chapter  4
Under Western Eyes?
Colonial Bureaucracy, Surveillance, and the Birth of the Hong Kong Crime Film
ByKristof Van den Troost
Pages 24

Film censorship, the surveillance and disciplining of films, is inextricably bound up with the history of the medium. The censor’s scissors can induce filmmakers to avoid certain topics and themes, and the appearance and disappearance of whole genres are at his mercy. The depiction of crime and violence has tended to be especially vulnerable to this kind of interference. Therefore, the history of the Hong Kong crime film cannot be understood without investigating the history of colonial censorship, the “Western eyes” that kept watch over the largely Chinese population of the city and the films they made. Despite being a center for film production since the 1930s, Hong Kong only started to develop a sizable crime film tradition in the 1970s. Drawing extensively on released government documents at Hong Kong’s Public Records Office, this chapter aims to tell the story of how this came to be.