US video streaming platform Netflix will not “proactively” take down a documentary on Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, HKFP has learned, amid censorship fears under the newly-enforced national security law.
A source close to the matter told HKFP on Friday that the company is still gauging the implications and risks of the Beijing-imposed legislation criminalising secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.
The company would only consider removing the 2017 documentary Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower or 2015 dystopian Hong Kong film Ten Years if the local government submits a formal takedown request, according to the source.
“Netflix does not proactively review its content based on local laws. The only instance where the company may consider removing these two titles is if the Hong Kong government submits a written demand for them to be taken down,” they said.
The source added the streaming site does not comply with all content removal requests and all demands would be reviewed by its legal team to see whether there are sound legal reasons for compliance.
According to Netflix’s 2019 Environmental Social Governance report, the company has removed a total of nine titles since its launch in 1997. Governments that have requested to take down content included Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. The company does not have a figure on the number of requests turned down.
Under Article 43 of the national security law, local law enforcement authorities can demand a publisher to take down information that they suspect may lead to crimes related to national security.
The two films would remain available in other countries and regions if they were removed from Hong Kong Netflix, the source said. Currently, the documentary on Wong is streamable worldwide, while there are a few exceptions for Ten Years as the film is not available in some countries, including Spain, Portugal, Italy and Turkey.
Netflix has yet to make an official comment.
Last week, books written by high-profile pro-democracy figures such as Wong and lawmaker Tanya Chan disappeared from the city’s libraries. The books were listed as “under review” on the library’s website and were not available for lending.
On Thursday, Wong, former leader of the now-disbanded political group Demosisto, took to Twitter to express concern over whether streaming platforms may be the target of censorship under the new national law. He also criticised the sites for not publicising their stances on controversial legislation.
“Unfortunately, Youtube and Netflix alike still remain silent on their stances on the national security law and whether they will bend to China’s whips and censor ‘sensitive videos’ from their platforms. We hope all service providers can put democratic values ahead of dollar signs,” Wong said.