China tightens film censorship in Hong Kong

China’s leadership is further intensifying the pressure on Hong Kong. In the future, films that criticize the one-party system or promote democracy in the former British colony will be banned.

The step had been foreshadowed since June, and now Hong Kong’s administration is getting concrete: Films are to be censored much more harshly in the Chinese Special Administrative Region in the future than before. The Hong Kong government, appointed by China’s communist leadership, is planning a law to this effect. Since there is virtually no opposition left in the parliament of the former British colony, its passage is considered certain.

No more criticism of the one-party system

The plan is for films in Hong Kong to be screened in the future – as they say – for possible elements that could endanger China’s national security. This means that cinema and television films in Hong Kong will no longer be allowed, for example, to criticize China’s one-party system or call for more democracy in Hong Kong. Older films that have long since been released could also lose their approvals for this reason. Representatives of civil society criticize the plan.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, on the other hand, defended the new censorship rules. A balance between freedom of expression on the one hand and the protection of national security on the other was necessary, said the Hong Kong head of government, who was appointed by China’s leadership, at a press conference a few weeks ago. Rights and freedoms could be restricted to maintain a “civilized society” in Hong Kong.

Freedom of speech increasingly restricted

China’s central government enacted a National Security Protection Law in Hong Kong last year. It curtails the rule of law in the city and numerous fundamental rights such as freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Under international law, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is actually still governed autonomously until 2047, with extensive civil rights such as the rule of law and freedom of expression and assembly. However, the Chinese government has significantly curtailed Hong Kong’s autonomy rights in recent years. This has particularly affected the city’s hitherto vibrant civil society, for example in the areas of art, culture and education.