Hong Kong lawmakers this week passed a bill aimed at tightening Hong Kong’s film and television content censorship law. Under the new regulations, penalties of up to three years and thousands of dollars in fines will be implemented for those responsible for productions that advocate “subversion, secession and terrorism.”

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the new legislation authorizes the city’s second-highest official to ban productions that undermine national security, according to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) parameters.

The controversial bill would also intervene in past film productions, threatening several classics of Western and Asian cinema, which would disappear from theaters and movie rentals.

While the minister responsible for coordinating the new legislation told a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday that the new rules would not undermine the film industry, critics and opponents expressed fears that creativity and freedom of expression would be affected.

Another change under the new rules is that the government will be allowed to extend the vetting period for productions from the usual two weeks to 28 days so that viewers can seek legal advice before deciding on whether or not to play certain content publicly.

Unauthorized screenings could result in a jail sentence of up to three years, instead of two as was formerly the case, and a fine of $128,570 under changes to the Film Censorship Ordinance against the production of content “contrary to national security.”

The concept of “contrary to national security” is vast. But, unfortunately, it is often used by the CCP as an excuse to repress ideals, religions, political dissidents, or simply people who are against the CCP. 

The amendments are made in the context of the controversial National Security Law that Beijing imposed last year to repress protests by pro-democracy and anti-CCP movements, in a perspective of increasing censorship.

The National Security Law was used by the CCP to penetrate all areas of Hong Kongers’ daily lives, imposing its rules on all kinds of institutions, from education to health and politics and now to film art. 

Thousands of Hong Kong citizens have been detained since the law was imposed. Many others have decided to leave the island for fear of reprisals from the CCP. 

Hong Kong is experiencing a historic exodus of its inhabitants, with public statistics recently indicating that its population has declined by 1.2% over the past year. The control, repression, and limitation of freedoms that the CCP is imposing since it implemented the National Security Law is the leading cause of the massive abandonment, the SCMP reported.

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