China blocks Beijing film festival

Police prevent Beijing Independent Film Festival from opening, seizing documents and films.

Last updated: 24 Aug 2014 02:56
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Chinese policemen and men claiming to be villagers blocked an alleyway leading to the festival's venue [AP]

Chinese authorities have blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seizing documents and films from organisers and hauling away two event officials in a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organiser of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years.

 The festival's artistic director, Wang Hongwei, was  briefly detained by police [AP]

Li and the festival's artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were detained by police on Saturday night but later released, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year's crackdown is far more serious, Wang said.

"In the past few years, when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings," he told the AP news agency. 

"But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden."

Security was tight at the site of the festival in the capital's Songzhuang suburb, AP reported, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

Hu Jie, a movie director who travelled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

"The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history," Hu said.

"If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shut down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers."

Started as a film forum, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China's independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech. The government is concerned that such events may become a platform for ideas that challenge the ruling Community party's ideology.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organisers still managed to show some new movies.

Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.


Associated Press
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.