Organizers have canceled a public screening of a documentary about a Hong Kong university that was besieged by riot police as students fired petrol bombs and other projectiles from behind makeshift barricades in November 2019, amid a city-wide crackdown on criticism of the authorities under a draconian national security law.
The Hong Kong Film Critics Society announced it would cancel a screening of “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” which had been scheduled to show at the Golden Scene movie theater on Monday evening.
The move came after the Wen Wei Po, a newspaper backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), ran a number of articles criticizing the plan as being in breach of the national security law.
“The movie incites resistance against the police and the Hong Kong government and spreads hatred for our country,” the paper said in one article.
The Hong Kong Film Critics Society, which had added a second screening owing to strong public demand for tickets, said it had taken the decision because of the attention the film had attracted.
The 88-minute documentary, produced in 2020 by a group of anonymous Hong Kong filmmakers, won the best editing award from the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Europe’s largest documentary film festival. The Hong Kong Film Critics Society had also bestowed its annual grand prize on the film.
The title refers to the red brick walls of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University (Poly U), where some 1,300 people were arrested during the clashes. Some 300 people were sent to different hospitals to receive treatment during the siege of Poly U, for injuries related to water cannon blast, tear gas, and rubber bullets,
Rights groups hit out at the Hong Kong police for ‘fanning the flames’ of violence as desperate protesters were trapped for several days inside the campus, while hundreds more waged pitched battles with riot police in Kowloon.
The U.S.-based group Human Rights in China condemned police action in and around Poly U, “trapping students, journalists, and first aiders, and reportedly handcuffing the latter group.”
Small groups of protesters continued to make desperate bids for freedom throughout the siege, many of them only to end up being arrested and beaten bloody by police.
Police deployed tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets against a crowd trying to push through towards Poly U from Jordan district, with hundreds forming human chains to pass bricks, umbrellas, and other supplies to front-line fighters.
No choice for voters
The decision came as a Chinese official said there would be no possibility of appeal against an election committee charged by the CCP with approving candidates in future “elections” to the city’s legislature.
Political commentator and pollster Chung Kim-wah said changes to the electoral system announced earlier this month by Beijing mean that elections will no longer offer any choice to voters anyway.
“Even if they were to allow you to appeal or review [the election committee’s decision], it still has to be approved by them after that, so the process could go on forever,” Chung said.
“So the whole debate about judicial review is pointless; there is a screening mechanism that is out of the control of the people of Hong Kong, so these will be fake elections,” he said.
‘The saddest thing’
Alexander Huang, associate professor at Taiwan’s Tamkang University, said witnessing the decline of Hong Kong’s promised freedoms under Chinese rule in recent years had been “the saddest thing.”
“Actually, this will destroy an entire generation of young students, and the collective trauma they experienced will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” Huang told a symposium in Taiwan.
“I don’t think that the flames will be entirely extinguished, however. Maybe there’ll be short-term setbacks, but that’s not how history tends to happen,” he said.
Their comments came amid calls for British judges to be withdrawn from serving on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, following the changes to the electoral system and the ongoing prosecution of 47 opposition politicians for “subversion.”
U.K. Supreme Court president Lord Reed told The Times that a decision would be made soon following a review begun in November 2020.
The National Security Law for Hong Kong bans a vaguely defined and all-encompassing slew of words and actions including many seen during last year’s pro-democracy protests and anti-extradition movement.
The law targets anyone in the world committing actions within its scope, regardless of whether they live in Hong Kong or are its permanent residents. Contacts with overseas politicians are banned, as is any public speech designed to make people think ill of the authorities.
Anyone suspected of “crimes” under the law can be issued with a travel ban, with their passport confiscated and their assets frozen.
Under the implementation rules, warrantless searches of people’s homes may be authorized by a police officer carrying the rank of assistant commissioner, while “less intrusive” covert surveillance of suspects under the law can be authorized by a directorate-level police officer.
Reported by Man Hoi Yan, Fong Tak Ho and Chan Yun Nam for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.