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23rd February
2009
  

Category III...

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Film censorship in Hong Kong
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Cat III label At the beginning of February, media in China was buzzing about the possibility of a film rating system being put into place sometime this year. Although the story turned out to be incorrect, it still sparked yet another round of debate over the feasibility of implementing a rating system for mainland cinema.

In a blog post last week, film critic Wei Junzi discussed how Hong Kong's film rating system came about.

Men Behind the Sun , was a notable co-production that depicted the tragic biological experiments conducted by the Japanese invaders on Chinese people. According to Hong Kong media reports in 1988, the film censors vomited from disgust when they viewed the film and in one swift action, Category III films were born in Hong Kong.

Why was it only in 1988 that Hong Kong started having Category III films? Going back to the beginning, in March 1987, the English-language Asian Wall Street Journal disclosed that there was no legal foundation for Hong Kong film censorship, a revelation that caused instant controversy throughout the city. Creating a new film screening system, regardless of what it would eventually become, had to be put on the agenda immediately. Therefore the Hong Kong Executive and Legislative Councils quickly established a task force to deliberate a new Film Censorship Bill that would incorporate a motion picture rating system. On November 10, 1988, the Film Censorship Ordinance went into effect, and from that day forward, Hong Kong had a three-level film rating system:

  • Category I (All ages admitted)
  • Category II (All ages admitted, but the film had to carry the statement, Not suitable for children )
  • Category III (Persons aged 18 and above).

Subsequently, Hong Kong's film screening became substantially more permissive. Even though this led to the proliferation of films wallowing in sex and violence, at the same time, Hong Kong filmmakers obtained a good deal of creative freedom, and produced a stream of excellent works that broke through thematic taboos.

In 1995, Hong Kong's film censors changed the "three-level system" into a "four-level system." The main changes were to indicate the degree of nudity, sex, violence, crude language, and frightening content present, and divided the former Category II into:

  • Category IIA (Not suitable for children)
  • Category IIB (Not suitable for children or youth).

It is suggested that the proposed 2 level system for mainland China is

  • Category I (All ages admitted)
  • Category IIA (Not suitable for children)