China Is Censoring the Academy Awards

'Do Not Split'Credit: Field of Vision/Anders Hammer
This should be China's time to shine—but instead, they are burying the Academy Awards. 

We often think of the Academy Awards as just an American affair, but across the world, people tune in. They want to see if their favorite movies win, but they also want to see if creatives from their own country can take home the crown. 

Right now, people in China should be rejoicing. There is a Mandarin-language film nominated for Best International Feature, and Chloé Zhao, a Chinese-born woman, is probably the favorite to walk away with the Best Director Academy Award. 

It's a huge deal to have a movie up for International Feature. The drama Better Days was adapted from the popular Chinese YA novel In His Youth, In Her Beauty (少年的你,如此美丽) by author Jiu Yuexi. It tells a story of a bullied high school girl and a teenage street thug, and how both of their lives were changed by each other. The movie was directed by Derek Tsang

Still, no one in the Chinese government is happy. 

As we reported, the Hong Kong TV network TVB will not be showing the awards, but mainland China will not be streaming the event either. They're using a rather famous law called the national security law,” which restricts free speech, to say why they won't broadcast the awards.

In the past, China has broadcast a version of the awards on state-run TV the morning after they aired, but this year they have no public plans to do so. 

So how did we get here? 

The Communist Party of China is highly sensitive to the discussion and handling of the protests in Hong Kong. For those who don't know, Hong Kong is trying to win freedoms they feel they were promised

A short documentary nominated for an Oscar called Do Not Split covered the 2019 Hong Kong democracy protests. The movie was directed by Norwegian filmmaker Anders Hammer. According to the Washington Post, It focused on such protesters as Joey Siu, a North Carolina-born and Hong Kong-raised activist. In the film, you see the siege of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and other huge moments during the protests.

China was not very happy with this content. 

Chinese regulators seem worried about attention from all over the world. And since the awards are broadcast everywhere else, and speakers can say anything they want when they get to the podium, and they can't control who wins or what clips are shown, the government was uneasy. 

This, coupled with the fact that Zhao once made comments critical of China during an interview, apparently worries them. 

“I think if she says something about China it will be interesting, and if she doesn’t that will be interesting for an entirely different reason,” said Aynne Kokas, a University of Virginia professor and author of Hollywood Made In China, about their relationship. “There’s a financial imperative for her not to tick off the Chinese government. But maybe she sees a moral imperative to stand her ground.” Normally, Hollywood would not care, but Hollywood needs China. Their box office is only second to the United States, and in 2019 generated about $9 billion in box office sales. But that box office is changing. With more movies being made in China, the US films that travel have not done well there. Disney's Mulan actually bombed there.

Hollywood is now a global industry. Studios are embracing their expanding audience and world. China is a big part of that world. And studios like Disney, who have a good relationship with them, will want to keep that door open to make sure their films make the most money. Zhao's next movie, Eternals, is a huge Marvel movie under the Disney banner.

It would be easy to see why Disney would not want her to say anything if she won. But how much can studios restrict the free speech of people accepting awards? And what about the indie filmmakers who made the short doc? No one can stop them from saying anything, either. And they don't have a conglomerate hanging over their shoulder looking into it as well.

Time will tell what happens, but as of right now, China won't show the Academy Awards. Let us know what you think in the comments.      

Your Comment

8 Comments

Can Americans just leave China alone already. They can watch it on YouTube with a VPN if they want to. Why do you have to police everybody all the time? Let go! You don't have to control everything and everyone. I see all this drama on the news everyday and it just feels like being in an abusive relationship. Endless gaslighting and manipulation via shamelessly biased news. This needs to stop.

Whatever it is you believe in your heart that the Chinese government is doing wrong has worked for the Chinese people for 50 years! Why do you feel the need to force your almighty all-righteous political system on them? Can somebody explain this to me because I don't get it.

By the way, I'm a Nigerian living in Nigeria. The Academy Awards isn't censored here and I don't give a rats behind. I'm not even planning to watch! It's not a big deal.

It is not my intention to troll you or anyone one here, I'm just truly and sincerely sick of this!

April 5, 2021 at 11:10AM

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Gboyega Dada
Director of Photography, Editor
128

Google "Tiananmen square".

April 5, 2021 at 3:09PM

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I'm an eighties baby; I read about Tiananmen Square in Newsweek magazines as a child in the nineties.

Most countries have at least a few dark times in their history. The U.S has a lot of dark times in its history too. In fact, way more than China.

You should read "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" by Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was on the ground during the Iraqi war.

You should also lookup "Marshall Islands nuclear testing".

I'm not here to point fingers. I'm just saying when you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.

April 5, 2021 at 11:52PM

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Gboyega Dada
Director of Photography, Editor
128

I do not dispute that all countries have dark parts of their history. The U.S. is obviously no exception, however, your original claim was that what goes on in China the past 50 years has worked well for it's people... Yes and no. Yes, China has raised more people out of poverty in that period of time than any other country in history ( although the per capita GDP is still far below that of the U.S). No, the uighur muslims are currently being the subject of crimes against humanity in the form of forced incarceration, sterilization and labor. Yes, China is has complicated history as does the U.S., but there is no shame in someone passing judgment on human rights violations such as repression of speech or control of media, whether it is the U.S., China, or elsewhere. So, I disagree with your original claim that the U.S. should stop passing judgment, but I agree that there is plenty of blame to go around. The only solid ground to stand on that I can see is calling out bad behavior wherever it is found and then engaging in discussion. I appreciate the back and forth. Hope all is well where you are. Best,

April 6, 2021 at 3:14PM

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First of all, let me be perfectly clear: my second comment was to address the event that took place at Tiananmen Square in 1989 specifically. Don't twist my comment.

Now, since you've decided to bring up the Uighur discussion, here is my opinion on that:

You are citing the Uighur narrative as a fact but I'm 100% certain that you have either come to this conclusion based on (1.) horrible (and shameless) journalism from the BBC (and co), (2.) viral social media posts or (3.) you actually do know the narrative is false and you yourself are a part of the very system pushing hateful sentiment against China.

News flash: We don't need more hate in the world. If you've got some in your closet, keep it there.

I think this is America looking for somewhere to channel its racism since it can no longer openly hate black people. And yes, it is racism. And no, America does not care about the welfare of muslim people. Let's be clear on that.

Can most Americans even recognise a Uighur when they see one? Uighurs (Americans read: Asians) are more likely be killed by some idiot in the streets of NY than in the streets of a Chinese city.

Let me also ask you, when was the last time China dropped a bomb on a muslim city or any city in the world for that matter?

So yes, the U.S. should stop "passing judgement" especially false "judgement".

And please do your research; read a book! Don't be a channel for mindless China hate.

April 10, 2021 at 2:32AM

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Gboyega Dada
Director of Photography, Editor
128

well said.because for long time,america thinks its democracy is world democracy,its value is common value.

April 5, 2021 at 7:45PM

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Torchiam Sun
camera operator
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China isn't the same as the CCP: one is a country while the other is the totalitarian regime that has been ruling China since 1949. Words matter.

April 6, 2021 at 11:50PM, Edited April 6, 11:54PM

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Cédric Jouarie
Director, Writer, Producer
161

I hate to break it to you, but the CCP is China the country right now and that "totalitarian regime" has helped pulled the Chinese people out of poverty over the past 50 to 60 years. I can assure you, this is no easy feat.

This might be hard for you to accept or imagine, but the evil CCP does care about the Chinese people more than the U.S. government.

April 10, 2021 at 2:52AM

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Gboyega Dada
Director of Photography, Editor
128