Hong Kong authorities canceled the outdoor screening of the 2008 film Batman “The Dark Knight,” at the last minute claiming that the film was too violent. However, Hong Kong netizens commented on social networks that the real reasons for the cancellation were related to Hong Kong’s national security law, imposed by the Chinese Communist Party.
The screening of the 2008 film “The Dark Knight” was scheduled for October 27 and was canceled by an order of the Hong Kong government’s Office of Film, Newspapers, and Articles Administration, according to a notice issued by the organizers. They will show “Iron Man” in its place.
According to the Hong Kong government, the film “The Dark Knight” had “too much” violence for an outdoor screening and “the level of violence is not appropriate.”
Reports from several media outlets, including Bloomberg, noted that the film was canceled for national security reasons.
On October 27, 2021, Hong Kong’s legislature passed a bill allowing the government to decide which films to ban that endanger “national security.” The law punishes with fines of up to $1 million those who screen films contrary to the national security law.
This law empowered the city’s chief clerk, a member of the National Security Committee, to instruct the Film Censorship Authority to revoke approvals granted, at any time, if it believes that a film threatens national security.
It also empowered inspectors to stop a film at any time, meaning that any inspector in can enter a movie theater and suspend any film.
When the Hong Kong censorship agency cancels a film, this decision is irrevocable, as the grounds usually involve an alleged violation or threat to national security.
Since the passage of the national security law, Hong Kong authorities have exercised rampant censorship of any film that threatens “national security,” according to their own criteria.
The case of “The Dark Knight” shows the evolution of the situation in Hong Kong before and after the CCP. Some scenes in the movie were filmed in Hong Kong in 2007, and authorities worked closely with the film’s crew and director, Christopher Nolan. Hong Kong Film Development Council Chairman Jack So said at the time, “World premiere films will also help showcase Hong Kong to international audiences. I am sure Batman will raise Hong Kong’s profile and attract more tourists.”
When Hong Kong Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung was asked for the real reason the film was canceled. He replied that he did not have much information about the incident as he had just heard about it from the news.
In August this year, an award-winning film was withdrawn from a film festival by the organizers. “Losing Side of a Longed Place” was sent to the Office of Film, Newspaper and Article Administration for approval. The office’s said that a portion of the film had to be completely removed for clearance.
The portion in question-which lasts less than a second-showed banners reading “Don’t forget the original intent.” The scene also showed a yellow umbrella and the Chinese characters “I want,” an apparent allusion to banners from protest camps during a series of 2014 citizen demonstrations that read “I want universal suffrage.”
Those protests gave rise to the “Umbrella Movement,” which lasted 79 days; thousands of demonstrators occupied the streets at key sites demanding the right to vote in the city’s head of government elections.
In requiring the removal of this scene, the administration office cited a clause in the Film Censorship Ordinance that allows authorities to decide to cancel a film if it is “contrary to the interests of national security.”
Freedom of expression, a threat to the CCP in Hong Kong
These censorship measures were enacted following some films released in 2018 and 2019 that portrayed Hong Kong citizens’ protests against the new national security law imposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In 2019, Hong Kongers took to the streets to defend their freedoms and protest against the new CCP law, as the national security law was intended to end Hong Kong’s status quo as an independent region with Western values.
One of the main grievances was a proposed extradition law that would have allowed the CCP to arrest anyone suspected of crimes in Hong Kong and put them on trial in communist China. Marches and protests mobilized 7 million people.
CCP police violence and repression was shown to the world on social networks and media.
As a result of CCP harassment and persecution, several protesters died during the protests, or as a result of police harassment outside the protests. A series of suspicious suicides caught the attention of Hong Kong society, as most of them were young people who were very active in the protests against the new law.
Since the implementation of the new national security law, more than 200 people have been arrested and charged with violating the law. On “sensitive” dates for the Hong Kong government, such as the commemoration of the Tiananmen massacre, the number of arrests increases considerably.
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression have been irreversibly damaged since 2020. Media outlets, such as Apple Daily, were targeted by the Hong Kong government under CCP rule. Media owners and employees who denounced the CCP or were pro-democracy suffered trials and prison sentences for violating the national security law and sedition legislation. Other media had to move to neighboring countries to evade CCP censorship and persecution.