Hong Kong to Censor Films Deemed Threat to “National Security”

The promenade honours celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry as the famous city attraction

Hong Kong now has the power to censor films that authorities deem a threat to its national security. On Friday, Hong Kong, long known for its booming film and arts scene, released amendments to its film censorship ordinance.  This includes banning any movie with a “portrayal, depiction or treatment of any act or activity which may amount to an offense endangering national security.”

The ordinance is further steering Hong Kong away from freedom of expression and towards Beijing-esque censorship guidelines. On the Chinese mainland, the government closely monitors films for themes or depictions that might be critical of the Communist Party and its leadership.

Before the announcement, Hong Kong’s censorship guidelines were more or less like the U.S.’s or U.K.’s. Censors avoided politics and rather focused on keeping violence and sexual content from younger audiences.

Hong Kong’s National Security Law

In 2019, Hong Kong saw some of the largest protests in its history. Pro-democracy activists came out against Beijing’s proposal allowing extradition to Mainland China. But in June of 2020, Beijing bypassed the Hong Kong legislature and passed the National Security Law. Many called this legislative move the end of semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

The order sought to put an end to anti-government protests, punish pro-democracy activists and impose new security laws governing Hong Kong. Critics said the law essentially made any defiance against the Chinese government a criminal offense. They believe that the law gives broad definitions to terrorism, collusion with foreign forces, and secession.

In March, a movie theater pulled the screening of “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” an award-winning documentary. Their reason for the cancelation was the depiction of protesters and police clashing at a Hong Kong university. An editorial in a pro-Chinese newspaper said the documentary possibly violated the national security law by spreading messages of subversion.

Internet Censorship in Hong Kong

Following the passing of the national security law, government officials were also able to take down any electronic messages deemed a threat to national security. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), online platforms, and publishers were also ordered to remove messages that spoke out against the Chinese Communist Party. Since the passing of the law, several anti-government websites have been blocked, including HKChronicles.com and the Democratic Progressive Party.

At the time the law passed, NordVPN, one of the largest and most popular VPN providers, said Hong Kong showed a peak in interest in VPN services. NordVPN said online searches for VPN services increased by 200 percent. It was the largest peak that NordVPN had ever registered, and that was following a 175% increase the week before.

As the people of Hong Kong continue to grapple with China’s increasingly tighter grip, VPNs are effective options to access banned websites. Additionally, VPNs allow citizens to communicate with like-minded people without mainland China monitoring the conversation.

If you’re interested in more information, check out our article about getting around censorship in China.

Tech journalist
Taylor is a tech writer and online journalist with a special interest in cybersecurity and online privacy. He’s covered everything from sports and crime, to explosive startups, AI, cybercrime, FinTech, and cryptocurrency. For VPNOverview.com he follows news and developments in online privacy, cybersecurity, and internet freedom.