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A draft film industry promotion law released by the State Council yesterday proposes a ban on movie content that 'disturbs social stability and promotes religious fanaticism', the latest attempt by Beijing to tighten control over cultural products.
Films must not harm national honour and interest, incite ethnic hatred, spread 'evil cults' or superstition, or propagate obscenity, gambling, drug abuse, violence or terror, according to the draft law posted on the website of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office for public comment until the middle of next month. It bans 13 types of content.
The draft law was revealed after a Communist Party Central Committee meeting in October which vowed to promote 'advanced socialist culture'. Analysts said they expected the law to be approved at next year's National People's Congress meeting.
Compared to the Regulations on Administration of Films that took effect in 2002, the draft law plans to censor a wider range of subjects for movies made and screened on the mainland. They will be forbidden from promoting religious fanaticism, disturbing religious harmony, hurting the feelings of religious people, damaging unity of atheists and religious people, distorting national history, hurting national feelings, playing up terrorism, spreading criminal methods, invading privacy and breaching legal rights and harming the growth of juveniles.
The law will also retain existing bans on movies showing unconstitutional elements, damaging national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, revealing national secrets, inciting ethnic hatred, disrupting social order and stability, spreading violence, obscenity, drug abuse, gambling and crimes, libelling others, damaging social morality and outstanding national cultural traditions. Other content forbidden by laws, administrative orders and national regulations will also be banned.
Mainland films and those co-produced with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and foreign countries must undergo censorship before obtaining a licence from regulators. All movies, including imported ones, planned to be screened on the mainland should be approved by a movie censorship committee led by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
Professor Zhou Xing, of Beijing Normal University's college of art and communication, said that by upgrading an administrative regulation to law, Beijing was showing its resolve to boost the film industry as a pillar for the development of the culture industry. 'It also reveals the policymakers' intention to play up mainstream social values in movies.'
Han Haoyue, a Beijing-based critic, said that stricter control of film registration and screenings on the mainland might further 'bind the hands and feet' of filmmakers. The draft law makes no mention of a rating system, which has been called for by critics, directors and academics for the past few years. The new law will also penalise those who manipulate and inflate box office figures.