Hong Kong had long been able to exist outside of some of the censorship rules governing much of the rest of China and its populace. But those times might be changing, and changing in a big way. Recently it was announced, almost overnight, that the relative freedoms granted to the people of Hong Kong as compared to the rest of China were being stripped away. One of those moves, according to Variety, was to implement new guidance and rules in the city about films that could be screened in the city.
These new rules imposed by the Hong Kong government concerned how films were censored prior to being released in theaters. Apparently, under the old rules, the screenings and ratings were much more in line with how things are done in the United States. Screeners would rate films based on violence, language, nudity, etc. But under the new guidance, that screening process will contain quite a few more restrictions.
These new screening measures in Hong Kong will now more closely mirror how China, specifically those in Beijing, has determined which movies are suitable for the Hong Kong audience. This adds a significantly more restrictive layer to the rating system and brings in a whole host of new themes that might mean a movie won’t be shown. Namely, if it’s simply something that China doesn’t like in terms of message or content then it might not be shown.
Some recent examples of movies or shows that have been censored in China include parts of Friends: The Reunion (involved some artists critical of China), Bohemian Rhapsody (drug use), Alien Covenant (bloody violence), and the list goes on. Expect similar movies and many more to be censored in Hong Kong as well.
And in terms of full-out banning, that list is long as well. The Academy Award-winning Nomadland was not be shown because Chloe Zhao, a Chinese citizen, has been intensely critical of the government there. It calls into question what will happen with her upcoming movie Eternals. Additionally, Joker was met with a full ban as well.
Hong Kong has long existed, somewhat outside the bounds of China’s overall rules and governance under the “One Country, Two Systems” doctrine that’s been in place since the 1980s. It outlines that Hong Kong can act with its own governance and create rules (or in this case freedoms) outside the bounds of the much stricter mainland China regime. It’s meant that many Chinese artists have flocked there to make their voices heard or create projects that would have otherwise run afoul of Beijing’s censors. But that looks like it might be slowly crumbling under the weight of pressure from Beijing.
These new film rules fall under the umbrella of the National Security Law in Hong Kong and will evaluate new films and other works under the loose guidance of how it affects “national security”. Of course, this designation can have such a wide range of meanings and in China will mean something much different than say, the United States.
It means, in all likelihood, that movies critical of the Chinese government or meant to shine a light on some of the more controversial aspects of their ruling structure will be met with harsh censorship. In the vein of national security, these are the kinds of things that China has banned in the past. Time will tell if the list of movies banned in Hong Kong mirror 1:1 what isn’t shown in China as well.