“Expats”, an Amazon Prime show starring Nicole Kidman, revolves around the lives of three American women in Hong Kong. Interestingly, the series won’t be broadcast in the city.
Set in 2014, the story depicts the “Umbrella Movement”, a significant protest in Hong Kong calling for democratic elections, which took place that year.
Since Beijing enforced a strict new law, demonstrations in Hong Kong have nearly disappeared.
It is still unclear whether the decision to withhold the series in Hong Kong was made by local authorities or by Amazon Prime Video.
This series has been the subject of controversy before.
In 2021, Nicole Kidman faced allegations of receiving preferential treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic when she arrived in Hong Kong for the filming of “Expats”.
Kidman was seen in public just two days after her arrival, while locals had to adhere to strict quarantine rules upon returning from abroad, including mandatory stays in quarantine facilities.
Officials explained that the exemption for Kidman and her team was necessary for their professional responsibilities.
An Instagram user wrote, “The government deserves this portrayal after allowing these celebrities into the city without quarantine during Covid restrictions, while locals had to pay for a hotel for three weeks upon returning from abroad”.
Another user commented, “Filmed in HK… but can’t be viewed in HK… the international city”, accompanied by a laugh-crying emoji.
The first two episodes of the six-part limited series, inspired by Janice YK Lee’s popular novel “The Expatriates” and directed by Lulu Wang, premiered on Friday.
The plot intertwines the lives of three women after a family tragedy and includes scenes from the Umbrella Movement, featuring protesters demanding universal suffrage in Cantonese.
Although the series is available globally on Amazon’s platform, viewers in Hong Kong are met with a “currently unavailable” message.
Hong Kong was under British rule until 1997, after which it returned to China.
In 2019, Hong Kong experienced protests against an extradition bill with mainland China, leading to violent clashes.
Beijing’s subsequent national security law introduces severe penalties for offenses like subversion and secession.
Hong Kong’s 2021 film law, which bans movies against China’s national interests, reportedly does not apply to streaming services, as stated by AFP citing the city’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.
In an interview, director Lulu Wang discussed the careful approach taken in portraying political events in “Expats”, with most politically sensitive scenes filmed in Los Angeles. She stressed the importance of accurately depicting this period in Hong Kong.