China’s state television network broadcast the anti-authoritarian movie that has become a symbol in the West of anarchic uprising against oppressive or totalitarian governments.
The airing of the film stunned and confused viewers, leaving the impression that China might be loosening its censorship policies. The movie had never appeared in Chinese theaters but it is unclear whether it was ever banned. An article on a Communist Party news site said the film was once prohibited, but a spokesman for the office that reviews films said he had no knowledge of the ban.
A worker at the state television station was eerily unimpressed with the response to the film. “It is already broadcast. It is no big deal,” a woman who answered the phone at movie channel CCTV-6 told The Guardian. “We also didn’t anticipate such a big reaction.”
The Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia wrote on Twitter, which is not accessible to most Chinese because of government internet controls: “This great film couldn’t be any more appropriate for our current situation. Dictators, prisons, secret police, media control, riots, getting rid of ‘heretics’ ... fear, evasion, challenging lies, overcoming fear, resistance, overthrowing tyranny ... China’s dictators and its citizens also have this relationship.”
China’s government strictly controls print media, television and radio. Censors also monitor social media sites including Weibo. Programmes have to be approved by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, but people with knowledge of the industry say CCTV, the only company with a nationwide broadcast license, is entitled to make its own censorship decisions when showing a foreign movie.