Hong Kong Drama Series Banned in China, a First in 20 Years

December 31, 2011 12:58 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 2:52 pm

A popular television series produced in Hong Kong has been banned in mainland China, the first such banning for around 20 years.

The television series, “When Heaven Burns,” broadcast by Hong Kong’s TVB, was blocked by Communist authorities on Dec. 27. Veiled references to the Tiananmen massacre of 1989, and a banner called for the “total disintegration” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the background of one shot may have been behind the decision.

Tsang Sing-ming, TVB’s external affairs assistant controller, told The Epoch Times that they were informed by the company’s agent in Shanghai that 11 mainland video streaming sites have received orders from China’s State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) to stop broadcasting the program.

“We are in the process of finding out the situation through our agent in Shanghai,” Tsang said. “But I do not think we will get a reply in a short period.”

Apple Daily reported on Dec. 28 that the script writer of the series, Chow Yuk Ming, was frank that “When Heaven Burns” was inspired by the massacre of June 4. To avoid suspicion when he began production (in 2009), he shifted the timeline in the drama from 20 years before (1989) to 18 years before (1991).

In the TV series, four friends go mountain climbing together but only three return. Years later the secret is uncovered that the three killed the fourth and ate him in order to survive. The 30 episodes of “When Heaven Burns” do not directly talk about the Massacre of 1989, but the bloody scenes are described in the Hong Kong press serving to remind viewers of the crackdown.

Kwong Wah Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper, wrote on Dec. 28 that the series portrays the Tiananmen incident as a “big event” for changing Chinese society, and is equivalent to “cannibalism.”

A more direct cause of the ban may have been a banner held by practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice persecuted severely in mainland China, which appeared in a scene shot at Causeway Bay, a well-known spot in downtown Hong Kong, in Episode 10.

Joseph Cheng, Chair Professor of Political Science at the City University of Hong Kong, told The Epoch Times that the CCP’s banning the program in light of the political references shows a “sense of insecurity” by Party officials.

“TV series in Hong Kong are all made to be politically correct to avoid being banned by the CCP. But even with such carefulness, this TVB series still stepped on a landmine, which indicates that the CCP’s censorship has become tighter, and is also a reflection of a sense of insecurity of CCP leaders. Many things are becoming taboo,” he said.

Richard Tsoi, Deputy Chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, told Oriental Daily that the ban shows that Chinese authorities are in a state of “nervous breakdown.”

A Ming Pao newspaper reporter calling the State Administration of Radio Film and Television on Dec. 27 to enquire about the ban had the phone hung up on them. A SARFT employee said “We have no obligation of being interviewed” before putting the telephone back on the receiver.

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