Wednesday, March 31, 2021

From Asia's World City to the Developed World's Police State

The state of this Lennon Wall is a pretty good reflection
of the contemporary state of democratic hopes in Hong Kong
Explain to me why it's supposed to be important for us
to make sure that we are registered to vote, etc.?
Last night, three "yellow" friends and I dined at a restaurant that's part of the Yellow Economic Circle.  In places like it, we feel more relaxed and freely share our views and concerns.  Yet we barely touched upon the big news of the day: Beijing's radical overhaul and neutering of Hong Kong's electoral system.
It's not like we're not interested in politics.  I'm talking of people who have been on countless protest marches (including the 2 million plus one extradition bill march of June 16th, 2019) and also attended a good number of protest rallies (like that which sought to show solidarity with the Uyghurs back in December of that same year).  And, of course, have cast votes in a number of election held here in Hong Kong (like the historic district council elections of November 24th, 2019).
But, for someone like me, it all was a done deal back on March 11th when China's rubberstamp congress endorsed this action.  So no tears were shed yesterday by me and many others.  And lawyer Kevin Yam was moved to Tweet -- somewhat cynically but also somewhat truthfully -- that: "#HongKong moved a big step forward today -- its residents stopped bothering to analyse whether the electoral whatever-one-might-call-it announced today conforms with local or national legal or constitutional requirements. Lots of brain cells and arteries saved as a result."
This being said, two of my "go to" Hong Kong bloggers did give their take on this electoral downgrade by the government.  So for those interested in getting educated views on the matter, check out the Big Lychee, Various Sectors' blog post from earlier today and The Fragrant Harbour's from yesterday.  And if you really want to knock yourself out by perusing the details of the overhaul, head over to the Hong Kong Free Press website for this Explainer on how Beijing cracked down on Hong Kong's elections.  (In addition, for good measure, click here to get details of Beijing's concurrent amendments to Annex I and II of Hong Kong’s Basic law aimed at (further) restricting the city’s democracy.)
P.S. Two years ago today, the first extradition bill protest march took place.  It attracted 12,000 participants and the Hong Kong Free Press ran an "In Pictures" piece on it.  Do go take a look and find many faces of people now behind bars (e.g., Joshua Wong, Jimmy Lai, Ray Chan, Claudia Mo and Jimmy Sham) -- in many cases, even though no official verdict has been delivered with regards to the charges levelled against them -- or now in exile (e.g., bookseller Lam Wing-kee).  
What a difference two years makes.  And, for sure, there are people who will blame those who sought genuine universal suffrage as well as demanded no China extradition for Hong Kong's current state of affairs.  To which I think a commenter on the Big Lychee, Various Sectors' blog gave a good response: Namely that, it would have been a death by a thousand cuts rather than the beheading we are witnessing, for "One Country, Two Systems" was always an affront to the Chinese Communist Party.     

Monday, March 29, 2021

A day of infamy for the Hong Kong film world and much of Hong Kong

A banner day -- in a bad way -- for the Hong Kong International
Film Festival and "Asia's World City" in general
Just one of many bad things that happened 
in Hong Kong today :(  
Mark this day, Hong Kong film fans: For what probably may well be the first time ever in the Hong Kong International Film Festival's 45 year history, the screening of a fest opening film has been cancelled.  Supposedly, it's upon the request of the film owner. If so, that begs the question why. 
The official reason given for the cancellation of the screenings of Where the Wind Blows is "technical reasons".  As veteran film writer Patrick Frater noted: "“Technical reasons” is widely understood in mainland China as a euphemism for censorship. It was the phrase used for the abrupt cancelation of Zhang Yimou’s One Second at the 2019 Berlin film festival and for the last-minute halt of The Eight Hundred which had been set as the opening film at the Shanghai festival later the same year."
Where the Wind Blows is about two police detectives who forge dangerous alliances with organized crime.  Listed as TBC (To be Confirmed) right from the start, it looks to have fallen afoul of the censors despite it being a period drama (set in the 1960s) and (loosely) based on real life personalities -- for some time now.  

Here's the thing: up until now, it's been informally recognized that certain films that would not be given (allowed to have?) a commercial release in Hong Kong would still allowed to be screened at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.  At the very least, in years past, I have viewed many a Mainland Chinese film at the Hong Kong International Film Festival that I doubted would have been allowed to have been screened in Mainland China: e.g., The Ditch, at the 2011 Hong Kong International Film Festival
Also, I have felt for a few years now that the Hong Kong International Film Festival programmers had become more cautious and conservative in their film selection.  Hence the likes of Ying Liang's A Family Tour ending up debuting at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival rather than the, frankly, more prestigious Hong Kong International Film Festival -- and Evans Chan's Raise the Umbrellas and We Have Boots not being screened at this festival but, nonetheless, being deemed worthy of screening at, say, Rotterdam.

Put another way: the Hong Kong International Film Festival folks appeared to have taken pains not to foul afoul of the authorities.  And yet, the day has come when even they have been caught up in the net of the censors.  And, as it so happens, the announcement by the Hong Kong International Film Festival of the cancellation of one of this year's Opening Films has come on the very same day that it also was announced that this year's Academy Awards ceremony will not be broadcast on Hong Kong TV -- for the first time in 52 years.  
Regular Oscars broadcaster TVB released a statement that "it was purely a commercial decision that we decided not to pursue the Oscars this year". But comments made about China by Chloe Zhao (that is is "a place where there are lies everywhere"), the Beijing-born director of Nomadland, nominated for six awards (including Best Film and Best Director), and the nomination of Hong Kong 2019 protest documentary, Do Not Split, for the Best Short Film Documentary, are believed to be behind the decision.

Also, former Legislative Councillor -- and Security Law suspect -- "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung (whose 65th birthday it was last Saturday) has been denied bail today while fellow League of Social Democrats party member, Jimmy Sham, and another fellow Legislative Councillor, Claudia Mo, have had their bail applications postponed to a later date.  If truth be told, this outcome was not unexpected -- but, like with the Hong Kong International Film Festival Opening Film and Oscars broadcast cancellations, this says a lot about how much the situation of Hong Kong has deteriorated already and in a way that is so destructive to Hong Kong's cultural, social and political scene and life.

For those who need to be told in no uncertain terms what I'm observing, here's journalist Ryan Ho Kilpatrick's comment on RTHK's report of what Henry Tang said: "For years, Hong Kong has promoted itself as a global art hub. Now, the legality of artwork in the city will now be determined by a secretive, opaque new arm of the police accountable only to Beijing, and tasked making arrests for political crimes. Let that sink in for a moment."  Get it now?

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Hong Kong is not Myanmar but it's full of people unhappy with its government too

Government messages on an expensive signboard
Message from the people freely scrawled on a wall
This has been the rare weekend where news from afar have actually upset me more than news of local developments in Hong Kong.  More specifically, I have felt particularly saddened by the news that has come out of Myanmar of more than 100 civilians, including children as young as 5 years of age, being killed by the military at pro-democracy protests yesterday and further news today of troops opening fire on mourners gathered for the funeral of one of the 114 people killed the previous day as well as their having burnt a man alive last night.  Oh, the humanity.  And yes, there have been global calls to stop the violence -- but little meaningful action.  (Surprise, surprise -- not really.)       
But before people start getting too happy about this, it has to be pointed out that this "zero cases" run may well come to an end tomorrow since a preliminary positive case has been reported.  Also, the BioNTech vaccine issue that has caused the cancellation of a number of scheduled vaccinations -- despite both the makers of the vaccine and the Mainland Chinese firm that procurred it for Hong Kong believing there is no evidence to suggest that there is a risk to product safety -- is not looking close to being unresolved.  
Oh, a 12th individual who had a coronavirus vaccine has now died in Hong Kong -- and even if it's decided by medical experts that the death was caused by pre-existing conditions rather than the vaccine, the fact of the matter is that news is still going to get me people worried about getting vaccinated.  So yes, there are many folks who are disposed to conclude that "Only in Hong Kong could the government create the greatest vaccination program on the planet, and still manage to fuck it up somehow"!
Has Andy Li been spirited away inside the national security office over in Tai Hang?  Have "black jails" been established now in Hong Kong in addition to Mainland China?  Unfortunately, that possibility is no longer something that can be readily dismissed.  
Back on August 26th, the woman who goes by the moniker Goose Lee over on Twitter Tweeted the following:
Pls don't think that things are returning to *normal* in Hong Kong. Every day teachers, medics, civil servants are being purged from the jobs, dissidents are being followed, school curriculums are removing critical thinking, gaslighting on an Orwellian scale. It's a horror show. 
Another of her Tweets, this one from earlier that month remains valid too: "The Hong Kong government remains deeply unpopular. Please don’t think that we’re ok with our new authoritarian regime because we’re not out protesting in the streets." To which I will add: Don't think people have entirely stopped protesting.  Period.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Continued evidence of people lacking confidence in Hong Kong's current situation and government, and still more reasons for their being this way inclined

And here's the chart showing the net approval ratings for Hong Kong's 
Chief Executive and three other senior government officials
(also released by HKPORI)

So it really shouldn't be that big a surprise that the results show that public confidence in the state of Hong Kong’s democracy, rule of law and stability have fallen significantly in the past month.  At the same time though, I think it's very much worth noting that this month's findings are the lowest ratings since January, which saw a record low in public confidence since Hong Kong was handed over by the British to China on July 1st, 1997.
Something else that the HKPORI poll's findings shows is that those who believe that doing away with (talks of/demands for) democracy will bring increased stability and rule of law to Hong Kong are the minority in the territory.  This even if they are in the majority -- or maybe the totality -- in Hong Kong's government.
This difference in opinion undoubtedly plays a part in the results of another HKPORI survey whose results were released earlier this month: that which looked into the popularity (or lack of it) of Hong Kong's Chief Executive and her principal officials.  A few lines from the report of the survey results should give a clear picture of where they, particularly Carrie Lam, stand in the view of the public:  
Our latest survey shows that the popularity rating of CE Carrie Lam has dropped significantly by 4.4 marks compared to half a month ago, now standing at 29.5 marks. 43% of respondentsgave her 0 mark. Her approval rate is 18%, disapproval rate 72%, giving a net popularity of negative 54 percentage points, which has dropped significantly by 10 percentage points.    

And no, your eyes did not deceive you: "The leader who killed her city", as she was billed in an article in The Atlantic, has a minus 54 percentage point popularity rating.  So if ever there were a democratic election in Hong Kong for Chief Executive, the odds would very much be against Carrie Lam winning it -- or another electoral race in the territory, actually!

In view of certain events and revelations that have taken place in recent days, I can only conclude that public confidence in the state of Hong Kong’s democracy, rule of law and stability, and also its government, will have fallen still further.  Just from the past two days alone: yesterday, we had the bombshell ruling by Hong Kong's High Court that a "joint enterprise" doctrine can be used in cases of riot and unlawful assembly.  

Consequently, "defendants who come before the courts in Hong Kong facing rioting and unlawful assembly charges may still be convicted – even if they were not present at the scene of protest"!  Put another way: charges of rioting and unlawful assembly could legally be imposed on a crazy percentage of the Hong Kong population; this especially since the police were frequently kettling people and arresting pretty much anyone in the vicinity of protests in 2019 and 2020, including those taking place on university campuses, inside of shopping malls, and busy shopping, dining and drinking, and tourist districts -- and by anyone, I include such unlikely individuals as children out to buy crayon and a bus driver who honked his horn!   

Then today, in addition to protest-related lawfare (which is being extended in 2023, at the earliest), we've got further shennanigans related to the suspension of the BioNTech vaccinations here in Hong Kong.  More specifically, the Hong Kong government has apparently discarded all the problematic bottles, or the vials of BioNTech vaccine, that had been determined to be faulty.  Consequently, as the co-chairman of the Medical Association's advisory committee pointed out, "we don't have those bottles as evidence for the company of BioNTech to check what had happened"!

Almost needless to say, this is not standard procedure.  And it fuels people's suspicions that there is something weird going on, if not downright problematic, with regards to the government's handling of the BioNTech section of its coronavirus vaccination scheme

At this point, about the best outcome we can hope for is that the Hong Kong public decide that there not only is nothing wrong with the BioNTech vaccines but also that the government seems to want to make it hard for people to take them, with the latter point getting people to, conversely, really want to get that vaccine as a result!  Because if we're going to wait for the majority of Hong Kongers to be okay with taking the Sinovac vaccine, we're going to have to wait for an eternity; this even while there have been cases of Mainland Chinese individuals coming to Hong Kong to (illicitly) get those Chinese-made jabs!    

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The suspension of the BioNTech vaccine in Hong Kong fuels distrust in the government as well as puts a damper on the territory's vaccination program

This vaccination center (for the Sinovac vaccine) is still 
administering vaccines for those who want them
However, this vaccination center's operations (involving the 
administering of BioNTech vaccines) has been (temporarily) suspended!
It could be said to be a measure of how "everyday" political persecution in Hong Kong has become though in that neither was considered to be the biggest news of the day.  Rather, what caused the territory to be all abuzz for much of todayy was the news of the suspension of the administering of the BioNTech vaccine in Hong Kong and Macau over packaging flaws.  

What seems to have been behind this is that the authorities received a written notice from the vaccine’s Hong Kong and Macau supplier, Chinese company Fosun, saying that a batch – numbered 210102 – had defective lids. The issue posed no safety risk to the public, a government press release cited Fosun as saying  But both the Hong Kong and Macau governments decided to temporarily suspend the administering of the BioNTech vaccine anyway, to be super safe.

While the exercising of caution is to be admired to some extent, one can't help but wonder whether they would have done the same if the vaccine concerned had been the Sinovac (which, for the record, has yet to be approved for use by such as the World Health Organization).  Put another way: there is a strong sense in Hong Kong that "politics and pleasing the mainland [has become] more important than public health".  
Also, why -- if the medical decisions are not affected by politics -- is it that the BioNTech vaccinations have been (temporarily) suspended despite those vials of the vaccine suspected to having been damaged having been disposed of before use and everyone who took the BioNTech vaccinations appearing to be safe but the Sinotec vaccinations have not despite at least seven deaths being associated with those who have been administered them?!  To be sure, a panel of experts have concluded today that the deaths in Hong Kong of people who have had vaccines for the Wuhan coronavirus were *probably* not linked to the vaccines.  But even so, right?
This I know: these shennanigans are hardly going to convince those on the "wait and see" fence -- of which there are many in Hong Kong -- that they should feel super confident about Hong Kong's coronavirus vaccine program.  Ironically enough, it appears that the majority of those who already have taken the BioNTech vaccine also aren't all that concerned about their physical safety and, if anything, are taking comfort in knowing that a few weeks' delay of their taking the second shot of the vaccine won't unduly affect its efficacy.     

Something else that helps puts people's minds at ease as far as the Wuhan coronavirus in Hong Kong is concerned is that Hong Kong is back to single digits for new daily local infections: with just 4 recorded today.  I wish I could offer up similar promising news about the overall situation in Hong Kong.  Instead, I can only report that Hong Kongers are generally not feeling positive with regards to Hong Kong post the implementation of China's security law in this territory, and justifiably so. :(  

Monday, March 22, 2021

Thoughts and letters for people behind bars in Hong Kong, many of whom are yet to be tried

People continue to support one another

To be sure, I get the feeling that the families of the 10 who are back in Hong Kong are taking some comfort from their loved ones being back on Hong Kong soil.  Such is the strong sense many Hong Kongers have that things are surely worse in Mainland China for those considered to be enemies of the state.  

Even so, as a Hong Kong Watch statement released today makes clear: "This is a bittersweet moment for Hong Kong. We welcome the return of eight of the twelve to Hong Kong, but reiterate our call that all twelve should be released back to Hong Kong. Those returning have an uncertain future ahead, with some facing trial and jail under the National Security Law. It's a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire." 
In addition, as a number of recent Hong Kong court decisions and revelations about the treatment of prisoners in Hong Kong prisons show, contemporary Hong Kong may no longer be the Hong Kong many people think they know or thought they knew.  I think of such as the rejection of bail for the majority of the 47 pro-democracy politicians and political activists whose "crime" appears to be no more than organizing and/or taking part in democratic primaries and the placing of a number of them in solitary confinement as well as behind bars while they await trial (which is only set to properly begin in May, several months after their being arrested and then locked up for their alleged offences)!
There are many who look upon solitary confinement as a form of torture; this especially when it is imposed on an individual for extended periods.  I'm sure it's small consolation but it does seem that the likes of Tam Tak-chi are, at least, allowed visitors from time to time even while officially in solitary confinement.  Something else that they are allowed are letters from outside: which is why people are being encouraged to write to Hong Kong's (growing number of) political prisoners and jailed protestors.
For some time now, I've seen booths set up where one can write messages to those people put behind bars for their involvement in the anti-extradition law protests that morphed into something so much bigger.  In recent months, people have been more actively encouraged to write letters, including to the likes of Tam Tak-chi, Joshua Wong (also being held in solitary confinement), Agnes Chow (ditto) and those members of the 47 who have been denied bail, and being given advice on how to do so (and where to send their letters).  And after reading in Joshua Wong's Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act Now how appreciative he was of letters he received, including from complete strangers, while in prison, this seems like something worth doing for people worth caring for.  

Friday, March 19, 2021

Hong Kong cinema worries while gearing up for this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival

Seen outside City Hall yesterday morning (See the advertising 
for the HKIFF in the background as well as the line in front?) 
It thus was a major disappointment as well as shock to have no Hong Kong International Film Festival to be able to attend last year.  After all, even in 2003 (the year of SARS), the show went on.  So I really hope that there will be a HKIFF this year even while fearing that this year's edition of the fest will get called off too -- this especially after news came last week of a new cluster of coronavius cases that threatened to further prolong the fourth wave or be the start of a fifth wave.            
Right now, we're less than two weeks until the opening day of this year's HKIFF and this week finds me more hopeful that the show will indeed go on this year (thanks in no small part to the number of daily new cases being back in the low 10s, like today's 13).  Yesterday, I spent around three hours waiting in line to get tickets for fest screenings -- and even though I actually got to one of the ticketing centers half an hour before ticketing began for the fest, I only managed to get tickets for two thirds of the screenings I wanted to attend! 
Among the films I really wanted to get a ticket for but couldn't were the two opening films: Septet: The Story of Hong Kong, which had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival last year; and Where the Wind Blows, which is due to have its world premiere at this year's HKIFF.  Their status as fest openers obviously made them top draws for fest goers.  But this year, the usual eagerness to check out marquee local films like this is compounded by the uncertainty as to when one will next get a chance to view them on a big screen -- due to cinemas having been closed down for a time as part as anti-pandemic social distancing measures but also because of rising fears of political censorship of the arts in Hong Kong.
Artist Kacey Wong (who graced in Evans Chan's We Have Boots political documentary which screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival last year but has not had a fest screening here in Hong Kong, and probably never will) has voiced his alarm that an artistic crackdown in Hong Kong is imminent, if it's not begun already.  And it's worth noting that the screening of Where the Wind Blows at this year's HKIFF is still to be confirmed at the time of writing; a situation that hints of censorship problems being faced by this movie about four corrupt 1960s Hong Kong police officers and, honestly, the first time in my memory that such a thing has happened with an already announced HKIFF offering.
For many of the years that I've been a fan of Hong Kong movies, I've heard the cry and lament that Hong Kong cinema is dying or even dead.  Even while it's indisputable that there aren't as many Hong Kong movies being made these days as back in the last half of the 20th century, I still have found enough films to watch and like each year to feel that my favorite national cinema is still alive and worth following; with many of my favorite films of recent years being unabashedly local offerings (e.g., see my 2018 "top ten favorite Hong Kong movies" list) rather than Hong Kong-Mainland China co-productions.                  

With these new "developments" though, I find myself really worrying for the future of the Hong Kong cinema that I love.  More so than video piracy, lack of new artistic talent or the Wuhan coronavirus, political censorship -- which includes withdrawal of funding for film projects due to political considerations and the scarcity of venues that will screen a "controversial" movie -- is what could end up killing Hong Kong cinema.  And whither my beloved Movie Mecca then? :(     

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Let's work to end the Wuhan coronavirus nightmare with the (BioNTech) vaccine!

A rare Hong Kong government exhortation that I'm on board with
Booklets I was given when I went to get vaccinated
Two more "ambush lockdowns" are currently underway in Hong Kong tonight.  This time around, they involve buildings close to the China Liason Office over in Sai Ying Pun and a couple of others in Causeway Bay.  And I'm expecting that, like so many others (like those which were staged this past Monday night), there will turn out to be zero positive cases of the Wuhan coronavirus found.
Ironically, the rare times where the lockdowns have found cases of infection have included one which involved a building in which a friend of mine is a resident -- and another, staged a few days ago, where the two confirmed cases turned out to be American Consulate staffers!  With regards to the latter: a diplomatic incident of sorts threatened to blast off after Chinese state media publishing "disinformation" about American diplomatic staffers in Hong Kong.  It seems to have been averted for now though -- but it remains to be seen what will ensue in the wake of the US government having separately gone ahead and sanctioned 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials over Beijing's ongoing crackdown on the city, ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's meeting with top Chinese diplomats in Alaska later this week.  
While Washington has been issuing these sanctions, the US Consulate General in Hong Kong has been closed "to perform a deep disinfection and cleaning" this week.  And today saw the temporary closure of the HSBC's main office in Central for similar reasons after three coronavirus cases were linked to the site.  
Despite these eye-catching developments though, there is genuine hope that a fifth wave has been averted and the fourth wave is ebbing, despite developing quite the tail thanks to the URSUS Gym cluster (which now stands at 132 cases: 7 staff, 87 customers and 38 close contacts).  For the record: the number of new daily infections this week have gone from gone from 30 on Monday down to 18 yesterday (Tuesday) and down again to 11 today (Wednesday); with the number of local cases in the past six days being on a definite downward trend from 59 to 43, to 24, then to 16, then to 13 and 8.
With the Sinovac vaccine being found to just have a 50.4% efficacy though, I really don't understand why any reasonably sane person would opt for it anyway when the BioNTech vaccine, which has a far higher efficacy rate, is available in Hong Kong.  Of course, in an ideal world, the Hong Kong government would not have purchased the Sinovac vaccine and administered it to people who are 60 years of age or more -- the latter of which is not being done over in Mainland China.  But I guess the Hong Kong government is trying to show Beijing how patriotic it is by purchasing a Chinese vaccine and innoculating its people, including several government officials, with it.    

So strong is the distrust that the majority of the local populace have for the Hong Kong government that there are people who actually aren't going to get shots because they are afraid that when they opt for the BioNTech vaccine, they'll end up being given the Sinovac.  Hence questions being asked like: "are prospective vaccine recipients allowed to see the bottles and therefore the brands of vaccines being used at certain clinics?"  -- and my fear that Hong Kong is not going to achieve herd immunity any time soon.
Ideally, the government will take pains to win back the people's trust.  But when it's led by Carrie Lam, that seems really unlikely, I'm afraid.  This is the woman, after all, who, just today, decided to berate the public for not working with her administration to tackle the pandemic!  Virologist Jasnah Kholin -- ACAB was moved to respond to Carrie Lam's latest complaints with the following thread of comments on Twitter (beginning here) which I think bears quoting in its entirety: 
look, i'm incredibly frustrated by our relatively low vaccine uptake too, but for fuck's sake. when will you realize you cannot threaten people into public health compliance, particularly if they rightfully have no trust in your administration? 

like between the ambush lockdown-tests that seem to have absolutely *zero* utility in outbreak control but are quite good at traumatizing people, to the Sinovac approval on no data, to the idiotic mass testing last Sept., TO DIRECTLY CAUSING OUR THIRD WAVE...

...your admin has an astoundingly godawful track record at "fighting the virus" & the question of "why the hell should we work with you?" is one that is honestly extremely reasonable to raise. it just so happens this time it's for something vital, but guess what...


i am as pro-vax as they get. again, i urge anyone eligible who hasn't registered to get the Pfizer/BioNTech shot. there's still tons of open slots at Ap Lei Chau, for instance. but threats are not how you get people to do this. FFS. 

  (And for the record: Yes, I'm pro-vax too and have got my first BioNTech shot already!)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Politics intrude into -- and threaten -- my Movie Mecca

The still pretty new Golden Scene Cinema 
has seen better days than today
And ditto re the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
In particular, the sustained criticisms it received from pro-Beijing mouthpiece Wen Wei Po over the past few days got people spooked.  And for those who are wont to criticize the organizers and cinema for pulling the screenings in view of this: bear in mind that we are now living in a Hong Kong where pro-democracy politician Sam Cheung was today denied bail -- even while three others (i.e., Kalvin Ho, Sze Tak-loy and Lee Yueshun) of the 47 charged with sedition under China's security law for Hong Kong for having taken part in pro-democracy elections last July were granted it -- because he was shown to have stated that “I f**king love Hong Kong” and “Drink more water", and these statements were deemed to be dangerous acts.
It probably didn't help that a number of top Beijing officials are currently in Hong Kong "to attend a seminar on changes to Hong Kong's electoral system" as it would make them -- and their lackeys in Hong Kong -- lose face to have a film like Inside the Red Brick Wall getting public screenings in a commercial establishment while they are in the territory.  Call it bad timing then for Inside the Red Brick Wall and those who decided some time back to have it screen as part of Hong Kong Film Critics Society screening series -- but good timing for the Beijingers who, by being here in Hong Kong today, have avoided the worst sandstorm to have swept over the Chinese capital in nearly a decade

In further Hong Kong-related cinematic news today: this year's Oscars nominations sees a couple with Hong Kong connections.  The territory's official nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscars has made the five film shortlist.  But while this normally would cause me to jump for joy, I'm not all that excited or happy about this as a result of Better Days being set in Mainland China, having Mainland Chinese leads and having the kind of ending and postscript that one would not see in bonafide Hong Kong movies of old. 

As for Do Not Split, the Best Documentary Short Subject nominee by Norwegian filmmaker Anders Hammer: I just don't think it's that good a film.  Yes, its visuals are arresting but its lack of context and explanation makes it feel more like protest porn than a genuinely informative documentary work.  (And for those who think I'm being overly harsh, consider this review which points out the following: "Hammer does not appear to have any significant background in China: his traditional field of operation is Afghanistan and the Middle East. The first time that Hong Kong appears in his Twitter feed is September 2019. From that perspective, he lacks the skill set and connections to do the conflict real justice.")  
Consequently, what should have been a banner day for Hong Kong cinema has turned out to be a sad one.  In summary: we've seen a Mainlandized film pass for a Hong Kong movie; and another film that doesn't really shed that much light on the Hong Kong anti-extradition protests get recognized even while one that local Hong Kong film critics appear to think so not be made available for the public to see for themselves and arrive at their own opinions.   
There's a great German film about an artist tormented by his childhood under the Nazis and East German regime called Never Look Away.  Here's the thing: plenty of Hong Kongers want to keep their eyes open and fixed on what's happening to their beloved city.  But more and more, it's being made difficult for people to do so, never mind be more than witnesses than Hong Kong's destruction and/or demise.  So even while they want to never look away (at the very least), it's getting more and more difficult to just plain see things clearly and free of impediments. :(