‘Beijing slaps ban on Hong Kong and Taiwan film awards’ amid rising political tensions

Mainland Chinese portal Tencent has already withdrawn from Hong Kong Film Awards even after paying HK$4 million for the webcast rights

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 9:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 10:10pm

Two major film awards in Hong Kong and Taiwan face a broadcasting ban on mainland China amid recent political turmoil in the two places and a politically sensitive film among the nominations.

Derek Yee Tung-sing, chairman of the Hong Kong Film Awards Association, confirmed that mainland portal Tencent, which had secured the mainland webcast rights, had already withdrawn.

The Hong Kong Film Awards take place on April 3.

Yee said Tencent informed the awards association about the decision on Friday. It was understood Tencent had paid around HK$4 million as deposit for the broadcast fees.

“The awards association is still seeking official confirmation of withdrawal from Tencent,” Yee said. “It is a pity that we will lose some of the audience.”

Industry insiders said the reason was the nomination of Ten Years as best film. The independent movie is composed of five shorts depicting a bleak Hong Kong in 2025 under the thumb of the Chinese Communist Party.

Sources said Beijing had linked the film to the recent Mong Kok riot.

Yee insisted the association would not pull Ten Years out of the show.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the ban extended to the Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan after the election of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen as president, but there was no official confirmation from any parties.

According to mainland media, the ban came from the publicity department of the Communist Party and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. It aimed at blocking films and messages that were inconsistent with the country’s condition or could spread negative influence.

Ng Ka-leung, a producer and one of the directors of Ten Years, said it was a pity that the Hong Kong awards would be banned from showing on the mainland.

What are they afraid of? It is a small independent film and now with all this attention, it makes people even more curious
Ng Ka-leung, producer and director of Ten Years

“It is a celebration of the film industry’s achievements and it isn’t even showing the film,” Ng told the Post.

Ten Years was earlier slammed by mainland mouthpiece Global Times, which accused it of being absurd and spreading anxiety and pessimism. The film has taken HK$6 million in Hong Kong.

“It is very strange. What are they afraid of?” asked Ng. “It is a small independent film and now with all this attention, it makes people even more curious.”

The ban has also raised concerns for creative freedom. Shu Kei, a filmmaker and chair of the school of film and television at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, said he had received warnings from the mainland against his vocal support for Occupy protests and pro-democracy stance.

Shu played no role in Ten Years but three of the five directors are his students. “I only promoted the film heavily on my Facebook,” he said.

But Yee did not think there would be any impact on the creative freedom of Hong Kong’s film industry.

A spokesman for the Golden Horse Film Awards told the Post that the organisers were aware of the news but had not received official confirmation from mainland media portals.

He said the November awards had deals with Sina.com for livecasts over the past three years and the contract period was over.

“We are in the process of negotiation with other mainland portals. But we will not know the results until later this year,” he said.