Punishment for violating the law includes up to three years imprisonment and fines of up to $128,400 million.

Critics voiced fears that the new law would dampen creativity and further reduce freedoms.
Critics voiced fears that the new law would dampen creativity and further reduce freedoms. (AP)

Hong Kong's legislature has passed a new bill that could ban the screening of films that hinder "national security".

The Hong Kong government on Wednesday said the law was aimed at content deemed to "endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security."

The law empowers Hong Kong's chief secretary, the second-most powerful figure in the city's administration, to revoke a film's licence if it is "found to be contrary to national security interests."

Punishment for violating the law includes up to three years imprisonment and fines of up to $128,400 million.

Critics, however, voiced fears that the new law would harm Hong Kong's vibrant cinema industry, dampen creativity and further reduce freedoms.

"Adding national security clauses to the bill is clear political censorship," said Kenny Ng, associate professor at the Academy of Film at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Filmmaker Kiwi Chow, whose documentary "Revolution of Our Times" chronicles the 2019 protests and was featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, says the bill hurts the local movie industry by reducing "the freedom to create."

READ MORE: Hong Kong to censor all movies for anti-China content

'Crackdown' on civil society

China imposed a sweeping national security law over its most restive city last year, and Hong Kong's legislature has no opposition lawmakers left after mass resignations from the anti-Beijing camp in protest against the ousting of some colleagues.

Since the national security law was introduced in response to mass 2019 anti-Beijing protests, most opposition politicians and activists have been jailed, either under the new law or for other alleged crimes, or have fled into exile.

Scrutiny over education, arts, media and culture has intensified. 

Book publishers have admitted to self-censoring, cinemas have pulled a protest documentary and a university cancelled a press photography exhibition. 

Anti-Beijing tabloid Apple Daily closed in June amid a national security probe.

This year, for the first time since 1969, the Oscars were not broadcasted in Hong Kong, matching decisions in mainland China, despite an unprecedented nomination for a Hong Kong-born director.

Authorities reject the description of their actions as a "crackdown" on civil society and say the rights and freedoms promised to Hong Kong upon its return to Chinese rule in 1997 remain intact, but national security is a "red line".

READ MORE: In Hong Kong, children's tales of sheep and wolves seen as seditious

Source: Reuters