City officials in Hong Kong have cancelled an outdoor screening of the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight, according to a new report from Bloomberg News. No reason was given for the cancellation, but it’s seen as the latest sign that Hong Kong is well and truly under the control of Beijing’s censorship regime, something that would’ve been unthinkable just a few short years ago.
The screening of The Dark Knight, which had been scheduled for October 27, was cancelled “based on direction from the HK Government Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration,” according to Bloomberg. The Marvel film Iron Man is expected to be shown in its place.
The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, is considered one of the best Batman films ever made and features a performance by the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. The film even features scenes shot in Hong Kong, though that may have been one of the things censors objected to. Batman travels to the city to kidnap a corrupt Chinese businessman, as this scene from YouTube demonstrates.
Beijing started a major crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019, long before most people suspected the Chinese Communist Party would violate the “one country, two systems,” policy that had been in place for decades. Beijing pushed through a so-called “national security law” allowing anyone in Hong Kong to be extradited to the mainland and the rest is history, as far as liberal democracy is concerned for Hong Kongers.
Hong Kong officials published new guidelines in June of 2021 announcing that censors would start prohibiting any movie that supposedly threatened “national security.” And anyone who screens a forbidden movie can now face harsh penalties.
Once a city known for some of the most creative and dynamic movies in the world, Hong Kong now has to live with movie censorship like the rest of mainland China. And while tech savvy people can certainly get around censorship in creative ways in the privacy of their own home, the days of an outdoor movie screening for something like The Dark Knight appear to be over.