China passes law to ensure films ‘serve the people and socialism’
Art and Experience: China has passed a law that bans film content deemed harmful to the “dignity, honour and interests” of the country. It also encourages the promotion of “socialist core values”.
Booming box-office receipts have drawn Hollywood studios and a growing Chinese film-making industry into fierce competition for the Asian giant’s movie market, which some analysts predict will soon eclipse that of the US.
The new laws govern the promotion of the film industry and were approved by the National People’s Congress standing committee at a meeting in Beijing.
The law states that its aim is to “spread core socialist values”, enrich the masses’ spiritual and cultural life, and set ground rules for the industry.
It forbids content that stirs up opposition to the law or constitution, harms national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity, exposes national secrets, harms Chinese security, dignity, honour or interests, or spreads terrorism or extremism.
Also banned are subjects that “defame the people’s excellent cultural traditions”, incite ethnic hatred or discrimination, or destroy ethnic unity.
The law says films should “serve the people and socialism”, state news agency Xinhua reported. Foreign film-makers “damaging China’s national dignity, honour and interests, or harming social stability or hurting national feelings” were not welcome, it added.
The Communist party fiercely criticises governments and public figures who have expressed sympathy for the Dalai Lama. Brad Pitt angered authorities when he appeared in the film Seven Years in Tibet.
Companies that work on such content now face fines of up to five times their illegal earnings over 500,000 yuan (£60,000).
Fines will also be imposed for providing false box-office data, a widespread problem as firms have been caught pumping up ticket sales to generate marketing buzz.
The new laws also lay out stricter rules for actors and film-makers, saying people employed in the industry should have “excellent” moral integrity and “self-discipline”, Xinhua said. This follows recent instances of celebrities being caught taking drugs.
The law has been in development since 2011, and will come into effect on 1 March 2017.
Only 34 foreign films are given cinema releases each year under a quota set by Beijing, and all are subject to official censorship of content deemed politically sensitive or obscene.
To get around restrictions, Hollywood studios looking to capitalise on China’s burgeoning market have sought partnerships with local companies. Co-produced movies can bypass the quota as long as they contain significant Chinese elements, such as characters, plot devices or locations.
This may no longer be as important, as already this year the quota has been relaxed – possibly to prop up box-office figures after an unexpected downturn – and a renegotiation of the deal with the US in February is expected to increase the number of foreign films allowed in.