Asia Pacific Censorship News

2019: April-June

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The Eight Hundred...

Movie banned for showing heroism by the wrong side of a Chinese civil war


Link Here 27th June 2019
The Eight Hundred is a 2019 China war film by Hu Guan.
Starring Yi Zhang, Chen Yao and Haoming Yu. IMDb

In 1937, eight hundred Chinese soldiers fight under siege from a warehouse in the middle of the Shanghai battlefield, completely surrounded by the Japanese army.

The premiere of Chinese war epic The Eight Hundred has been cancelled after an influential group deemed it inappropriate ahead of Communist China's 70th anniversary. The Chinese Red Culture Research Association held an academic seminar on filmmaking in which the storyline of The Eight Hundred was criticised because it glorifies the heroic role of Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang). The Kuomintang eventually lost the civil war that led to the Communist Party's triumph and creation of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Hailed as the Chinese Dunkirk, the film details a story of a Chinese army unit fighting against Japanese invaders in the 1937 Battle of Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

After consultation between the production team and other parties, the July 5 premiere was cancelled and will not be released this summer, according to a statement posted on Tuesday on the film's Weibo account, a Twitter like platform. The new release date will be announced at a later time, the statement said, without explaining the reasons behind the decision.

The movie had already been abruptly yanked from the Shanghai International Film Festival earlier this month due to technical issues -- a term often used as a euphemism for censorship.

The Eight Hundred is the first Chinese film shot entirely on digital IMAX cameras reportedly spent more than $80 million in production costs.

 

 

Commented: The New Zealand Chief Censor Recommends...

The Perfection on Netflix


Link Here 16th June 2019
The Netflix film The Perfection has been reclassified in New Zealand as 18+ following concerns raised by a few viewers over its graphic content.

Netflix had rated the film as 16+ with a content note of language, violence, nudity.

New Zealand generally accepts Australian age ratings as a default unless queried. The Australian Classification Board settled on an MA 15+ rating for Strong themes of sexual violence, violence, sex and coarse language.

The film had also caused a bit of a stir in Australia too. Netflix's own classification tool had assigned the film an MA15+ rating. The rating included consumer advice that warned of, among other things, strong blood and gore.

After hearing reports of viewers becoming physically ill, the Australian Classification Board decided to audit the Netflix rating. The director of the Classification Board, Margaret Anderson, confirmed that Netflix was not only right to classify the film MA15+, but that its strong blood and gore warning was not necessary.

In New Zealand, however, the classification has been raised to 18+ with warnings about rape, sexual violence, suicide references, graphic violence. Chief Censor David Shanks noted that

The film wasn't viewed by any authority until after it had launched on Netflix, which demonstrates a serious problem with the classifications system.

A member of the public flagged the film to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) on May 26 - when it had already been available on Netflix in New Zealand for two days.

Streaming services are not subject to any formal regime. I can call them in using my powers under the act but it's reactive and usually it's out there and people have seen it before we can get the thing addressed.

Note that the BBFC agreed with the 18 rating, passing the film 18 uncut for sexual violence, suicide references.

Update: Why we changed the rating for The Perfection

16th June 2019. See article from classificationoffice.govt.nz by Chief Censor David Shanks

The content that most concerns Kiwis is quite different to what gets under the skins of people in other countries, such as Australia, the United States, or most other places in the world.

We have our own culture and values to be proud of, and our own very real problems to deal with.

At our office we try to ensure that Kiwis get all the information they need before they watch a movie or series, so people can make viewing choices that are right for them. Increasingly we are less about censorship and more about empowering Kiwis to make their own informed choices.

This is straightforward when it comes to traditional media such as DVDs or movies at the cinema, but content on streaming services like Lightbox or Netflix is not currently covered by our legislation, which makes things a little more complex!

A good example popped up this week after my office was told about themes of sexual violence and child abuse in a film called The Perfection. It initially landed via Netflix as 16+ with a note for Language, violence, nudity. This looks to me like a US rating. I checked with my counterparts overseas, and found that the Aussies initially rated it as MA15+, with the note Strong Nudity, Strong Violence, Strong Blood and Gore, Strong Coarse Language, Strong Horror Themes, Horror Violence and the Brits gave it an 18, with a note for Sexual violence, suicide references.

That illustrates the issue. Different audiences are concerned with different things. In the States people often want to be warned about coarse language and nudity, but here in NZ Kiwis have told us sexual violence and suicide are topics people want to be warned about in advance. These are big issues that many in our community care deeply about, and have lived experience of.

Once we'd seen the movie, we knew it had content that our audiences would expect to know about, - including suicide references and sexual violence. The warning note that Netflix had for this one really needed to change to be effective for a NZ audience. In terms of age rating we felt it was on the line between a 16+ and a 18+ rating, but the range of content and the format suggested the higher age rating.

Fortunately Netflix recognises the needs of our own domestic audience, and do genuinely want to engage with us, and be responsive to a NZ audience. So they were happy to change the information. It is now 18+ with the consumer advice, Rape, sexual violence, suicide references, graphic violence.

From my point of view, this is just another case illustrating the fact that we're all just working within a legislative system that was designed for media back in the eighties and nineties, and wasn't built to deal with the international availability of streaming media online.

There is room for optimism as the Government is looking at changing this. We see getting consumer information, particularly as content management tools and support for parents in the future will likely depend on accurate ratings to work properly.

 

 

Small island values...

Rocketman banned by Samoa's film censor for its gay content


Link Here 12th June 2019
Rocketman is a 2019 UK / USA musical music biography by Dexter Fletcher.
Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Taron Egerton and Richard Madden. BBFC link IMDb

A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John's breakthrough years.

The Elton John biopic Rocketman was banned by Samoa's film censor last week due to its depiction of homosexuality onscreen. Film censor Leiataua Niuapu Faaui said:

We're concerned with the cultural values and also the Christian beliefs here in Samoa -- it's not appropriate for public viewing,

Samoa recently also edited scenes from a screening of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody n the same grounds.

In Samoa, sodomy is illegal and is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

 

 

Offsite Article: Suspected of spreading malicious rumours...


Link Here 9th June 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship
A Fascinating article from a BBC reporter based in Beijing who became a marked man when posted images from a Hong Kong vigil remembering the Tiananmen Square massacre

See article from bbc.com

 

 

Trading cenorship...

China censors news websites over Tiananmen Square massacre and financial websites over US trade war issues


Link Here 8th June 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship
The Chinese government appears to have launched a major new internet purge, blocking users from accessing The Intercept's website and those of at least seven other Western news organizations.

People in China began reporting that they could not access the websites of The Intercept, The Guardian, the Washington Post, HuffPost, NBC News, the Christian Science Monitor, the Toronto Star, and Breitbart News.

It is unclear exactly when the censorship came into effect or the reasons for it. But Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and Chinese authorities have reportedly increased levels of online censorship to coincide with the event.

On a second front censors at two of China's largest social media companies appear to have taken aim at independent financial bloggers, as Beijing continues pumping out propaganda to garner public support for its trade dispute with the US.

At least 10 popular financial analysis blogs on social media app WeChat had all present and past content scrubbed, according to screenshots posted by readers. The Weibo accounts of two non-financial popular bloggers, including Wang Zhian, a former state broadcast commentator who wrote about social issues, were also blocked.

 

 

Labyrinth Life...

Japanese game is notable for including an English language option


Link Here 4th June 2019

No western release has been announced for Labyrinth Life on the PlayStation 4, or its Nintendo Switch counterpart, Omega Labyrinth Life. However, it has been confirmed that the Japanese releases will feature English-language options, making these titles even more accessible.

Note though that the Playstation version, Labyrinth Life is a censored family friendly version while Omega Labyrinth Life on the Switch is fully uncensored.

The game's main hook is known as Omega Power, which augments the characters' chest sizes, and not coincidentally, their stats. Expect these elements to be more edited on the PlayStation 4.

Both versions will release on August 1, 2019.

 

 

Offsite Article: Censorship, Steam, and the explosive rise of PC gaming in China...


Link Here 29th May 2019
Full story: Games censorship in China...A wide range of censorship restrictions
A detailed investigation into where China's PC games industry is coming from, where it's headed, and what stands in the way. By Steven Messner

See article from pcgamer.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Avengers Endgame...


Link Here 15th May 2019
Full story: Film Censorship in China...All Chinese films censored to be suitable for kids
Is the China cinema boom slowing down as censorship clampdown bites?

See article from screendaily.com

 

 

Singapore's parliament passes repressive new internet censorship law...

Fake news and criticism of the authorities to be banned even from private internet chats


Link Here 11th May 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Singapore...Heavy handed censorship control of news websites

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the Singapore parliament's passage of legislation that will be used to stifle reporting and the dissemination of news, and called for the punitive measure's immediate repeal.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act , which was passed yesterday, gives all government ministers broad and arbitrary powers to demand corrections, remove content, and block webpages if they are deemed to be disseminating falsehoods against the public interest or to undermine public confidence in the government, both on public websites and within chat programs such as WhatsApp, according to news reports .

Violations of the law will be punishable with maximum 10-year jail terms and fines of up to $1 million Singapore dollars (US$735,000), according to those reports. The law was passed after a two-day debate and is expected to come into force in the next few week.

 Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asian representative said:

This law will give Singapore's ministers yet another tool to suppress and censor news that does not fit with the People's Action Party-dominated government's authoritarian narrative. Singapore's online media is already over-regulated and severely censored. The law should be dropped for the sake of press freedom.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam said censorship orders would be made mainly against technology companies that hosted the objectionable content, and that they would be able to challenge the government's take-down requests,.

 

 

Patriotism is certainly worth a bob or two...

China more or less bans PUBG, but not to worry, Tencent have a similar game featuring heroic Chinese forces that the country's censors seem to approve of


Link Here 8th May 2019
Full story: Games censorship in China...A wide range of censorship restrictions
CTech giant Tencent has dropped the hugely popular mobile version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) in China after it was more or less banned by the government's game censors. It was not quite banned, just not allowed to earn any money.

But not to worry, Tencent has a similar title, Heping Jingying or Elite Force for Peace, with a few tweaks to smooth things with the censors. Charcaters do note beeleed, the minimum age for players has been raised to 16, and most importantly, it features heroic Chinese forces kicking ass.

Geopolitics might also have contributed to PUBG Mobile's rejection. Tencent licenses the game from South Korean company Bluehole, and Chinese authorities can be hostile to South Korean goods.

For Chinese gamers, though, the disruption should be minimal. Tencent is allowing users to port over characters from PUBG Mobile to Heping Jingying, and one analyst told Reuters that the new game was incredibly similar to the older title.

 

 

Offsite Article: Is Chinese-style surveillance coming to the West?...


Link Here 8th May 2019
The Chinese model is now being exported -- and the results could be terrifying

See article from theguardian.com

 

 

Memories of My Body...

Indonesian dance film banned by regional officials after religious backlash


Link Here 5th May 2019
Memories of My Body is a 2018 Indonesia drama by Garin Nugroho.
Starring Muhammad Khan, Raditya Evandra and Rianto. IMDb

In Center Java Juno, a pre-teen abandoned by his father, joins a Lengger dance centre where men assume feminine appearances but the political and social upheaval in Indonesia forces him on the road, meeting remarkable people on his journey.

Muslim groups in Indonesia are calling for a ban on the film Memories of My Body, a drama from the country's best-known art house director, Garin Nugroho. The groups claim that the film is sexually deviant and promotes LGBT values.

The film depicts the story of a young man from a dance troupe that performs Lengger Lanang, a folk dance from central Java that is usually performed in pairs, and in which men often take both male and female roles.

Memories of My Body premiered in the Venice Film Festival's Horizon section, where it won the prize for best film. The success was repeated at several other festivals.

The film encountered problems in Indonesia following its release on April 18. After being given a 17+ rating by the censorship board (LSF), the film was given a 40-screen release.

In less than a week, the film was banned by local officials in regions including Depok and Palembang. Others called on the powerful assembly of Muslim elders known as the Indonesian Ulema Council to move against the film. Arovah Windiani, a spokeswoman for the council said that, from a moral perspective, the film should not be out there.

A backlash against the film was further fanned on social media. An online petition calling for Memories of My Body to be banned  gained 160,000 signatures.

On Monday, the Muslim elders' council demanded that the censorship board change the film's certification to 21+, and recommended that Nugroho re-edit the film to make its meaning less ambiguous.

Nugroho has refused to revise the film and told Variety that he opposes mob justice.

With screenings banned in five provinces, the film is now playing on just three screens across the country.

Update: Dancers attacked by a religious mob?

5th May 2019. See article from scmp.com

In related news a religious mob has attacked dancers at an Indonesian event.

Members of a Malay youth paramilitary organisation, justified the attack by claiming the dance was vulgar. They also said that the wearing of tight shirts by male dancers from Tanjungpura University who were dancing femininely was not compatible with Indonesian culture.

A university lecturer and three students fell victim to the mob as they were celebrating World Dance Day in the Indonesian city of Pontianak last week.

 

 

Silence in Court...

New Zealand's media agree not to report much on Brenton Tarrant's motivations during his trial, presumably fearing that New Zealanders are easily swayed by propaganda


Link Here 2nd May 2019

New Zealand's major media organisations have pledged not to mention white supremacist ideology when covering the trial of the man charged with killing 50 people at two mosques. The five organisations that signed the agreement said they were aware that accused gunman Brenton Tarrant might try to use the trial as a platform to promote white supremacist or terrorist views.

The organisations said the commitment extended excluding coverage of Tarrant's manifesto and any symbolic images. That clause came after Tarrant made a hand gesture at his first court appearance, which is sometimes associated with white supremacists.

The trial will likely get underway next year.

 

 

Offsite Article: As the UK starts along the same road there is a lesson to learn here...


Link Here 2nd May 2019
Human Rights Watch writes a fascinating report about how the Chinese authorities collect invasive personal data on Uighurs as part of a vast surveillance network

See article from theguardian.com

 

 

The Christchurch Call...

New Zealander falls victim to the country's extreme censorship of the mosque attack video


Link Here 29th April 2019

New Zealand police have charged a young man for sharing a meme based on Brenton Tarrant's live streamed murderous attack on a Christchurch mosque.

The New Zealand authorities had previously banned the video with the official film censor declaring it as 'objectionable'. And apparently this makes even the use of still images as totally illegal.

ABC News is reporting that at least six people have been charged with illegally sharing the video contents with other people, but presumably this is referring to the whole video being passed on.

And again according to ABC the meme sharing young man has been held in jail since being arrested for his joke. He will reappear in court on July 31 when electronically monitored bail will be considered.

Meanwhile New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, will be meeting with executives from big tech, along with world leaders, in order to prohibit the spread or sharing of violent extremism or terrorism from being shown online at all. This official policy calling for censorship has been tagged The Christchurch Call but details haven't been made public, yet.

Ironically this all seems to playing into the hands of the Christchurch shooter, Brenton Tarrant. In his manifesto he specifically wanted governments and regulators to escalate censorship to the point of creating civil unrest.

Update: Jailed

19th June 2019. See article from straitstimes.com

A New Zealand man was jailed for 21 months yesterday for distributing the gruesome live-stream video of the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

Christchurch District Court heard that the man distributed the raw footage to about 30 people and had another version modified to include crosshairs and a kill count, The New Zealand Herald reported.

This was in effect a hate crime against the Muslim community, Judge Stephen O'Driscoll said, adding that it was particularly cruel to share the video in the days after the attacks, when families were still waiting to hear news of their loved ones.

 

 

Anaemic censorship rules...

China steps ups its game censorship rules to outlaw all bloody combat


Link Here 26th April 2019
Full story: Games censorship in China...A wide range of censorship restrictions

There has been a bit of a bottleneck for gaming in China as the responsibility for games censorship moved from a government organisati to a Communist Party propaganda unit.

As the new organisations starts to work out its new remit it is hardly surprising that new censorship rules would appear. And now the new game censor has announced three new game themes that are now banned:

  • gambling games such as Mahjong and Poker
  • games that deal with the country's imperial history
  • games featuring corpses and blood--of any color.

Other initiatives include requesting publishers to change how their titles promote Chinese values and culture so that if they become popular around the world, they'll portray the country in a favorable light.

The new regulations also require developers and publishers to divulge more information about a given title including detailed scripts, screenshots, as well as what features are being included to help curb gameplay addiction and over-spending by the country's younger population.

 

 

Offsite Article: Re-educating westerners who post about re-education camps...


Link Here 19th April 2019
Full story: China International Censors...China pressures other countries into censorship
How Chinese internet trolls go after Beijing's critics overseas

See article from edition.cnn.com

 

 

More bad censorship legislation from Singapore...

Singapore gets in on the act assuming that social media companies can detect and censor 'fake news'


Link Here 1st April 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Singapore...Heavy handed censorship control of news websites

Singapore is set to introduce a new anti-fake news law, allowing authorities to remove articles deemed to breach government regulations.

The law, being read in parliament this week will further stifle dissent in an already tightly-controlled media environment. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested that the law would tackle the country's growing problem of online misinformation. It follows an examination of fake news in Singapore by a parliamentary committee last year, which concluded that the city-state was a target of hostile information campaigns.

Lee said the law will require media outlets to correct fake news articles, and show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods so that readers or viewers can see all sides and make up their own minds about the matter. In extreme and urgent cases, the legislation will also require online news sources to take down fake news before irreparable damage is done.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have Asia headquarters in Singapore, with the companies expected to be under increased pressure to aid the law's implementation.

 

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