The fourth Beijing International Film Festival opened on Wednesday, and it looks like it's already less boring than last year's. For that we have the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone to thank, who on Thursday in a panel discussion spoke provocatively on Mao Zedong and urged the Chinese to confront their history. As The Hollywood Reporter reports:
Those of you who follow us will know about C4, the sometimes funny, certainly unique, not-unnoteworthy comedy/variety show via China Radio International that we sporadically syndicate. Among the fun things that hosts Rob Hemsley and Stuart Wiggin have done recently -- though not quite as good as "The Panda" -- is a bloopers segment that featured none other than Xi Jinping.
A recently produced short film from GVAcreative has gone viral, built on the idea that Hong Kong, since being "passed over" to China in 1997, is becoming less like what it was and that its past will eventually be gone. "The city is dying, just like a man who has lost a lot of blood,” says one of the characters in voice-over.
PEN America organized a protest called "Take a Stand for Free Expression in China: An Evening of Literary Protest" last Thursday, April 10, in front of the Brooklyn Public Library in New York. Ai Weiwei was more or less the face of the event, attended by several hundreds of people / bored Brooklynites, which was also had the purpose of raising awareness of persecuted Chinese writers. Art Daily reports that Ai Weiwei appeared via video message to thank his supporters.
We're still awaiting word from Astrill support, but in case you're wondering, yes, the popular VPN service is down -- both the website and service itself. We don't know if it has anything to do with China, but probably not -- "technical problem," says Astrill.com. Look at that emoticon - that is the sorriest goddamn sad-face I've ever seen.
Reporters Without Borders released its latest version of the World Press Freedom Index, and apparently China has cancer. It ranks sixth from the bottom, at 175, below Vietnam, Iran, Cuba, etc. To give you an understanding of how bad Reporters Sans Frontières believes the situation is:
After two-plus years, Lady Gaga has been removed from China's musical blacklist, which means she can now perform on the mainland. Her third studio album, ARTPOP, has also been approved for release, as the singer herself announced in a tweet: "I'm so excited!!!! The Chinese Government Approved ARTPOP to be released in China with all 15 songs!"
Yesterday afternoon, Chinese internet users expecting to search China's Baidu search engine or the Weibo social media site were redirected to website associated with Freegate, an anticensorship software tied to the Falun Gong.
A question worth repeating: has the Guardian been blocked in China? The eye test and GreatFire.org say yes, though we've seen technological glitches involving major English-language news sites in China before -- Wall Street Journal, namely -- so we're not ready to call this yet. Also, why the Guardian?
The latest column from New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan is about China: an article that first summarizes why it's becoming increasingly difficult for foreign correspondents to work here, then reminds its readers that the Times remains -- unlike Bloomberg, I think is clearly one implication -- a news company first and foremost.
As reported last month, former security chief Zhou Yongkang, now retired, has been the target of high-level corruption probes since at least late August. "How far and high is [Xi Jinping] willing to go to clean up China’s political elite?" the New York Times's Chris Buckley asked in a September 25 article.
Now we kind of know. The South China Morning Post reported today, citing unnamed sources, that Xi Jinping is overseeing a "special unit" to investigate Zhou, "bypassing the Communist Party's internal disciplinary apparatus."
True objectivity in journalism may be an unachieveable ideal -- the craft is as much about storytelling as reporting, with the requisite narrative structures that confirm or deny bias -- but that doesn't mean a journalist should actively neglect his or her duty to truthful storytelling.
Unless you work in Chinese media.
A book called Those Who Don't Read It Upside-down Are Pigs, among others, has been seized for "spreading pornography," according to Xinhua, as edited by Global Times. And two publishers, China Pictorial Publishing House and Shaanxi Normal University Publishing House, have been suspended for three months.
The relationship between China's central and local governments has never been linear or completely top-down. There are times of harmony, but more often, there's tension. In the recent past, thanks to social media, conflicts and disagreements usually kept behind closed doors have begun leaking into the public domain.
Several recent posts on Sina Weibo by legal organs revealed that tensions are as manifest today as they were during historical times. Many netizens have gone as far to call these posts an act of “rebellion.”
After a handful of English-language publications declared that authorities had "shut down" the Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF), many people likely dusted their hands of the matter, thinking censorship had once again triumphed over artistic expression. But as James Hsu discovered more than a week after the festival’s supposed cancellation, BIFF held a successful, albeit quiet, closing ceremony following a full program of screenings and panels.
So what happened? A few days after the closing, I met with artistic director Dong Bingfeng to ask him about that and other issues on censorship, film in China, and independent festivals in the future.
In an interesting turn of events, the Beijing Independent Film Festival concluded on Saturday without further interference from local authorities. Despite opening-day warnings that suggested cancellation was a distinct possibility, the festival continued to screen films every day at the Li Xianting Film Fund's office courtyard in Songzhuang Art District.
Whatever happens in the privacy of one's home is apparently not always private, especially if you're a notorious rabblerouser with 12 million followers on Sina Weibo.
Chinese American Charles Xue, aka Xue Biqun (and Xue Manzi on Weibo, an anti-trafficking and environmental adovcate), was captured in Beijing last Friday for soliciting a 22-year-old prostitute. That's hardly the end of the story though. In the past week, authorities have gleefully smeared him in public, including on, it seems, every CCTV news broadcast, emphasizing Xue's confession and his love for sex parties. LOCK HIM WITH THE PEDOPHILES!