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New Hong Kong law aims to ban movies with subversive, dissenting themes

By Zarrin Ahmed
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New Hong Kong law aims to ban movies with subversive, dissenting themes
Lawmakers gather at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 27. Next week, they are expected to finalize a new censorship law that aims to ban films with subversive or dissenting themes. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE

Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in Hong Kong have unveiled a new censorship law that aims to ban films -- those in the future and those from the past -- that are deemed subversive or a threat to state security.

Lawmakers introduced the Film Censorship Ordinance on Tuesday. The law bars films if they have subversive themes or glorify dissent.

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The law is retroactive, meaning that government officials will review past films to determine if they comply with the law. Offenders face as many as three years in jail and a $1 million fine.

Additionally, banned films could no longer be sold on the market or shown in cinemas.

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The proposal also allows authorities to enter and search film screening locations and investigate screenings.

Hong Kong's Legislative Council still must approve the proposal for it to become law, but experts say it's nearly certain to pass.

The new statute is the latest step by the Chinese territory to crack down on dissent and discourage protests under Beijing's national security law. Mass demonstrations two years ago led to a host of changes in Hong Kong under the security law to discourage opposition.

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The film industry and moviegoers have expressed alarm at the proposal, fearing that it means popular movies can be barred from public screenings.

Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers spokesperson Tin Kai-man told the Hong Kong Free Press that the law clarifies guidelines and promotes a sense of vigilance in the industry. He said it would address a loophole that does not enforce an expiration date for film-related permits.

"We are very worried," federation Chairman Tenky Tin told Variety. "Our greatest concern is whether we would be breaking the law."

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"We have had meetings with officials, mainly to ask them what's allowed and what's not," Hong Kong filmmaker Mabel Cheung said, according to Variety.

"But the government hasn't been able to give any concrete answer."

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