The Beijing Independent Film Festival was shut down by Chinese authorities Saturday and police did a search and seizure on the organizers offices and detained the artistic director Wang Hongwei and film critic and founder Li Xianting. The festival was in its 11th year and has gone through this before as China seeks to control the kind of content being shown inside its country. Li Xianting told the Associated Press who broke the story, “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 said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.” This comes after he says he was under police surveillance.
Hollywood has long been in business with the Chinese and several organizations clamor for their investments and their audiences as it is the biggest box office market outside of the U.S., but it is a place still where censorship and human rights abuses are well known. However, somehow the Hollywood community is able to reconcile these abuses and still be in business with the Chinese.
But, The Beverly Hills Hotel is being boycotted because of its ownership by the Sultan of Brunei who has instated shaira law — meaning that his citizens could be jailed for pregnancies outside of marriage, limbs severed for theft and death by stoning for those committing adultery and having homosexual sex. He also owns the Bel-Air Hotel through the same investment group, the Brunei Investment Group.
Protests, outrage and boycotts came from several celebs and businesses in Hollywood, including Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Jeffrey Katzenberg (who won’t hold the Motion Picture and Television Fun benefit there anymore), ICM Partners and others. There have been no boycott, outrage or protests against China.
Mr. Li also told the wire service that the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Mr. Wang were both taken by police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival.
This kind of restriction of free speech, of course, is not unusual in Communist countries. In 2002, actor Don Duong who was considered a national treasure in Vietnam was condemned and branded a traitor for appearing in such films as We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson and Green Dragon with the late Patrick Swayze and Forest Whitaker that the government found offensive.
Duong and his family were similarly detained by police, his young children pulled out of school and interrogated. He was an actor for 20 years before his death in 2011 and was a member of the Screen Actors Guild before he was told he could never act again in Vietnam. After a harrowing ordeal in the country where he was harassed openly in public, his sister’s restaurant ransacked, he was under constant surveillance, and under the real threat of death, the U.S. government helped secure his passage into this country.
The Beijing Independent Film Festival has had problems for years. In 2012, according to the AP, electricity was cut off to prevent film from being shown and last year public screenings were banned. Li said he was and his office had been under surveillance since information about the festival was put online.