fearful anticipation.

Then the pro-Beijing camp pounced this month with a full-out barrage. On Mar. 15, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society canceled sold-out screenings of a documentary about the 2019 protests, after a pro-Beijing newspaper urged banning it. Two days later, another paper accused six arts organizations of violating the security law and called on the government to revoke their funding.

said during a question-and-answer session with Carrie Lam, the chief executive.

The criticisms have extended beyond politics to a sort of moral policing. Some have denounced M+ holdings that depict nudity or homosexuality.

Evans Chan knew some considered his work too provocative. A Hong Kong venue in 2016 canceled a screening of a documentary he made about the 2014 protests, citing a desire to remain “nonpartisan.” Last year, he finished a sequel, only to cut a scene for Hong Kong audiences that featured China’s national anthem; a new law forbade disrespecting the song.

Still, Mr. Chan said, the security law was a “watershed moment.” He had planned to make a third film about Hong Kong’s fight for democracy. But he is unsure if he could find people to participate or places to show it — not just in Hong Kong but overseas, in venues with ties to China.

“We are coming to a point to ask, what kind of space is left by global capitalism?” he said. “Where does China fit in? Where does artistic expression from and about Hong Kong fit in?”

Others have urged artists to experiment with the space that remains. Clara Cheung, who runs an arts education space, said she had promoted projects like community murals or a map of Hong Kong’s heritage buildings. Though not explicitly political, they could encourage open-mindedness and civic engagement.

Sampson Wong has focused on small-scale, privately funded projects for the past few years, after officials suspended his temporary lights display at Hong Kong’s tallest building in 2016. It featured a countdown to 2047, the year that China’s promise of semi-autonomy to Hong Kong expires.

“I’m confident that we have already explored the ways” to keep operating independently, Mr. Wong said.

Still, he said he hoped that world would not become entirely siloed from the more institutional, popular art sphere.

In that space, the authorities may be harder to sidestep.

Mr. Ai said staff at M+ had recently called him to affirm their commitment to their principles, and he had been moved by their integrity.

But “with these kinds of things, bottom-up resistance is useless,” he added. “If it is decided from the top that such works can’t be exhibited, then there is nothing they can do.”

Joy Dong contributed research.

View Source