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Prime Video's ‘Expats,' set and filmed in Hong Kong, is unavailable to watch there

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The Amazon Prime series "Expats," which was filmed in Hong Kong and follows the lives of three American women living there, is not available for viewing in the city.

“Currently unavailable”: The show, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video on Jan. 26, states “this video is currently unavailable to watch in your location” when Hong Kong viewers try to access it on the streaming service. The inaccessibility of “Expats” in Hong Kong is raising suspicions of censorship in a climate of diminishing civil liberties. However, it remains unclear whether the decision originates from Hong Kong authorities or Amazon Prime Video.

Past controversies: The series previously sparked controversy when lead actor Nicole Kidman was suspected of receiving special treatment to bypass COVID-19 quarantine rules during filming in 2021. Kidman was reportedly seen in public just two days after arriving in Hong Kong, which upset locals subject to extended quarantine periods. The authorities explained that the exemptions were granted for the production team to carry out designated professional work.

Moreover, the series includes scenes related to the 2014 Umbrella Movement, which saw a widespread protest in the city advocating for free elections. Following the government's heightened crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 2020, authorities have become increasingly cautious about political or critical artistic expressions. In 2021, laws were introduced to prohibit broadcasts that would contravene the extensive national security law established in 2020. Despite claims by authorities that these laws do not extend to streaming services, content such as "Expats" falls into a gray area, as online platforms are still subject to the national security law.

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About the series: Directed by Lulu Wang and based on Janice Y. K. Lee’s 1998 novel “The Expatriates,” “Expats” follows three American women — Margaret (Kidman), Hilary (Sarayu Blue) and Mercy (Ji-young Yoo) — whose families are brought together by tragedy. The six-episode drama tackles grief, purpose, privilege, victimhood and culpability and geographic displacement, among other themes.

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