You are apple of my eye: Chinese film censorship and some thoughts Part2

Recent released Hollywood blockbusters also face the challenges from the censorship when they tend to enter the market. The content is under careful examination by the government. Meanwhile, China has a strict limit on number of  the foreign films allowed to be shown in theaters.  And  the China film group functions as  the  Chinese government’s guardian on the film market, any foreign films want to enter the China’s door must pass through this gatekeeper.

For instance, Thirteen minutes of “Men in Black 3 ” were cut out of the film by the Chinese government.

According to China’s Southern  Daily Newspaper a large section of “Men In Black 3” was discarded by officials because of how it portrays the government’s position on Internet censorship.  The scene took place in Chinatown, and it showed the Agent K and Agent J have a fighting in the restaurant , and then have their memories wiped clean to prevent stories about the aliens to spread.

The reason for censoring is that it can be related to the Internet censorship in China by the government. The interesting point here is censorship about the censorship. There are also other elements that  are not supposed to promote, like obscenity, gambling, violence, super naturalism, horrors, ghosts.

However, the internet allows the citizen to access wide range of resources including some banned  films in China. Through the Internet, it makes the state regulation a bit redundant . Because of the technology, we can have other methods to circumvent the regulation.  For example , in China , we can use the proxy to access the YouTube and many other sides. And the movie resources are also abundant through torrents, meanwhile, language remains to be a barrier. Several grass root workshops help to make subtitles their own to let the audiences enjoy the film. And the regulation remains to be powerful that large percentage of the population doesn’t know how to locate the resource though Internet.

You are apple of my eye: Chinese film censorship and some thoughts Part1

In the mainland , we always get the different versions of films that  can be classified  as the original version and the  alleged ” censored” version. “You are the apple of my eye” is a film from Taiwan, which is directed by Giddens Ko. It is about a  sad love story in the period of highschool.

Though the content of “you are the apple of my eye” is moderate, in China , it still gets two versions as usual. One is for the Taiwan, Hong Kong and oversea markets, and another one is for the mainland. I have experienced both two versions  to have a retrospect to the time of my high school, and it actually generates a kind of nostalgia feeling. However, differences are also obvious that invoke me to draw some thoughts of the Chinese movie censorship in mainland and the surveillance about several social media sites in China, for instance, Mtime. To give an introduction, at first,  the prestigious film site IMDB is blocked in mainland which makes me really sad. It is partly due to several movies information, like the  documentary movie on the Dalai Lama and Tibet. But we never get official responses about the issue, it is really common in China that folks seldom receive answers from the government toward certain “sensitive” events. This really undermines the democracy in China, and does little help to foster a “public sphere”.  Back to the mainland , the website Mtime also provides  similar functions of IMDB for movie rankings and comments , and the language mostly used is mandarin. But for such a “harmonized” website, it was also under investigation for several months in 2011 by government because of  the discussion of films like the one that seems to be rebellious  called “V for Vendetta”. The censorship is so severe, that in those websites, you can not even talk about the bureaucracy, anarchy, protest or rebellion, etc, in China. The democracy and political development need a long way to go that government should listen to the voice of opposite and the voice of grassroots.

Meanwhile , in the “censored” version of ” you are the apple of my eye”,  there is no masturbation scene or some erotic scenes about the naughty essence of teenage boys. Sometimes, it is the original humanities, like love, sex and politics which are suppressed by the Bureau. “films are always beyond the daily life”, directors use the tool of visual arts to express their thoughts and attitudes towards life, when it becomes censored, it is hard to make a great movie. This is also one reason that we don’t have many world-acknowledged films inmainland.

At last, I hope to see more freedom in mainland film works, otherwise, it is very hard to pursue the better future of Chinese film industry and gain the acknowledgement worldwide.

The Case of Bo Xilai and Sina Weibo

As posted before , the Sina Weibo is the Chinese own version of microblogs.  In China ,there are over 550 million microblog users. Social media enhanced the political discussion,and provided a new kind of ” public sphere” to pursue the truth behind the scene. “But one thing is certain.   Before the advent of social media, the government never owed the people an explanation. […] Today, with tens of millions of Chinese actively use Sina Weibo, a low murmur of political gossip may have already been amplified and heard by thousands before the internet police step in.”  Jing Gao reflects.

Taking the case study of Bo Xilai in Chinese political realm.

  

Bo is the former leader of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Chong Qing. But he is taken down by the reason of “serious discipline violations” and his wife’s murder of a British businessman Neil Heywood over the “economic interests

Within this incident, social media has severely challenged the state though many issues. Rumors begun to spread in the February and just got confirmed in several months later. The CCP  reacted later than  the rumors have begun to be widely discussed in the online sphere though Sina Weibo and Tencent microblog. At last, in April, the Xinhua confirmed that the rumours became the truth.

The public debate also leads to the political corruption that toward the enrichment of party officials. There is a famous phrase called “Tai Zi Dang” in Chinese, which means the party of princes who is the son of former senior officials in CCP. Fortune generated by the party officials is enormous that in China , we always talk about ” you should be a government official rather than a business man.”  It is a bit hard for people from western society to understand this, though it is true in Chinese society under the system of bureaucracy.

And meanwhile , Sina Weibo supplies a platform for folks to discuss certain issues that can probably function as a “public sphere”, whether it is true or not , it does influence the society a lot. When the sensitive message has been posted, it always took a few minutes for officials to censor it , but the message has already spread that a few amount of people can receive it. Partial activism is enhanced by this platform, it is good to see the improvement of democracy in mainland China, not always brain-washing or not-so-sophisticated propaganda.

Ai Weiwei: The Changing role of Social Media in China

The great firewall which blocked some influential social network sites, such as  Facebook, Twitter and Google+ in China, contributed a lot to the establishment of Chinese own version. Such as Ren Ren (Facebook liked site), Sina Weibo( microblog),etc. Sites like Fanfou : one of the first established microblogging services,  has been taken down by the Chinese Government due to reason of so-called ” disseminating of sensitive messages”.

Quoting from Habermas’ theory of “public sphere”, the flourishment of social network can also function as a new “digital public sphere” for people to exchange political ideas and enhance democracy. However, the theory of ” technology as a text” by Mackay also points out that technology itself can be a text that it is neutral, our human beings as operators also have the ability to encode and decode the text itself, meanwhile, the technology itself also has its own logic as the technological determinism theory points out.

To apply this to the Chinese social network, some features of social network sites have the potential to foster a “public sphere”, like the relatively freedom of speech and the immediacy of spreading information . For example , with the development of social media, more social problems can be discovered and solved by online citizens in China : Guo Meimei incident . Using the social media, it is more convenient  for Chinese citizens to accurately locate the problem and generate attention from  the mainstream.

However, it is also people who matters toward the usage of technology. There is a case study of Ai Wei wei which is worthwhile to analyze in the context of social network.

Ai Weiwei as a famous artist in China,  in his 50s , is living with his life and child in Beijing.  He came back to China after living a decade more in New York. Ai always makes his criticism about human rights in China and asks for political reformation.  After holding an investigation about the names of students who died in 2008 SiChuan earthquake, he posted all the name list on his blog and attracted lots of attention from society. The government immediately took control of this incident by shutting down all Ai Weiwei’s blogs and putting him into prison for 81 days without trail.  This is mainly about the quality of school building and government corruption that nobody from CCP wants to tell.

Social Media has gradually transformed the Chinese society, but more efforts are still needed.

Chinese Social Media: Microblogs

As Facebook and Twitter are censored , in China, it gets its own version of Chinese social media which are known as Ren Ren, Sina WeiBo(microblog),etc.

(literally means “everyone”, it is majorly used by college students in mainland, a Facebook-like service)

And the language frequently used in these platforms are mandarin, An Xiao Mina points out the language used in these sites are mandarin, but the the number of English speakers is steadily growing. Many Chinese people from overseas, they’d like to use WeiBo rather than Twitter for the reason that the WeiBo is more familiar to them.

(Sina WeiBo)

But it is not to say if you don’t know how to write in mandarin, it is useless to use WeiBo. Microblogs like Sina WeiBo has already got its Iphone APP version in English . Meanwhile many writers in WeiBo also post in purely English or double language version ( Mandarin and English). For example , two prestigious microbloggers in WeiBo are  Tom Cruise and Bill Gates. For Cruise, he has already attracted 1.8 million fans , making him probably the first western film stars to achieve  1 million goal.  And with the growing of massive online citizens in China, the WeiBo’s effect  is influential, to get the information “connected” to the huge market of China.

Censorship

However, there is still heavy censorship around the WeiBo sphere. Many alleged ” sensitive words” are censored by the key word protection system, with the help of Great Firewall and online police (Cyber police).

(Chinese Cyber police)

Some severe political issues are always blocked and censored through the main Web portals (like Sina, 163, QQ,etc. These are major web portals in mainland, like Sina, its click rate is even more than 100 million one day). These issues are always prohibited to post in the main pages, even some are posted, they can not be commented or the comment is led by the “five-cent party”(commentators  who are paid by the government to lead the public opinion). Sometimes, the issue is also being over represented, but the tactic is not so sophisticated that it makes people confused and hard to find the resources toward the “truth”. At the current stage, it is hard to say the microblogs in China serve as a public sphere, but the progress is gradually taking place ( Like there is an online call for Jasmine revolution through WeiBo for democratic process.)By the way, the notion  “dictator’s dilemma”  of censorship can also be raised here. On the one side, Internet is good for economic growth ,entertainment and infotainment; on the other side, it also fosters the activists groups. As Ethan Zuckerman quotes, there is no divide of  economic Internet, social internet, and apolitical internet,  Internet is just Internet. It is not so easy to just release the Internet out of control or solo  implement severe censoring mechanism. At last to quote an old saying from my own cultural background ” folks should not talk about politics”, and the state is so powerful  that make the  democracy in China a long way to go.