong Government Report It said on Friday: “The film censorship regulatory framework is structured on the basis of a balance between the protection of individual rights and freedoms on the one hand and the protection of formal social interests on the other.”

The ambiguity of the new rules is in line with what security law critics say Its vaguely defined offenses, Which gives broad latitudes to the authorities to target activists and critics.

Tin hand-man, The local broadcaster of the Hong Kong Filmmakers Association, told TVP that the industry should have a better understanding of whether auditors’ decisions can appeal – for example, national security risks after they have ruled that a film cannot be shown in Hong Kong.

“All of this needs to be clarified first,” Mr. Tin said. “We don’t want this thing to come and grow out of control, so we’re starting to worry about the impact on filmmaking.”

The new censorship guidelines announced on Friday seem to be somewhat directed at a particular type of film. They say censorship of any film that wants to be “a documentary” or “real events in immediate connection with the circumstances of Hong Kong” needs further scrutiny.

Why? “Local audiences may feel very strongly about the contents of the film.”

Audits, according to the guidelines, “should carefully examine whether the film provides any biased, unverified, misleading or misleading descriptions or comments.”

Films like this might spell harsh criticism “Ten years,” Independent production has been provided on a low budget since 2015 Dystopian stories of life 2025 is crumbling in the grip of Beijing in Hong Kong. This could cause a chill in the efforts of documentaries describing the political turmoil in Hong Kong.

A short documentary on the 2019 protests, which raised global awareness of China’s repression in the city, was nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. (The film’s recommendation may have played a role in Hong Kong broadcasters’ decision not to broadcast this year’s Oscars for the first time in decades, although one station called it a business decision.)

Attempts to bring politically themed documentaries to audiences in Hong Kong in recent months have been the subject of intense controversy.

Screening of the documentary on the 2019 demonstrations Canceled at the last minute This year’s pro-Beijing newspaper said the film encouraged humiliation. University of Hong Kong Stressed its student body Cancel showing a picture of a jailed activist.

The screening went as planned. But a few months later, The university said It will stop charging membership fees on behalf of the company and stop managing its funds as punishment for its “serious actions”.

Mainland China has long controlled the number of films made outside of China that can be shown in local cinemas. But Hong Kong operates just like any other movie market in the world, with cinema operators booking everything they can to sell tickets.

So the city’s expanded audit could take a small but meaningful bite out of Hollywood’s foreign box office revenue.

For example, since 2019, the Warner Bros. supervisory film “The Joker has not been released in Chinese territory. But it has grossed more than $ 7 million in Hong Kong, according to the entertainment industry database IMDBpro.

China has become very important to Hollywood in recent years because it is also one of the few countries where film is emerging. Ticket sales in the United States and Canada, which make up the world’s No. 1 movie market, were $ 11.4 billion between 2016 and 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association. During that period, ticket sales in China increased by 41 percent to $ 9.3 billion.

As a result, US studios have stepped up efforts to work within China’s censorship system.

Last year, Speech America, an independent speech advocacy group, Enthusiastic Hollywood executives Designed to “avoid opposition to Chinese authorities” for voluntary censorship of films to appease China “with content, cast, plot, dialogue and organization.” In some cases, studios “invite Chinese government auditors directly to their film collections, instructing them on how to avoid censorship wires,” PEN said.

Brooks Barnes Contribution statement from Los Angeles.