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Festivals of Politics

Boycotts and politics at film and book festivals

18th November

Update: Pandering to Censors...

UN panders to Chinese and removes advert for book criticising internet censorship

A reception held by the group Open Net Initiative (ONI) was interrupted when United Nations officials demanded that an advertisement for a book titled Access Controlled be removed from display. The book details suppressed speech on the Web.

The reception was held at the UN-sponsored 2009 Internet Governance Forum in Egypt. According to a UN delegate witness, officials threw the poster on the floor, demanding its removal, which was resisted. Security then removed it over protest.

We condemn this undemocratic act of censoring our event just because someone is trying to impress or be in the good graces of the Chinese government, said a spokesman for the Foundation for Media Alternatives, an affiliate of ONI.


2nd November

Update: Free Bangladesh!...

Bangladesh bows to Chinese censorship and sends police to close photo exhibition

Bangladeshi authorities called in police over the weekend to prevent the opening of a photographic exhibition about Tibetans in exile that Chinese diplomats wanted banned.

The photojournalism event had been organised by Students for a Free Tibet with support from the Drik network. Dhaka Special Branch police officers moved in to bar visitors after the head of Drik, Shahidul Alam, refused to cancel the event.

Entitled Tibet 1949 2009, the photo exhibition intended, to portray, in whatever small fraction, the journey of Tibetans from their homeland to exile. The exhibition was expected to run from 1-7 November.

According to reports from Alam had earlier been contacted by Qian Kaifu, Cultural Counsellor of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Bangladesh, who asked him to cancel the exhibition, suggesting that the Bangladesh-China relationship would be affected if the show went ahead.

Alam says he was offered partner opportunities in China in return, but reminded Mr Kaifu that Drik was an independent gallery, unconnected with the government of Bangladesh. Alam says he was called the next day by the Bangladesh ministry of culture saying China is a friend, you mustn't show pictures of the Dalai Lama. When he declined again, the Special Branch were called in.


17th October

Update: Brought to Book...

Chinese book censors and publishers not impressed by criticism at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Li Pengyi, vice president of China Publishing Group Corporation (CPGC) was pleased with business at the Frankfurt Book Fair. But was not so impressed at the criticism of China's censorship.

We don't feel we've been hospitably treated, he said. China sent more than 2,000 people to Frankfurt. And now this barrage of criticism.

The German media, intellectuals and politicians have been pummelling China all week, attacking it for jailing writers, for refusing to include dissident authors in the official party and for trying to paint a false image of Chinese harmony.

The delegation from China, which arrived so proudly in Frankfurt, is clearly hurt by the hostile public reaction in Germany.

We were not expecting to be treated like this, said Zhao Haiyun, spokesman for the state-run General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). He said China had put on an impressive exhibition and arrived with a well-thought-out cultural programme. But instead of dwelling on Chinese literature, the German media had focussed on human rights policy.

GAPP is China's principal censorship body, since it decides what may be published in China and what not. Zhao's colleagues supervised the Chinese programme at the fair.

There should be no taboos in the debate, and I am sure there won't be any, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a speech at the opening of the fair.

It was a clear riposte to listening Vice-President Xi Jinping, who had just uttered an appeal to the same audience for understanding and respect from the German hosts. Li, of publishing house CPGC, fumed about the remark. If Germany or Merkel had been playing the guest role in China, we would never dream of addressing them in such a way, he said.


14th October

Update: Not Pandering to Chinese Censors...

Frankfurt Book Fair organiser criticises Chinese censorship

The chief organizer of the Frankfurt Book Fair condemned censorship in China just before the biggest annual meeting of world book publishers was to open in Germany.

Human rights groups had previously accused the organizers of pandering to China, which is this year's guest of honour, a status that allows it to stage a cultural exhibition at the fairgrounds and win special attention from the German arts media.

We strongly condemn the human rights breaches and the restrictions on freedom of opinion and the press in the People's Republic of China, said chief organizer Juergen Boos.

But he insisted China had been an excellent choice as this year's focus nation, saying, You can marvel at China, fear it or criticize it, but you can't ignore it. He said dialogue with China was likely to bring change, but a book fair was not the United Nations.The subject here is literature. We can describe conflicts, but we can't solve them here.


12th October

Update: Fair Protest...

Chinese at Frankfurt Book Fair see themselves as state censors

The Frankfurt Book Fair's 61st edition opens on Wednesday with a bust up over censorship with guest of honour China overshadowing preparations.

In mid-September, a symposium organised ahead of the world's biggest book fair generated fireworks with two dissident Chinese intellectuals initially invited and subsequently de-programmed owing to protests from Beijing.

Following a German uproar, the pair were finally asked again to attend, causing part of the official Chinese delegation to storm out.

China's ambassador to Germany, Wu Hongbo, called the action by the fair's hosts unacceptable , and said it was not an expression of respect for their Chinese partners .

But Herbert Wiesner, head of the German chapter of the writer's defence organisation PEN, said that Chinese organisers have mistaken themselves for state censors. It's frightening.

In Berlin last week, fair director Jrgen Boos said organisers had known there would be protests: There is no doubt there is censorship in China. We are far from a democracy. But when the contract was signed with Beijing three years ago, we stipulated there would be complete freedom of expressio .

Boos stressed that our role is not political, it is meant as a platform for the freedom of expression: We will authorise all forms of demonstration allowed in Germany.


21st September

Update: Unconditional Cinema...

Taiwan to show The 10 Conditions of Love despite Chinese opposition

A documentary about exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer is to be shown in Taiwan's second city, despite opposition from China.

A spokesman from Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office said it opposed the screening and urged the city not to stir up trouble in cross-strait ties, Xinhua news agency reported.

Businesses had urged the city to cancel the screening, fearing repercussions. Local tourism officials had spoken out against the move, Taiwanese media reported, fearing it would drive Chinese tourist numbers down.

But local officials said the film would be shown this week, not during a festival next month as originally planned. Officials in Kaohsiung said that they would show the documentary, The 10 Conditions of Love , four times in the coming week.

To draw the curtains over this controversy as soon as possible, the film will be screened ahead of schedule, the city said in a statement.


13th September

Update: Chinese Given a Lesson in Democracy...

Chinese attempt to bully Frankfurt Book Fair

Two Chinese dissidents caused a furore when they addressed a symposium ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair, causing much of the Chinese delegation to walk out. The Chinese delegates only returned after the book fair's director Juergen Boos apologized.

Bei Ling and Dai Qing travelled to Frankfurt although their invitations to the China Symposium as guests of the book fair had been revoked after pressure from Beijing.

China's former ambassador to Germany, Mei Zhaorong, said they felt unfairly treated: We didn't come for a lesson on democracy, these times are over, Mei said from the podium, adding that Dai Qing and Bei Ling were welcome to participate in the discussion but did not represent China's 1.3 billion citizens.

Beijing had objected to the pair being invited to the forum, being held in the run-up to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where China is guest of honour. The revocation of the dissidents' invitations triggered fierce criticism in Germany, where the organizers were accused of bowing to China's censorship.


27th July

Updated: The 10 Conditions of Love...

China annoyed by Melbourne Film Festival entry about a Uighur activist

The Chinese Government has stirred more controversy in Australia by demanding that a film about a Chinese Uighur Muslim activist be dropped from the country's largest film festival.

The Cultural Attache at China's Consulate in Melbourne contacted the organisers of the Melbourne Film Festival, and insisted that they drop the documentary about Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled businesswoman and activist whom the Chinese Government blame for last week's riots in restive Xinjiang province.

Richard Moore, the executive director of the film festival told The Times that the attache, Chunmei Chen, demanded he justify his decision to include the film, The 10 Conditions of Love , in the festival.

We had a strident conversation, Moore said: Ms Chen urged me to withdraw the film from the festival and told me I had to justify my actions in programming it. I told her that under no circumstances would I withdraw the film, that I had no reason to do so. I don't need to justify my actions, unless it's in relation to our own sense of morals.

The film tells the story of the relationship between Ms Kadeer, leader of the World Uigher Congress, and her activist husband Sidik Rouzi and explores the effect on her 11 children of her campaign for autonomy for China's Uigher population. Two of Ms Kadeer's sons have been jailed as a result of her actions.

Ms Kadeer is due to speak at the Melbourne Film Festival next month after being invited by the film's producer John Lewis.

Ms Chen said the Chinese were also very unhappy that Rebiya is coming here as a guest, said Moore: She proceeded to list Rebiya's crimes, everything from evading taxes to being a terrorist. It was a real character assassination. To be honest, after a couple of minutes listening to this very detailed list of accusations I phased out. In the end I hung up. I would never normally do that but when you have someone who isn't listening to you and won't stop talking I just said 'I have nothing else to say, goodbye.'

Update: China pulls 2 films in response to refusal to ban 10 Conditions of Love

23rd July 2009. Based on article from

China has withdrawn two films from an Ausrtralian film festival after the event's director refused to ban a documentary about Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.

Two weeks before the Melbourne Film Festival was due to open, director Richard Moore received a phone call from Chen Chun Mei at the Chinese consulate, who asked him to withdraw the film. He refused and politely hung up . Then, on Tuesday, he was notified that two Chinese films were being pulled out of the festival.

Moore claimed the film-makers withdrew their movies after he ignored pressure from Beijing to drop the documentary about Ms Kadeer. He said he believed Beijing had ordered the withdrawal of films Perfect Life and Cry Me a River in an attempt at political intimidation ahead of the August 8 screening: It's hard to draw any other conclusion .

Chow Keung, the Hong Kong-based head of Xstream Pictures, which produced both films, said he had no problem with the screening of 10 Conditions of Love . However, the film-makers had an issue with Ms Kadeer appearing as a festival guest. The group had no links with the Chinese authorities, he told the Australian: We are independent filmmakers. This response is by consensus, and it is very personal. He said he did not blame the Melbourne festival organisers: We respect their programming freedom. But hundreds of ordinary people have just been killed in the conflict in Xinjiang. I know the families of two of the victims, and it offends my sense of morality to appear there alongside (Kadeer) as a guest. I would not be comfortable.

Tickets to 10 Conditions have since sold out and a second screening is being scheduled.

Update: Chinese Hackers Attack Film Festival Website

27th July 2009. Based on article from

Chinese hackers have attacked the website of Australia's biggest film festival over its decision to screen a documentary about the exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer.

Two days after the Melbourne international festival opened, hackers replaced programme information with the Chinese flag and anti-Kadeer slogans and sent spam emails in an attempt to crash the site, according to reports in the Australian press.

We like film but we hate Rebiya Kadeer, one message said, demanding an apology to the Chinese people.

The festival director, Richard Moore, said staff had been bombarded with abusive emails after he rebuffed demands from the Chinese government to drop the film about Kadeer, The 10 Conditions of Love , and cancel her invitation to the festival.

The language has been vile, Moore told the Melbourne Age: It is obviously a concerted campaign to get us because we've refused to comply with the Chinese government's demands.

He said the festival had reported the attacks, which appear to be coming from a Chinese internet protocol address, and was discussing security concerns with Victoria's state police. Private security guards are being hired to protect Kadeer and other patrons at the film's screening on August 8.

Update: Chinese Prove Their Repressive Nature

1st August 2009. From

The artistic director of Brisbane's International Film Festival (BIFF) says she is horrified by the behaviour of the Chinese consulate and the ensuing cyber attacks on the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

I think it is appalling. It is a really strange, inappropriate kind of tactic in a society that has freedom of speech, Anne Demy-Geroe told The Epoch Times.

Ms Demy-Geroe said she is receiving calls from friends in Europe equally horrified at the bullying and stands firmly in the belief that international film festivals have a duty to screen controversial films.


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