Hong Kong Filmmakers Warned to ‘Think Twice’ Before Attending Taiwanese Film Awards

Hong Kong Filmmakers Warned to ‘Think Twice’ Before Attending Taiwanese Film Awards
The 58th Taiwan Golden Horse Award ceremony in 2021. (Courtesy of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee)

Movies are now heavily censored in Hong Kong before any showing in the city. Any movies categorized as inciting or provoking others to rebel or oppose the government will be banned.

Recently, the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA) urged its members to think twice before participating in Taiwan Golden Horse Awards. MPIA claims that the Golden Horse Awards had become increasingly politicized in the past few years. Many people at the awards ceremony have repeatedly confused politics with films.

Movie critics comment that a banned Hong Kong movie swept awards in the 2021 ceremony has upset the CCP. However, the critics believe that even if MPIA did not mention it, most Hong Kong filmmakers would not dare to participate in the Golden Horse Awards because they are afraid of retaliation and self-censorship by the CCP.

The 59th Golden Horse Awards will be held on Nov. 19.

MPIA sent out a letter to its members on Sept. 13, warning them about attending the Taiwanese film awards.

MPIA claimed that the Taipei Golden Horse Awards have become increasingly politicized recently, and members who wish to participate must think twice before participating. Otherwise, they might be involved in disputes and lose what they have.

Established in 1986, MPIA currently has about 204 members, including film production and distribution companies. The association also has individual members who are filmmakers, directors, screenwriters, film critics, and producers.

MPIA says movies produced and distributed by its members take up over 85 percent of the local market.

It says the members had organized four “Hong Kong Film Industry Rep. Group Visiting Beijing' since 1992 to reflect the industry’s plight to the Beijing government and strive for market opening.

The 18th board of directors of MPIA, Honorable President, is Charles Heung Wah-keung, Shaw Brother Pictures International Ltd Representative and TVB Assistant General Manager, Virginia Lok Yik-ling.

Members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Rubber Stamp Legislature, Peter Lam Kin-ngok and Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, son of Henry Fok Ying-tung who is a former vice chairman of the CCP Rubber Stamp Legislature from 1993 to 2006, are also “part of the club”.

At the 58th Taipei Golden Horse Ceremony, the Hong Kong-banned movie Revolution of Our Times received the Best Documentary Film Award.

When the presenter announced the winner, the audience applauded for over ten seconds. Some people shouted, “Hong Kong, Add Oil!”

Taiwanese actor and Best Leading actor Winner Chen Shiang-chyi was a little choked when announcing the absence of the film crew. Chow Kwun-wai, director of Revolution of Our Times, delivered his acceptance speech in a prerecorded video.

The Golden Horse Film Awards has had a rough time with the CCP. Beijing had previously banned the Golden Horse Film Awards in 2018, but later, the CCP relaxed the ban.

The ban stemmed from a speech made by several directors, including internationally acclaimed Chinese film director Zhang Yi-Mou.

Zhang said while presenting the Best New Director award, “Seeing so much work from young directors represents hope in Chinese movies.”

A comment from Fu Yu, the best documentary director at the time, also rattled the CCP’s nerves. “I hope that my country, Taiwan (instead of China Taiwan), will be treated truly as an individual country is my biggest wish of being Taiwanese.”

Chinese Actress Refused to Share the Stage with Taiwanese

Taiwanese Director and Academy Award Winner Ang Lee was supposed to present an award together with mainland Chinese actress Gong Li. However, the Mulan actress made a litigious move and refused to go on stage.
Ang Lee Won The Best Foreign Language Movie of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Best Directing for Life of Pi.

CCP Hit Back

The CCP officials not only decided to hold China’s 2019 Golden Rooster Awards at the same time as the 56th Golden Horse Awards in August 2019, but Beijing also banned all Chinese filmmakers from attending the Taiwanese Awards ceremony.

The news shocked the Chinese film industry as Beijing forcefully shut down the cultural exchange due to geopolitics.

Filmmakers in Hong Kong and China had to remain silent and avoidant. And for the following two years, they could not attend the Taiwanese event.

At the Golden Horse Awards, in the same year (2019), Hong Kong director Johnny To Ki-feng was originally the chairman of the jury. Still, he had to step down, citing his contracts with movie investors. In the same year, many Hong Kong films also canceled their sign-up.

When the Tension Finally Smoothed Over

The tension was finally more relaxed in 2020. The CCP decided to stop the Golden Rooster Awards and the Taipei Golden Horse Award from colliding.

The movie industry believes it was due to the pandemic that China had to stop its explosive confrontation against Taiwan.

But that did not comfort Chinese and Hong Kong filmmakers.

Hence only a few movies made it to the nomination round.

In 2021, of the 573 films that participated in the Golden Horse Film Awards, over 200 were from China and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Politician Ben Lam Siu-pan stated that the Golden Horse Film Awards had never been political. “The awards ceremony itself is a place of free speech and diversified voices.”

Lam argued that if it became political, it would only be by the CCP. He pointed out that Beijing wanted to silence the expanding voices of ‘Taiwan’s Independence.’

Simultaneously, the regime also wanted to warn Taiwanese artists to shut up. Otherwise, their movies would not reach any big screen in mainland China.

Hong Kong Movie Makers Self-censored

Lam guessed that MPIA might have received orders from the Hong Kong and Macao Liaison Office and Macao, in Hong Kong, or directly from the CCP. The organization had to send a letter to “prove their loyalty” to the regime.

Lam also says that no one would attend the Taiwanese Awards because Hong Kong films rely too much on funding from mainland Chinese investors.

Lam pointed out that the 2018 Golden Horse Awards had a tremendous impact on Hong Kong movies. “Last year, there were more independent films than big budget movies or coproduced movies.”

Due to self-censorship, Lam expects Hong Kong films gradually to disappear from the Taipei Golden Horse Awards. “There are too many ways for the CCP to retaliate. Hong Kong filmmakers fear that Hong Kong and Beijing governments will ban their movies in Hong Kong or China, which affects mainland Chinese investments.”