Banned Hong Kong Films Renew Life Overseas

By Ying Cheung
Ying Cheung
Ying Cheung
July 29, 2022 Updated: July 29, 2022

Old Hong Kong films dating back decades or even half a century are currently playing in the “Made in Hong Kong Film Festival” held in Washington. In the meantime, contemporary movies were banned from the territory in the post-National Security Law era. Overseas Hongkongers slammed the Washington event and helped the banned films be presented in Britain.

National Museum of Asian Art (NMAA) organized the film festival with “generous support” from Hong Kong Commissioner for Economic and Trade Affairs, which met with objections from Hongkongers.

From early July through early August, the “Made in Hong Kong Film Festival” is playing Bruce Lee’s “Fist of Fury” (1972), “Way of the Dragon” (1972), Steven Chow’s “Shaolin Soccer” (2001) “Kung Fu Hustle” (2004), Andy Lau’s “Running on Karma” (2003), and Jackie Chan’s “Drunken Master” (1978). The Hong Kong Government even proposed the festival as one of the events celebrating Hong Kong’s handover 25th Anniversary.

Some Hongkongers in America criticized that NMAA worked with the Hong Kong Government in depicting Hong Kong in the way HKgov and the Chinese communist regime wished.

Fifteen Hongkonger bodies in America co-signed a letter urging NMAA to terminate the joint venture with the Hong Kong Government. One of them was “We the Hongkongers.” When interviewed by Radio Free Asia, its director Frances Hui Wing-ting said the films at the festival did not reflect Hong Kong society’s current situation.

The film festival got paid for by the Hong Kong Government, and yet the event was not a complete representation of Hong Kong. It was trying to eradicate Hong Kong’s current culture. The films that genuinely portrayed Hong Kong’s reality, she said, are now barred by the Hong Kong government.

Once described as one of the “events celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the handover back to China,” the event was taken out of the celebrating activities’ list when NMAA received the co-signed protest.

Forbidden Movies Were Set Free in Britain

Hongkongers in Britain ran their own overseas Hong Kong film festivals with the theme “Rupture and Rebirth.”

The festivals were held in London, Manchester, Bristol, and Edinburgh. Titles presented included 2019 anti-extradition movement-related films such as “Revolution of our Times,” “Forever Young,” and “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” as well as other Hong Kong-made movies that reflect concerns of the society such as “Made in Hong Kong.”

The 2019 movement was followed by Beijing forcefully imposing the “Hong Kong National Security Law.” Since then, Hong Kong has tightened its movie censorship mechanism, and Hong Kong entered the era of banned movies. To bar “Far From Home” and “Time and Time Again,” both films related to the anti-extradition movement, the Office for Film, Newspaper, and Article Administration (OFNAA) refused to issue a Certificate of Approval or withheld approval before the release date.

The updated “Film Censorship Ordinance” was gazetted in June 2021. The panel members’ guides clarified that movies that “would likely constitute an offense endangering national security” are inappropriate for playing.

In that month, the Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival took place. One of the contesting short films, “Far From Home,” met with OFNAA’s immediate rejection to issue a Certificate of Approval unless 14 story details were edited out from the film. This rejection was topped up with a warning that playing the film could constitute criminal conduct.

The short film’s director Mok Kwan-ling eventually had to withdraw the film from the contest because the required editing was too much for the film.

When “Revolution of our Times” was available online, Hong Kong’s police chief Raymond Siu Chak-yee openly appealed to the public to refrain from viewing or downloading the film.


Ying Cheung