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Award to“Revolution of Our Times”speaks of Hong Kong’s decline


Editor's note: This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week. (一周政情:《時代革命》奪金馬獎喻意深長

Kiwi Chow’s “Revolution of Our Times” has won him both one more award in Taiwan and the headline for the past week. The documentary about Hong Kong protests in 2019, honoured as the best documentary at this year’s Golden Horse Awards, has earned praises in the island, despite it could not be screened in Hong Kong. This speaks volume about Hong Kong’s decline in cultural hub in Asia, soon to be replaced by Japan, Korea and Taiwan which could challenge productions from mainland China.

There was once a time that Hong Kong was regional centre of arts and culture. The city, with barely several millions of population, was home to cutting-edge literature and arts, thank to the freedom of creation and expression guaranteed by law. Books about politics that no publishers across the straits dare to touch could be sold here freely. Film directors could produce films and television programmes however bold that their peers in mainland China and Taiwan may find too sensitive. Hong Kong may well be a small market, but it lived up to its reputation as the “Hollywood of the Orient” alongside with other East Asian markets such as Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Hong Kong’s “soft power”, via its films, TV programmes, pop music and publications, has once impacted the entire Asia.

Gone were the days. Following the introduction of the National Security Law, officials could now ban any film that is deemed contrary to “national interest”, which was subject to loose interpretation. Great deal of news programs from RTHK are shelved, quality programmes aired now removed from platforms like YouTube, while their award-winning teams are either forced to leave or thrown on the scrap heap. These moves sent a strong signal to the society about the loosely-defined political red line.

Public libraries are also scrambling to screen books that involve politics. All it required was officials' own judgement, and there is no legal process to review if these books are actually in breach of national security. These censorship that rather erred on side of political correctness showed Hong Kong no longer enjoy the same degree of freedom it used to. Chow’s “Revolution of Our Times” was screened in international film festivals but Hong Kong. This clearly showed Hong Kong is alienating itself from the world, being rapidly absorbed into mainland’s tightly controlled censorship system that put politics above all.

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In other words, in the future, books, songs, dramas or films, or any work by Hong Kong people - as long as they are to enter the mainland market- they would have to forgo their freedom of creation and summit to the mainland standard of censorships, carefully avoiding any element that may anger the censor.

If they want to create freely, they could only target audience outside of China, and attract Asian and international audiences. Hong Kong audiences could only see these works when they travel overseas.

Originally, the Taiwan, Southeast Asian and European/American Chinese markets could not compete against the lucrative mainland market. However, when online streaming become popular, major international platforms have secured multiple popular programmes from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Just add in subtitles and click play. Instantly these productions, coming from markets that originally could hardly sustain, generated immense returns and influence. These productions increasingly found thesmevles at the forefront of popular culture globally. Squid Game by South Korea is the most convincing example.

This trend has motivated many Asian creators who may be reluctant to accept censorship. Even if they may not be accepted by some of those in power and cannot be aired in local cinemas, provided their works eventually become international hit, so what? The mainland market is big but censorship is harsh and quickly evolving, that may drive talents away. Which of the two culture powers will become the future of Asia? We shall see.