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Hong Kong Execs Deny Refusing Films Hard On China

Fri., Dec. 5, 1997

Hong Kong movie executives on Thursday denied reports they were refusing to show three Hollywood films critical of China for fear of antagonizing the Communist nation.

Hong Kong newspapers have reported “Seven Years in Tibet” and two other films were being shunned by distributors who feared negative repercussions from China, which resumed control over the territory July 1.

But Peter Lam, vice chairman of the Motion Picture Industry Association, called the allegations “ridiculous.”

“It really puts the industry in a very bad position, saying we are imposing a sort of self-censorship,” he said. “This is something we don’t like.”

While no laws have been enacted curtailing free speech since China’s takeover, Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa frequently urges the public to tread carefully on issues sensitive to China.

“Seven Years in Tibet,” starring Brad Pitt, portrays the campaign by the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, for autonomy for the Chinese-ruled region. Another of the films, “Kundun,” is also about Tibet, while the third film, “Red Corner,” is about an American businessman who runs afoul of Chinese authorities.

None has been shown in Hong Kong.

However, movie executive Crucindo Hung said his company, Delon International Film Corp., was bidding for the rights to “Seven Years in Tibet” and insisted only cost, not politics, would prevent him from distributing it.

“If they give me the price - my price - I will immediately pay the money and … ask them to send me the picture,” Hung said. He declined to disclose his bidding price.

But Tony Shu, head of the 180-member Movie Producers and Distributors Association of Hong Kong, said commercial concerns might stop distributors from showing the politically controversial films because they fear they might not draw a big enough audience to cover the licensing fees.

Tags: censorship

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