China: Doctoral Student Accuses SARFT of Movie Censorship

Dong Yanbin, a doctoral student in China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL), accused Beijing UME international movie theater and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) of castrating the recent blockbuster Lust,Caution directed by Taiwanese director Ang Lee, Jinghua Times reported on Wednesday. Dong indicated that the theater screening the abridged version of Lust,Caution had infringed the consumer's fair trading and knowing rights, and SARFT had violated the social public interests because of its unestablished movie rating system. Dong held a view that the complete version of Lust,Caution had been widely welcomed in other countries and regions; as a consumer, the Chinese audience were not lack of qualities of judgment and appreciation, so they should have had the equal rights for consumption. Receiving Dong's accusation material, the Xi Cheng Court in Beijing had given a preliminary examination of it, but in the end the Court didn't place a case on file for investigation since they think Dong should firstly provide a full version of the movie as evidence.

With its mainland premiere on November 1, the box office of Lust,Caution has climbed over 90 million RMB during the past two weeks in China. Besides the love and espionage plot based on the short story by Chinese author Eileen Chang, the most attractive and controversial thing was about the deleted 7-minute erotic and violent scenes of the movie which were considered as improper content by the Chinese official censors. According to Sina‘s statistics, the number of reviews on Lust,Caution in their blog community was up to 1.5 million that had definitely hit the record in Sina's history, and among those, many of the bloggers expressed a complaint about the deletion of the movie. As expected, Dong Yanbin's accusation had inflamed a new tide of online criticism and controversy on SARFT regarded as the censorship center of radio, film and TV in China.

The comments on Dong's prosecution and the censored movie in Sina:

作者: 游客 (北京)
支持一下!!花一样甚至更高的钱,看的却是被剪的七零八落的影象。分级都喊了这么多年了,广电局成天都在干 什么??法院也是,原告要能提供未删节版的,还去华星干吗?

Author: guest (Bejing)
Support it!! Spending the same or even more money, what we see is the disorderedly cut images. People have called on film rating for so many years. What's the SARFT doing all day?? The same to the Court, if the plaintiff(Dong Yanbin) can provide a complete version, why did he go to the UME theater?

作者: 游客 (江苏苏州)
支持,广电总局不是在净化艺术,而是在亵渎艺术,中国人的思想大部分都不再是小农思想了,以自己的思维来度 量和限制别人,是一种极大的不民主和不公平!

Author: guest (Suzhou, Jiangsu Province)
Support it! The SARFT does not purify the art but profane it. Most of the Chinese do not have the small peasant ideology any more. it's greatly undemocratic and unequal to judge and restrict others by one person's thoughts!

作者: 游客 (福建漳州)

Author: guest (Zhangzhou Fujian Province)
It's Claptrap. Everyone knows that without the cut it's totally an adult movie. The trading of adult movie is illegal. The ones showing the adult movie break the laws, and the people to see it also break the laws .

作者: 游客 (天津)
记住,不让你看,你就老老实实别看就行了!譬如,作为中华人民共和国一部分的香港的凤凰卫视,尽管其播出内 容足够“正面”, 但有人不喜欢,还不是宣传部一个指令,就给掐了!他有权,他想怎么干,不需要对老百姓做 什么解释!

Author: gust (Tianjin)
Remember that if you are not allowed to see it, just behave yourself and don't see it! For example, although as one part of China the Hong Kong Phoenix Satellite Television had broadcasted some enough “positive” programs, someone didn't like it, so an order from the Publicity Department just cut it! They have power. What they want to do needn't be explained to the public!

作者: 游客 (北京)
我们社会的文明是需要这些既有法律和经济学专业素养,又有勇气和精力去较真的人来推动的。这些人的所作所为 ,是对官僚请害消费者利益行为的抵抗,我觉得值的赞扬。

Author: guest (Beijing)
Our society civilization should be promoted by these who have professional capacity for law and economy, and courage and efforts to argue. Those people's behavior is a protest against the bureaucrats that infringe on consumers’ interests. I think the person like Dong Yanbin deserves a medal.

作者:游客 (浙江金华)

Author: guest (Jinhua, Zhejiang Province)
The deletion is not that good. I've seen the movie but I don't think it's perfect or as good as what the reviews said on Internet. I also find out something deleted and feel unhappy about that. The feelings were odd after I saw the movie. I support this Doctor (Dong Yanbin). We mainland audience must have the equal rights, too. Why we always see some incomplete works? Do they think we can not appreciate the deleted footage and regard us as Children?

内地至少删了三场激情戏,两场恐怖场面,也就是有五场高潮戏没人,一个电影如果五场高潮戏没,也就是一个人 去了四肢和头,这样的电影还能反映艺术家的创造和观众兴奋的期待吗?官员你们的良心都去哪了?

Author: guest
At least, three passion footage and two thrilling scenes were canceled in mainland, which means five climaxes of the movie are cut. A movie without its five great scenes is like a person without head, arms and legs. Can such kind of movie reflect the artist's creation and the audience's expectation? Government officials, where are your consciences?

Every year, only 20 foreign-made movies can be granted permission from China authorities to screen in mainland. “This has nothing to do with our movie theaters. The abridged version is shown throughout the country. We also want to show the complete version for people but the abridged or the complete is totally decided by the SARFT,” a UME theater manager said. In fact,the strict movie censorship system has upset a lot of Chinese movie fans for years since under that, most of the imported movies are “re-edited” by the SARFT in a brutal way. Besides Lust,Caution, the most recent example may be is the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End in which Chow Yun-Fat, one of the most famous actor in China, was criticized for its Chinese pirate appearance so that his performance was reduced to 10 minutes and the SARFT's reason was Chow's role “vilifies and humiliates the Chinese” while the public's reaction was “we are confused about Chow's role because no sooner had he appeared on the scene than he was killed.”

A blogchina blogger named Sima Pingbang (司马平邦)calling on people not to see the castrating Lust,Caution in theaters associated the movie censoring with China's serious pirate problem:


Sometimes I even doubt the movie censorship and the pirates are close brothers. Usually, the more scenes cut by SARFT, the more popularity the movie will enjoy in the pirate market (or why not just forbid Lust,Caution to enter mainland). Additionally, we seldom see the authorities take any strong and effective way to control pirates, but this time we can only find the complete-version of Lust,Caution in the pirate vendors.

Ren Haiyong who used to study in CUPL is also a blogger of blogchina. He gave his own perspective on the college friend Dong Yanbin's behavior:


As a CUPL alumnus, I pretty understand and approve college brother Dong Yanbin's accusation. No matter whether being a law professional, we all know: as a Doctor of law, Dong Yanbin definitely knew that such prosecution would one hundred percent fail; it's even difficult for the Court to accept it. However, as a Doctor of law, he deeply knew that the society needed to be promoted by someone's hard efforts. He could not help keeping silent when he saw our legalization process still stayed on such a low line. He was trying to use a seeming childish behavior of accusation and his slight voice to do his utmost to shout out! He would shout to the movie theaters and especially the movie censorship department that give our freedom of seeing pictures back!

I hope all the Chinese with a sense of self-respect, can put forward the call of justice to those who do not respect our human dignity! The era is progressing and people's democratic consciousness is also being strengthened. I hope those, who used to think or still continue to regard Chinese people as never grown-up children should see the trend of the social development. Those who submit to the era tendency will prosper; those who resist it shall perish. This sentence is applicable to any country in any times forever.



    Support to all of you, Chinese fellows!! :)

    In the late 1980’s, this also happened in Taiwan. The situation was better in ten years (under the same ruling party).

  • Pei

    Didn’t Ang Lee said the trimmed version is the real version? Something along the line that he have to squeeze in some nudity and violence to entice western audience and reviewer. For domestic audience, that is not necessary as Chinese audience are not so simple minded.

  • To Pei;
    It doesn’t matter if the trimmed version is from Ang Lee for Chinese people. Actually,it had been a breaking news in Sep.that Ang Lee had to clarify his Lust,Caution to avoid the same fate like Brokeback Mountain which was totally banned in China. The point is if the adults from Hong Kong,Tainwan or US can see the original version,why Chinese living in mainland should be an exception. Why Chinese adults can’t enjoy the same rights like other people.That’s why the trimmed Lust,Caution infuriate so many movie fans in China.

  • Pei

    Re: Meng Zhang

    That is one of the reason I favor new-age Chinese directors. Older directors like Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou come to age in a time when western cinema was the de facto standard. They set their mark on how many foreign award and positive review they can get and totally ignore the Chinese audience. It is one of the reasons real Chinese films don’t sell oversea and fake films sell very well but receive less than stiller review at home.

    What Ang Lee should have done is to film the movie to Chinese taste and modify (remove historical dialog and add violence/sex) for export. There is no reason why viewers in Taiwan and HK should be subject to a substandard cut.

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