Critical acclaim for film about Nobel laureate
Peter Simpson in London
A documentary about Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo has received critical acclaim after its first screening in Britain.
I Have No Enemies: Liu Xiaobo by British director Claudine Parrish includes an interview with Ai Weiwei before the artist disappeared last month.
The 30-minute film - which award-winning author Ma Jian watched - includes interviews with Zhou Duo , Liu's fellow hunger striker during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests; his lawyer Mo Shaoping ; and Professor Xu Youyu, a signatory of Charter 08 - the manifesto that angered the central government and caused Liu to be jailed for 11 years in 2009.
'We faced great difficulty. The authorities tried to clamp down on any filming. Contacts were made via Skype, which is undetectable, and we hired local filmmakers, and we managed, mostly undetected,' Parrish, who was commissioned by the Nobel Foundation, said.
Parrish interviewed Ai in London last year when Liu was announced the Nobel winner. Ai said in some ways Chinese enjoyed much freedom, except when it comes to criticism of the government.
'In China today you do have a lot of freedom. In some areas I think you're freer than in the West even - economics, sex, materialism and entertainment - but in the political sense, you almost have no freedom,' Ai says in the film.
'You cannot question the past, you cannot ask the basic facts about different incidents, no matter in history or in the current condition.'
In a rare interview, poet Liao Yiwu gives a unique insight into the thinking and motivation that drives the Peace Prize laureate.
Liao was filmed last year at a German book festival but has since been banned from travelling and told he faces punishment if he seeks to publish his work overseas.
Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland also explains in the film why Liu was awarded the peace prize.
Critics of Liu are also featured, including US-based dissident Diane Liu, who claimed his conciliatory non-violence philosophy damaged the pro-democracy movement.
He should 'react with zero tolerance' towards the Communist Party, she says in the film.
The documentary is on worldwide release and partly distributed by BBC Worldwide.
A spokeswoman for the press and public affairs department at the Chinese embassy in London declined to comment on the release. 'We will not be able to respond today. Please send an e-mail query,' she said last night.
Ma - the author of Red Dust and the Tiananmen Square massacre novel Beijing Coma - claimed after the screening that the West's lack of response to Liu's jailing and other recent human rights abuses led to Ai's arrest on April 3. He accused Western governments and corporations of 'debasing and compromising' their liberal values to appease China in exchange for profit.
'The more involved this relationship between China and the West becomes, the question for you in the West is: how much will you be willing to compromise in your engagement in China?' Ma said.
He told the South China Morning Post he feared for China's young generation, which he said subconsciously engaged in self-censorship, including those who travel to work and study overseas.
Salil Tripathi, chairman of the Writers in Prison Committee for the charity Pen, said the film was unique as it also offered a critical view of Liu. 'What I found surprising was the absence of Chinese students in the audience who attend similar events, and usually ask questions,' he said.