China Launches Compulsory Film Screenings to Mark Party Centenary

2021-04-06
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China Launches Compulsory Film Screenings to Mark Party Centenary Journalists film a display featuring Chinese President Xi Jinping in the history musem at the Party School of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee in Beijing, June 26, 2019.
AFP

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is ordering the screening and enforced viewing of revolutionary and propaganda movies in theaters around the country ahead of its centenary celebrations on July 1.

In a directive addressed to "all provincial, autonomous regional, and municipal authorities in charge of film, all movie theater companies, and all production units," the National Film Administration called for the screening of at least two CCP-backed films per week in movie theaters around the country.

Movie theaters in the People's Cinema and National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas chains must show approved films at least five times a week around the centenary, it said.

"The competent film authorities in each locality are responsible for organizing and formulating a plan for local screenings," the directive, published on the Administration's website, said.

The theaters are being required to screen around a dozen movies about the Japanese invasion during World War II, the Civil War with the Kuomintang government that followed, the Korean War of the early 1950s and the Cultural Revolution era, from 1966-1976, including film versions of Cultural Revolution-era productions including The White-Haired Girl and The Red Detachment of Women.

Meanwhile, a new musical inspired by the American Hollywood blockbuster La La Land, depicting idyllic scenes of ethnic integration in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where at least 1.5 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups are incarcerated in camps, was released on April 3.

The musical appears to be intended as a public relations response to counter growing media reporting and international criticism of the CCP's system of "re-education" camps in Xinjiang, which have been linked by witness testimony to forced labor, forced sterilization, systemic rape and sexual abuse, as well as the brainwashing of Uyghur children to reject their cultural identity after their parents are locked up in camps.

Happy, beer-drinking Muslims

The musical is set in a "Xinjiang" with no armed police, panopticon-style surveillance cameras, roadblocks or ID checks on the streets, where Muslims happily quaff beer and never wear veils or go to mosque.

The National Film Administration also called on local officials and party groups to "mobilize" people to watch them.

"It will be necessary to organize and mobilize party members, officials and audiences to take an active part," the directive said.

The movies will be screened as part of a nationwide drive to "educate" people about CCP history as the ruling party marks the 100th anniversary of its founding, it said.

"All distribution units, theaters, and screening units must actively prepare for film screenings, produce promotional materials, make screening arrangements, and run publicity campaigns," it said, suggesting preferential entry fees and "other incentives" to encourage people to attend.

The screenings will foster "love of party, country and socialism," as well as a patriotic spirit, the directive said.

Screenings will start in April 2021 and run throughout the year.

No 'discordant voices'

Writer Han Yiwen said officials from his local neighborhood committee have already issued warnings to residents that there must be no "discordant voices" around the centenary.

"They had a special message for me this year, in the party's centenary year," Han told RFA. "I'm not to make any comments that are of that nature."

"I can only really respond in general terms," he said. "If a child were to never grow up, and were to remain a child for the rest of his life, that would be a tragedy."

"But if the same thing were to happen to a country, then that would turn into a nightmare for everyone in that country," Han said.

An online commentator surnamed Zhou said the party's incursions into public and private thought and speech are getting more frequent.

"Controls on speech are pretty unscrupulous, and there is no concept of what is legal any more," Zhou said. "They had already banned any dissenting voices, but now you're not allowed unspoken opposition either."

"It's hard to imagine how things will turn out in future," he said.

A retired teacher surnamed Wang from the northern province of Hebei said that only praise of the CCP is allowed now.

"Authoritarian regimes can only tolerate praise, and more praise, but nobody is allowed to talk about their problems," Wang said. "The system we have in China is awful."

Reported by Han Qing and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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