Outdoor Screening of Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight’ Banned by Hong Kong Government

The Hong Kong government has banned an outdoor screening of the 2008 Batman film The Dark Knight, scheduled for an event next Thursday.

Hong Kong Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung was questioned about the incident at a news conference today. He said Hong Kong has an established mechanism for handling film screenings. He “believes” the government has used the same mechanism for screenings in the past and he trusts the decision was fair and lawful.

The Dark Knight was filmed in Hong Kong, including street scenes in the Central District and the top and outer walls of the two International Financial Center (IFC) skyscrapers. At the time, the Hong Kong SAR government issued a statement expressing its welcome.

Maisie Cheng, then Commissioner of Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority of Hong Kong, said Hong Kong welcomed the film crew to Hong Kong to shoot The Dark Knight.

Jack So Chak-kwong, then-Chairman of the Hong Kong Film Development Council, said, “I am sure that the Batman film will continue to improve Hong Kong’s image and attract more tourists after its international release.”

On October 27, 2021, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed legislation to tighten film censorship. The Chief Executive has the power to ban a work, even if authorized, if it is deemed a threat to national security. The maximum sentence for showing such films has now been raised to three years.

Tenky Tin Kai-man, a spokesman for the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, said before the law was passed that the industry could not judge which films would break the law.

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He said films are always an illusion and asked whether foreign films that have anti-national themes would pass the censors? For example, in the movie Die Hard, a skyscraper in New York is blown up. “Are they going to link this to the IFC blow-up?”

The background to “The Dark Knight” is the time before Hong Kong’s sovereignty was handed over to China. Batman as the main character entered and exited Hong Kong by irregular routes and there were scenes in which the Hong Kong IFC was blown up.

In the plot, Batman caught a criminal, a Chinese accountant who was laundering money in Hong Kong. The accountant said that the Chinese would not extradite other Chinese, so he fled to Hong Kong, feeling protected by the authorities. Batman defeated the accountant, who was moaning that his subordinates had bribed the Hong Kong police, but no one saved him.

In the film there is a court scene showing an attempt to shoot a lawyer which failed because the gun did not fire. “Made in China! If you want to kill an officer, I recommend you buy American!” prosecutor Harvey Dent told a defense attorney.

Edward Leung Tin-kei, a former local political leader in Hong Kong, once quoted dialogue from the film in his speech at the Hong Kong National Party convention: “The night is darkest just before dawn. The dawn is coming.”

The Dark Knight was not licensed in mainland China when it was released in 2008.

Tin also predicted last year that the government would feel “embarrassed” and “insufferable” if some old films allegedly violating the National Security Law were allowed to screen today.

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In response to a query from a Hong Kong media outlet, a spokesman for The Grounds, an outdoor venue that hosts outdoor film screenings, indicated that Hong Kong’s Office of Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA) believes the film shows violence at a level unsuitable for an outdoor screening.

However, upcoming movie tickets set to be shown at The Grounds, such as the horror film Rocky Horror Picture Show, are still on sale.

Vincent Lam

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