New Chinese film authority changes censorship rules
China's newly formed cross-media watchdog yesterday scrapped 20 items for government approval, including censorship of "general category" film scripts, in an apparent attempt to streamline bureaucratic functions.
The detailed structural and staffing plan for the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television - the top media regulatory body that was formed in March during the latest cabinet restructuring - was initially seen as a sign that the country's notorious film censorship was easing.
It also stirred up online debate on what constituted "general category" films.
Zhang Hongsen, director of the administration's film department, told Xinhua yesterday that the policy to scrap the "inspection of films in the general category" had been in place since 2006.
Film directors are only required to submit a 1,500-word synopsis if their films fall within this category. Films on major revolutionary and historic topics, documentaries on major historical subjects and international co-productions are all considered productions outside the general category. Directors of such films need to submit full scripts to the administration for approval.
Beijing film critic Cheng Qingsong, however, did not see this as a relaxing of the rigid censorship regulations. "It is true that this requirement has been dispensed with for a while and this indeed helps to shorten the time for the administration to approve a film project," he said. "But this does not mean that they no longer censor finished films before screening. In this matter, there has been no change at all.
"Jiang Wen's 2000 film Devils on the Doorstep and Lou Ye's 2006 film Summer Palace, for example, were both approved at the script stage but were banned for public screening," he added.
Yang Jin, an independent filmmaker from Beijing, agreed. "They stopped checking the scripts a few years back, because on the one hand they know that directors often make changes to the scripts when filming, and on the other, they expect directors to exercise self-censorship during production," he said. "Self-censorship can be even more disastrous. The ultimate solution to China's censorship is to install a rating system."