As reported by the BBC on its Chinese language portal, three Taiwanese films have been censored in Hong Kong and will not be allowed to participate in three film festivals. The films “The Runaways,” “The three little boys,” and “Quarantine Denny” have nothing to do with politics, however, the national security law, imposed by the CCP in the former British colony, can decide to censor films that are contrary to “national security” at the censors’ own discretion.
The Hong Kong Government’s Office of Film, Newspapers, and Articles Administration, a state agency exercising new powers from 2021, such as reviewing films to be released throughout the region and deciding whether they contradict any regulations of the national security law, requested a review of these three films and concluded that they should not be screened in Hong Kong.
Some experts in Taiwan and Hong Kong pointed out that the possible reason behind the censorship could be the background of the Taiwanese films, as it could be interpreted as support for Taiwan’s sovereignty.
The BBC indicated that the three films do not deal with political issues related to Hong Kong or Taiwan sovereignty. “The Runaways,” directed by Zeng Wenzhen, presents the story of Vietnamese immigrants in Taiwan. “The Three Little Boys” is a documentary about Huang Xinyao and his youth. “Quarantine Denny” is the work of new directors Lu Baixun, Zhuang Xiangan and Lin Yayou, which explores the dramatic changes of daily life under the pandemic.
The films were destined to screen at the Image Without Borders 2022 Film Festival, the Panda International Film Festival, and the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival organized by the Independent Short Film and Video Media Festival in Hong Kong.
The BBC tried to contact the directors without success. The only one who responded was Lu, director of “Quarantine Denny.” He said, “There is no sensitive content in the film, but unfortunately this film can’t do anything about it. I know the audience in Hong Kong, I hope everything will be fine in the future.”
According to Hong Kong’s new film censorship ordinance, a film must be screened before it can be shown in public places to determine whether it shows “threats” to “national security.”
According to the Hong Kong 01 news website, the film “The three little boys” has scenes showing the Taiwan flag and military camps, which could be interpreted as “hidden messages” about Taiwan’s sovereignty. In addition, the film mentions the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name in Chinese), the national army, the president, all terms related to the island’s democratic system of government, and reflects the country’s independence, which so offends Hong Kong’s communist authorities.
In the film “The Runaways,” which deals with the situation of Vietnamese migrants living in Taiwan, a protest is shown in front of the Taiwanese presidential building, a sore point for the Chinese communist regime, which has control of the Hong Kong government.
A film expert and professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Film, Wu Guokun, said that Taiwan issues are becoming increasingly politically sensitive and Hong Kong authorities are not being clear on foreign film censorship rules.
Wu pointed out that Hong Kong’s film censorship mechanism is regressing, as “going back to the 1950s.” At that time, the Cold War and the struggle between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party led to political instability in Hong Kong.
Wu said that film censorship in Hong Kong is advancing and compared it to censorship in the 1950s; when the Cold War was at its height, and the struggle between the Kuomintang (Taiwan’s Nationalist party) and the Chinese Communist Party, led Hong Kong to political instability. As a result, censorship of Chinese and Taiwanese films was the order of the day.
An example of this is that films depicting the Cultural Revolution as positive were allowed, however, films that criticized the Chinese Communist Party, such as the Taiwanese film “If I Was Real,” which criticized the Cultural Revolution, were banned.
According to Wu, in the 1980s and 1990s, Hong Kong updated, together with British authorities, the film classification system and abolished censorship; since the implementation of the new national security law under the orders of the Chinese Communist Party, this freedom will be extinguished for Hong Kong citizens.
In a recent interview with the Chinese version of the BBC, Tian Qiwen, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Filmmakers Federation, said that the criteria for allowing or not allowing films was not clearly understood.
Tian said, “This time it’s a Taiwanese film, not a Hong Kong film, but it’s a two-way process. The scenes, props, and dialogue involved will also affect us. The industry needs clear guidance and we don’t want to be told a “warm reminder” after filming ends. It doesn’t work, it’s a waste of time, creativity and story structure.”
In addition, Tian noted that he is not happy with the situation Hong Kong filmmakers find themselves in under these new rules. Now, filmmakers must “find out for themselves what the Hong Kong authorities want under this new political correctness and pay close attention to the dangers about Taiwan.”
With the growing tension between China and Taiwan, Hong Kong’s executive authority Li Jiachao proposed in his Policy Address in October that he would subsidize Hong Kong and Asian teams to co-produce films, however, Taiwan was not included.
Tian said this pressure to not include Taiwan in film production is unhealthy for the industry and said, “Would it be unfair to eat Taiwanese fruits and travel to Taiwan in the future? [This] will only hinder the exchanges, markets, and economies between the two places.”