Call For Movie Boycott

A U.S. film company draws ire for aligning with authorities holding a Chinese rights lawyer.

chenguangcheng2011-305.jpg Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from a video showing his life under house arrest.

A U.S.-based women's rights group has called on moviegoers to boycott the film "21 and Over" because it relies on partnerships with Chinese officials linked to the continued house arrest of blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

"For the sake of Chen Guangcheng, we now call for a worldwide boycott of '21 and Over'," said Reggie Littlejohn, spokeswoman for Women's Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF).

Hollywood-based Relativity Media announced its partnership last month with officials from Shandong's Linyi city, which oversees Chen's home county of Yinan, where he has been held under house arrest and under armed guard with his wife and young daughter for more than a year.

"For Relativity Media to film in Linyi tells the Chinese people, either that the company is inexcusably ignorant of one of the world’s most notorious human rights abuses, or that it doesn’t care," Littlejohn said in a statement published on the group's website. 

Relativity Media responded to criticisms of its ties with Linyi by saying it was proud of its business relationships in China.

"From its founding, Relativity Media has been a consistent and outspoken supporter of human rights and we would never knowingly do anything to undermine this commitment," the company said last week.

"We stand by that commitment and we are proud of our growing business relationships in China," it said.

"As a company, we believe deeply that expanding trade and business ties with our counterparts in China and elsewhere can result in positive outcomes."

Campaign for release

WRWF has thrown its support behind an already vocal campaign to free Chen, his wife Yuan Weijing, and the couple's daughter Chen Kesi, that began among Chinese netizens and rights activists soon after his release from jail in September.

A petition on its website calling for Chen's release had garnered more than 6,000 signatures on Wednesday, while a campaign for people to post photos of themselves in dark glasses to echo a commonly used photo of the activist appeared to be gathering momentum in the U.S.

Littlejohn called on Relativity Media to "back up its words with actions."

"Why have they refused to use the leverage they’ve gained through their 'strategic alliance' to demand Chen’s freedom?" she said.

Chen, 39, a self-taught lawyer who has persistently campaigned for the rights of ordinary people under China's draconian family-planning regime, was handed a four-year, three-month jail term for “damaging public property and obstructing traffic” in August 2006.

Chen had exposed abuses like forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials under China’s “One Child” policy, as well as official harassment and attacks on families who exceeded local birth quotas.

Rights groups are calling for international pressure to be stepped up on Beijing to ensure the family's release ahead of Chen's 40th birthday later this month.

"There are plans to hold a gathering in honor of Chen Guangcheng's birthday on Nov. 12," said Ge Jianzhong, an activist who was detained after trying to visit Chen in his home village of Dongshigu in September.

"There will be people from all over [China] ... we will head down to Linyi together," Ge said.

Meanwhile, a U.S. lawmaker has said he will ask China to let him visit Chen to assess his condition after accounts that he was severely beaten at his home.

"Enough is enough," Representative Chris Smith, chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, told a an emergency hearing of the commission on Tuesday.

"The cruelty and extreme violence against Chen and his family brings dishonor to the government of China and must end," Smith said.

Reported by Wen Jian for RFA's Mandarin service and by Pan Jiaqing and Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Nov 03, 2011 05:54 AM

Bravo Chris Smith!!! Very sad that not many strong voices come from incumbent US leaders who side with China in cheap talk but no good action. May God bless Rep Smith, Mr Chen family, good Chinese and the boycotting.