Censorship Without Borders: The Second Great Takeaway

Let’s be honest–Prince Charles is not the sharpest tool in the shed. But every now and then he gets it right and he couldn’t have been more correct than in his notes on what he called “The Handover of Hong Kong or the Great Chinese Takeaway.” Aside from the royal yacht Brittania being tailed by Chinese spy ships in Hong Kong harbor, Charles had one diary observation in 1997 that was particularly prescient today:

[Then Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin] gave a kind of propaganda speech which was loudly cheered by the bussed-in party faithful at the suitable moment in the text….At the end of this awful Soviet-style display we had to watch the Chinese soldiers goose-step on to the stage and haul down the Union Jack and raise the ultimate flag….Thus we left Hong Kong to her fate and the hope that Martin Lee, the leader of the Democrats, would not be arrested.”

Martin Lee was until recently the leader of the Hong Kong democracy movement and was, of course, arrested by the CCP several times and was convicted in January 2021 along with others including Jimmy Lai, publisher of Apple Daily.

We now see reports that Hong Kong’s version of China’s National Security Law is being used to censor Hong Kong film makers, which will come as no surprise to anyone paying attention. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

Hong Kong, once the most vibrant and creative film production hub in East Asia, is set to institute tougher censorship and production laws for new films released in the city as well as retroactively vet films previously cleared for release for breaches of the territory’s national security law.

The new censorship rules give Hong Kong’s censor wider powers and also increases the maximum penalty for unauthorized screenings to three years in prison and a $128,000 (HK$1,000,000) fine.

The changes proposed to the Film Censorship Ordinance, set to be tabled next week, are yet another measure that will undermine artistic freedom in the semi-autonomous city, and give further credence to critics of the Hong Kong government who fear full China-style political and cultural censorship.

How does this work? The National Security Law is an example of the Chinese Communist Party’s 2015 edict on “military-civil fusion” which is part of the CCP’s “Made in China 2025” planned economic strategy for economic domination. (See Michael Pillsbury’s The Hundred-Year Marathon or James Rogan’s Chaos Under Heaven.)

Hong Kong National Security Law is a version of the CCP’s National Intelligence Law, enacted on June 27, 2017 and came into effect in July 2017.  (Remember, the CCP views Hong Kong as a part of China like Taiwan.) The National Intelligence Law is part of a portfolio of statutes (including the Cybersecurity Law) that gives the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party statutory authority that is unique in the world.  The statute is an actual legal requirement for all Chinese companies (like Tik Tok) and citizens to cooperate with China’s massive intelligence agencies. The Hong Kong National Security Law is based on these statutes.

The National Intelligence Law has broadly drafted and poorly defined provisions that create gaping exposure for U.S. and other foreigners doing business or studying in mainland China, as well as their Chinese business partners, employees and colleagues.

Two parts of the Intelligence Law are particularly concerning, Article 7 and Article 14.  Article 7 mandates that “any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work according to law” and Article 14 empowers Ministry of State Security officials to demand this cooperation, stating that “state intelligence work organs, when legally carrying forth intelligence work, may demand that concerned organs, organizations, or citizens provide needed support, assistance, and cooperation.”

Other clauses are equally alarming.  Article 16 authorizes the Ministry of State Security to interrogate  any individual and to search their reference materials and files. Article 17 authorizes police to seize and take over the operation of communications equipment [aka TikTok], transportation, buildings, and other facilities of both individuals and organizations.

This would be a good point to remind you that there is no 5th Amendment in China, either in law or in concept.  There is no right to remain silent.  So understand that when this interrogation occurs it may well happen in a back room of some State Police office.  Commandeering of “communications equipment” may well be at gun point.  This is one of the issues for Hong Kong citizens and is essentially what happened to Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily which had been a voice of the Hong Kong independence movement. Be clear–the CCP ain’t playin.

You should also remember that the Chinese Communist Party controls many state owned enterprises and controls pretty much every business–just ask Jack Ma who was disappeared for a while or the CEO of Tik Tok owner Byte Dance.  


There is quite a blurry line between an SOE and really any business based in China or that is a “partnership” with the Chinese government (including companies like Alibaba and Tencent).  It’s not surprising, then, that “intelligence” in China is quite different than in the West and includes commercial activities as stated in Article 2 of the Intelligence Law:

National intelligence work adheres to the overall national security concept, provides intelligence reference for major national decision­ making, provides intelligence support for preventing and defusing risks that endanger national security, and safeguards state power, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, people’s well­being, and economic and social Sustainable development and other important national interests.

So you will not be surprised that the CCP views film censorship as a key component of enforcing the National Security Law in Hong Kong just as they do in mainland China as the Hollywood Reporter tells us:

The South China Morning Post reports that Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah announced the new censorship plans on Tuesday. “The amendments this time are simple and straightforward. The aim is to consolidate our legal foundation regarding film censorship work so as to prevent acts against national security,” Yau said.

He added: “Under the proposed legislative amendments giving the chief secretary power to revoke the certificates of approval previously issued for films, there is a chance that past movies could be banned from public screening.”

The stricter scrutiny of previously licensed films could see a number of political films and documentaries about Hong Kong banned and potentially have repercussions for streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. Films such as the Netflix doc Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower and the anthology drama Ten Years, also streaming on Netflix, would fall foul of the city’s new censorship rules given their avowedly political and pro-democracy content.

The commerce secretary said there would be no appeal mechanism for films bans due to national security grounds, moreover, the censor can delay the vetting of films for up to 28 days if necessary

So you get the idea. The one thing that scares the CCP the most is the Chinese people.

In addition to the CCP’s regulation of speech and information through the Great Firewall, we also read Variety’s excellent analysis of the CCP’s regulation of motion picture distribution resulting in plummeting box office for US films.

The modern-day Chinese film industry is still relatively young and grew up alongside a Hollywood market share that reached 50% in some years.

However, the government has done its best to keep U.S. titles in check. A system of import controls exercises quota allocations; blackout periods often cordon off three or four prime seasons per year for Chinese-language film releases; and the use of a censorship approval system diminishes pre-release marketing to just a few weeks….

However, the release hiatus, combined with the studios’ experimentation with day-and-date theatrical-streaming releases, has caused all U.S. summer titles to be heavily pirated. The weak $5 million debut of “Luca” is a prime example. [So don’t let anyone tell you that the CCP has piracy under control–if anything, piracy is just as weaponized as it’s always been.]…

What happens next depends on a series of political factors. The already unusually long summer blackout period could be stretched until after the Oct. 1 National Day festivities. That would have the effect of squeezing any remaining Hollywood films into the last three months of the year.

Movies that may be at risk include “The Eternals,” directed by Chloé Zhao, who was branded a traitor for her past comments; “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” where Disney may not have done enough to diffuse charges of racism; “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” because American basketball continues to be a sensitive subject following an NBA official’s 2019 comments on Hong Kong; and “Top Gun,” which is seen as promoting the U.S. military.

None of this bodes well for film makers in Hong Kong, confirmed by the now-total crackdown on Hong Kong in violation of the CCP’s handover agreement with the UK. However much you may think that Charles is a chowderhead, he got one thing very clearly correct–goose stepping troops are never employed to protect freedom.

We’ll see if Hollywood ever steps up to defend creative freedom in Hong Kong or if the CCP is imposing censorship without borders.