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Chinese Government Fails to Block Tibet Film Screening At Major Festival In US

January 9, 2010

January 07,2010 - Newsblaze
By ICT report

Chinese government authorities have failed to stop a film on Tibet from
being shown at a major international film festival in Palm Springs,
California this week despite pressure on festival organizers. In protest,
the Chinese government withdrew two Chinese films from the festival, and it
is now attempting to spin the decision as having been taken by one of the
Chinese film directors.

The Director of the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), which
runs from January 5-18, Darryl Macdonald, released a formal statement
yesterday that said: "After meeting with representatives from the Chinese
government regarding their request to cancel our screenings of 'The Sun
Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom,' we have respectfully
declined their request. I'm saddened that the Chinese film authorities have
chosen to withdraw their films from PSIFF, as the Festival is an
international cultural event whose mandate is to present a wide cross
section of perspectives and points of view.

That said, we cannot allow the concerns of one country or community to
dictate what films we should or should not play, based on their own cultural
or political perspective. Freedom of expression is a concept that is
integral both to the validity of artistic events, and indeed, to the ethos
of this country."

According to yesterday's edition of The Desert Sun, a local Palm Springs
newspaper, the Chinese Cultural Attaché and other Chinese officials called
the festival director and film programmers demanding that they withdraw the
documentary about Tibet and the Dalai Lama by husband and wife team Tenzing
Sonam, a Tibetan exile, and Ritu Sarin.

The newspaper reported that Macdonald said he was also told by Chinese
government officials that by including the Tibet film "he was going against
the position of the U.S. government, which doesn't recognize Tibet as
independent of China, but Macdonald said he responded, 'Sorry, this is an
arts event and we believe in freedom of expression.'"

This isn't the first time that the Chinese government has tried to exert
pressure at an international film festival. In July Chinese hackers attacked
the website of Australia's biggest film festival over its decision to screen
a documentary about the exiled Uighur activist, Rebiya Kadeer.

"Government constraints on freedom of expression within China are
entrenched. Those who would exercise this inalienable and fundamental
freedom by saying things that the Chinese government or Communist Party
objects to - whether in film, on the internet or any public platform - can
face criminal charges of 'inciting subversion' and other serious
consequences. In this context, it is especially gratifying that private
citizens outside China so clearly understand what is at stake. By refusing
to bow to Chinese government intimidation, they stand up for those who risk
much to establish a free and more open society in China," said Mary Beth
Markey, ICT Vice President for International Advocacy.

In a new spin on the story, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, today
reports that Lu Chuan, the director of "City of Life and Death" (known in
Chinese as "Nanjing! Nanjing!"), one of the two Chinese films, had himself
made the decision to withdraw from the film festival. According to Xinhua,
"Lu was informed Monday that 'The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle
for Freedom' would be screened during the festival and immediately notified
his film's distributor in North America of his quitting, Lu's publicity
assistant Wang Dan said. The India-produced documentary tells mainly of the
Dalai Lama's secessionist activities in 2008. Lu Chuan said, 'All activities
overseas of my film should serve the country's interests and safeguard the
national sovereignty and territorial integrity.'"

The Xinhua report contradicts a report yesterday from The Hollywood Reporter
saying "State-run China Film Group had pulled 'City of Life and Death'" from
the Palm Springs International Film Festival to protest the event's
inclusion of a film about the Dalai Lama, director Lu Chuan said Wednesday."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lu said a "government department ...
demanded China Film pull the movie."

Lu said that it had been intimated to him "it had to do with Tibet and
politics" but that he had "absolutely no knowledge of the film they're
talking about" and that had prompted his film's withdrawal  Chinese director
Ye Kai's debut comedy "Quick, Quick, Slow" was the other Chinese film
withdrawn from the festival.

According to The Desert Sun article, Lu had told The Hollywood Reporter on
January 6 that "he has mixed feelings about the reaction of the Chinese
government to his film. 'On the one hand I'm very grateful to the film
festival for giving my film greater exposure, on the other hand, when it
comes to Tibet and politics, we directors have no choice but to stand
together with our film company,'" Lu concluded.

In a written reaction today, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam said: "It is clear
that the directors of these films had no choice in the matter and were as
much victims of their government's authoritarian policies as we, the
intended targets, were meant to be.

As China now feels emboldened enough to attempt to impose its will on
independent cultural events in a country as powerful and as symbolic of the
right to free speech and expression as the United States of America, we can
begin to understand the extent of repression within its own borders.

It is not surprising that even as the Chinese government was putting
pressure on PSIFF to remove our film from its line-up, it imposed a six-year
sentence on Tibetan filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen, for making a film that
showed the true feelings of Tibetans in Tibet about their exiled leader, the
Dalai Lama, and their situation under Chinese rule."

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