Chinese Embassy Pressures UK Film Festival to Cancel Ai Weiwei Documentary

A documentary festival in Sheffield has refused to remove a film about Ai Weiwei from its schedule, despite coming under pressure from the Chinese Embassy.
Chinese Embassy Pressures UK Film Festival to Cancel Ai Weiwei Documentary
John Smithies
6/14/2012
Updated:
9/25/2019
A documentary festival in Sheffield has refused to remove a film about Ai Weiwei from its schedule, despite coming under pressure from the Chinese Embassy, according to festival organisers.
The documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is due to screen on June 15th and 16th at the Sheffield Doc/Fest. A delegation of 10 Chinese commissioning editors, who were to join the festival, have now pulled out of attending.
Festival organisers were contacted directly by the Chinese Embassy in London after they learned that screenings would include the Ai Weiwei documentary, and High Tech, Low Life, about internet users in China bypassing state censorship.
“Officially we have been told that the reason the Chinese delegation cancelled is related to a restriction on the number of travel trips they can make to Europe,” said Heather Croall, Sheffield Doc/Fest director in a statement. “Unofficially though, there were a number of difficult conversations regarding films we are screening in our programme that challenge issues of freedom of speech in China.
“We came under pressure to not show certain films. We resisted the pressure, and the films remain in the programme,” Ms Croall added.
The Chinese delegation was to be made up of executives from CCTV, CETV, Phoenix TV, and the Golden Eagle Documentary Channel, and they were to take part in conference sessions aimed at learning about working in China.
“We are very disappointed that the Chinese delegation will now not be attending the festival, but we remain very hopeful that they will attend in future. Chinese filmmakers, distributors and commissioners will always be welcome at Doc/Fest,” Ms Croall said.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry follows the provocative artist as he works to create art that has angered the Chinese regime. High Tech, Low Life shows how citizen journalists are harnessing the power of the internet to provide first-hand accounts of their lives in China, despite strict censorship.
Demands from Chinese officials to alter cultural events are nothing new.
This week it emerged that Leeds Council had refused to cancel an appearance by the Dalai Lama at a business conference, after Chinese officials threatened to find a new training ground for its Olympic athletes, according to the BBC.
In 2009 the Melbourne Film Festival was pressured by the Chinese consulate to pull a documentary about Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer. In that case, too, festival organisers refused to bow to the demands.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
A journalist for The EpochTimes based in London. These views are firmly my own.
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