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 (£95,000) 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”.
Filmmakers will certainly be concerned. Dr Kenny Ng of the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Film Academy said the new law would see film distributors worrying if their already-approved films would be withdrawn, meaning more uncertainty in the industry.
As for the lawmakers, it is time to prepare for winning their job back as the election takes place in December – under completely new election laws.