New Amazon TV Series Filmed in Hong Kong but Unavailable There

Hong Kong  — Frustrated Hong Kong residents say they have been unable to watch the online TV series Expats, starring Hollywood star Nicole Kidman, which was launched globally on Amazon Prime Video late last week and focuses on the former British colony.

The six-part show, directed by Chinese-born American filmmaker Lulu Wang, is based on a novel by Korean American author Janice Y. K. Lee.

The plot revolves around the lives of three women in Hong Kong in 2014, and the scenes include numerous Hong Kong elements. In addition to settings in familiar tourist sites such as Victoria Harbor, it reproduces scenes of the 2014 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Umbrella Movement, when protesters took to the streets holding umbrellas, demanding the right to choose the city’s chief executive.

It is still unclear whether the decision to block the program in Hong Kong was a business decision or whether it was due to interference from authorities there. Analysts suspect that local Amazon Prime users are unable to watch the program because of those reproduced scenes of the 2014 protests.

Some also worry it may be another sign of Beijing’s broader crackdown on the arts.

A Hong Kong government spokesperson told RFA: “We have no comment on the operational arrangements of individual businesses.”

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government issued a statement late last month saying that the current Film Censorship Ordinance only regulates films and does not apply to streaming or Internet platforms.

VOA reached out to Amazon Prime Video’s Hong Kong office for comment on why the show is not available in the city but did not receive any response by the time of publication.

“Since this movie was shot in Hong Kong, the director of the movie is of Chinese origin, and the content has a lot to do with the true events, ordinary Hong Kong citizens will definitely want to see a show that truly reflects Hong Kong society,” said Guo Zhenming, a Chinese independent film director.

Guo told VOA he believes self-censorship by Amazon may have kept the show from airing in Hong Kong.

Kenny Ng, a film censorship expert at Hong Kong Baptist University, believes that the matter is not directly related to the Hong Kong government.

“So many new shows are created on earth every day,” Ng said. “I don’t believe that the officials of the Hong Kong government have the ability to know that such a series is about to be released. The current Hong Kong censorship regulations govern films shown in theaters, not streaming platforms. … A series not being shown is often the result of a compromise made after negotiations.”

He believes Amazon may have made a business decision to abandon the Hong Kong market for this show based on the territory’s political situation and social atmosphere.

Ng believes that no matter whose decision it was, Hong Kong people’s freedom to watch the show has certainly been violated. He said many Hong Kong people are going to movie and TV show websites in China to look for the show.

“If the public had a choice, they might not be so eager to see this show. But now they suddenly cannot see it, everyone is doing everything possible to go and see it,” he said.

He said there will always be a market for banned shows.

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