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Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA)

Hong Kong filmmakers need to get real on fake cash

The conviction of two prop men who had stage money made the city a laughing stock; it is to be hoped that talks between the industry and monetary authority have clarified the rules

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 5:13am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 5:13am

Hong Kong was made an international laughing stock when two prop men were convicted last month for keeping fake money used in an award-winning film. Absurd as it sounds, the case warrants reflection from all sides. To ensure the healthy development of creative industries, restrictions should be reasonable and well publicised for all to follow.

The film industry also has the responsibility to familiarise itself with relevant laws and to comply accordingly. Although the pair were given suspended jail terms, the convictions, the first of their kind in the city, have understandably sparked an uproar. Not only do they make a mockery of the government’s policy to promote creative industries, they may also scare off those involved in making stage props.

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Given the use of stage money in films is not uncommon and the government has established the Film Services Office as a one-stop unit to assist productions, such an incident should not have happened. It is surprising to hear that some veteran filmmakers claimed to be unaware that the use of stage money required approval.

According to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, there have been 13 applications since 2008, five of which were approved and two rejected. One is still pending and the remainder withdrawn. The figures suggest that the industry is somehow aware of the rules, but applications may take two weeks to process and come with restrictions, such as the size of the banknotes and the ways of disposal. That may explain the non-compliance.

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There is nothing wrong in making film scenes look as real as possible, but claiming ignorance or turning a blind eye to the rules is hardly a responsible way to go. Even though we trust the industry will not act with dishonest intent when making stage money, its close resemblance to real banknotes means criminal abuse can never be ruled out. The rules set out by the authority, albeit somewhat cumbersome, are necessary safeguards.

The meeting between the authority and the industry on Tuesday is a positive step forward. Now that concerns have been heard and the rules made clearer, it is to be hoped that the industry will not be in the news again for the wrong reasons.