‘Peace’ in Hong Kong

Tiananmen docu screens on handover day

HONG KONG — Jimmy Choi, the director of the government-backed Arts Center’s film and video department, said he doesn’t expect hassles from the newly installed authorities when he showcases “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” on the afternoon of the handover of Hong Kong to China.

The three-hour documentary by Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon, about the Tiananmen Square uprising, drew scathing attacks from Beijing during its run of the film festivals last year.

“I have no fear. I have the full support of the Arts Center,” Choi told Daily Variety. “What difference does it make to show it on July 1?”

No coincidence

Nevertheless, he said he did pick this film and the 1959 Chinese version of “The Opium War” for his “history in film” series because of the timing. “In this historic time it’s high time we reflect on our past history. ‘Opium’ is quite relevant because it deals with the British Empire. Tiananmen mobilized 1.5 million people onto the streets of Hong Kong in 1989. Obviously Hong Kong people are concerned. So it’s relevant to reflect on that.”

Choi said he was confident that the Chinese government’s promise of “one country, two systems” would protect his right to show in Hong Kong material that may be banned on the mainland.

“Our purpose is to uphold artistic expression,” he added. “I don’t care about politics. My task is to bring good films to Hong Kong.”

Director Shu Kei, whose distribution company is co-sponsoring the film program, agreed that the decision to screen it was not politically motivated and that he did not expect any problems. He noted that the film ran for four months at a local arthouse without incident. It has also been featured as a pay-per-view selection on cable.

But that was under the old colonial administration.

On the bright side

“This is not to intentionally make a statement,” said Shu. “Why should there be a problem? If Hong Kong is to remain unchanged, this is one way to show it.”

Shu, who is known for his often erotic arthouse films, said the present censorship laws should protect his films as well as more politically minded ones. He also rejects the idea that Chinese censorship is preordained.

“No one should presume that,” he added. “It’s not healthy or right to presume restrictions. The Chinese government says things will remain unchanged so we will presume that.”

But, he added, if his trust in the government’s guarantees is abused, then it will be time to fight.

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