China Threatens UK Boycotts over Ai Weiwei, Dalai Lama
Amid fears that Hollywood’s growing relationship with China could encourage self-censorship, a Chinese industry delegation has withdrawn from a UK documentary festival after organisers refused to cancel screenings of two films. Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a portrait of the famous dissident artist and his art-slash-activism, while Steve Maing’s High Tech, Low Life, previously featured on CDT, shows the use of technology in citizen journalism and censorship circumvention in China. From Adam Benzine at Realscreen:
The delegation was due to include execs from CCTV, CETV, Phoenix TV and the Golden Eagle Documentary Channel, and was billed in pre-festival material as “the first-ever group of Chinese delegates… at Doc/Fest, including controllers from all the major documentary channels.”
[…] Talking to realscreen, Sheffield Doc/Fest director Heather Croall added: “Officially we have been told that the reason they cancelled is related to a restriction on the number of travel trips they can make to Europe. Unofficially though, there were a number of difficult conversations regarding films we are screening in our program that are critical of the Chinese Government. We thought we had found a way to have the delegation and the films.
“So we are very disappointed that the Chinese delegation will now not be attending the festival, but we remain very hopeful that they will attend in future. Chinese filmmakers, distributors and commissioners will always be welcome at Doc/Fest.”
Ai laughed off the news on Twitter, commenting that those behind the decision had made fools of themselves. Sheffield Doc/Fest runs until Sunday, June 17th.
Busy embassy officials also reportedly threatened to withdraw the Chinese Olympics team from a pre-games training camp in the nearby city of Leeds, according to The Guardian, because of a scheduled appearance by the Dalai Lama at a private business conference.
Fabian Hamilton, the Labour MP for Leeds North East and chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for Tibet, described the reported demand as “bully-boy tactics”.
He told the BBC: “I find it distasteful, to say the least, that two representatives of a country whose human rights record is appalling, where freedom of speech is not allowed and where there is no real democracy, come to the city of Leeds and tell our elected officials … that they can’t do what they think is best for the city under pain of economic sanction.”
[…] Leeds city council said it was aware of “sensitivities” surrounding the Dalai Lama’s visit, but stressed it was not involved in organising the business conference.