Enoch Tam Yee-lok, a programme director at the Hong Kong Baptist University's Academy of Film, said Hong Kong's
classification standards had not witnessed any major amendments since 1999, although it was more lenient than in the past. Ho noted:
In the past, a Cantonese version of the 'F' word would force a film to be classified as category III. But now very often we can see films with a few Cantonese 'F' words that are put in the IIB category. I think this is happening due to the tolerance of
society towards the use of foul language. Personally, I prefer to leave the classifications as simple as possible and I think the current system is good enough.
Currently, films in Hong Kong are classified in four categories by the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration:
I. Suitable for all ages.
IIA. Not suitable for young persons and children.
IIB. Not suitable for children.
III. Persons aged 18 or above only.
For the first three categories, the classification is advisory, while the final one is legally enforceable.
The Film Censorship Authority has to approve all productions for broadcast. The Board of Review, which oversees film classifications, has 10 members, plus an additional nine who are not public officers. It consults with 300 volunteers from all walks of
life on a fortnightly basis, in an attempt to ensure films are being classified appropriately. Early films made and broadcast in Hong Kong were not originally subjected to classifications, but were generally fairly restrictive in their content as a
Film classifications were first introduced in the Movie Screening Ordinance Cap.392 on November 10, 1988, and were last amended in 1995.
Classification standards: In classifying a film, the Film Censorship Authority has to consider whether it portrays, depicts or treats cruelty, torture, violence, crime, horror, disability, sexuality or indecent or offensive language or behaviour.
Category I films are suitable for people of all ages. Children may view films in this category without supervision, as no distress or harm is likely to be caused.
Films should not contain undesirable language expressions, nudity, sex or horror.
Violence should be kept minimal and that it would not frighten, unnerve, unsettle or cause pain to children.
Examples: Finding Dory (2016), Toy Story (1995), The Lion King (1994)
Category IIa films are not suitable for children either in terms of its content, or its treatment or both.
There may be a mild dose of bad language, nudity, sex, violence or horror.
Parental guidance is advised.
Examples: Doctor Strange (2016), The Pianist (2002), Transformers (2007)
Category IIb films are not suitable for young persons and children. Viewers should expect the elements relating to bad language, nudity, sex, violence or horror in the films to be more intense than that of
Parental guidance is strongly advised.
The film may contain some crude expressions and sexual expletives.
Implied sexual activity and discreet nudity scenes may be shown.
There may be a moderate degree of violence and horror.
Examples: Red Dragon (2002), Road to Perdition (2002)
Category III films should only be seen by adults. It is an offence to admit persons under the age of 18 to see the film.
Examples: The Untold Story (1993), Happy Together (1997), The Gigolo (2015)
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
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