Festival information with the Sino flag

The website of the Melbourne Intl. Film Festival was hacked Friday as a Chinese campaign builds against a doc about an ethnic minority leader. The fest has lost the sponsorship of Hong Kong’s Trade and Economic Office.

Hackers with a Chinese ISP replaced festival information with the Sino flag, and slogans against the doc continued to spam the site for at least 24 hours. The fest has hired extra security to protect attendees and organizers. The Melbourne Age newspaper reported seeing a message that called for an apology to China and read: “We like film, but we hate Rebiya Kadeer,” referring to the Uighur leader at the center of the docu.

“The language has been vile,” fest director Richard Moore told the Age. “It is obviously a concerted campaign to get us because we’ve refused to comply with the Chinese Government’s demands.”Controversy erupted two weeks ago when Moore refused a request from Chinese officials in Melbourne to withdraw a screening of Oz-made doc “The 10 Conditions of Love” about the U.S.-based Kadeer’s campaign for rights for China’s 10 million Uighurs. Three films from China and Hong Kong were pulled from the fest last week in retaliation.

In a letter to the festival, Jia Zhangke, producer of “Perfect Life” and whose company also produced “Cry Me a River,” said he withdrew both movies to protest Kadeer’s attendance at the event.

“Petition,” a doc directed by Zhao Liang examining injustices in China’s court system, was the third entry pulled.

Moore told the Age that he had tried to replace “Life” in order to fulfill conditions for the Hong Kong’s Trade and Economic Office’s sponsorship, but to no avail.

“We paid the screening fee and the new film, ‘Claustrophobia,’ was en route to Melbourne, then I got an email saying they’ve withdrawn it, no explanation,” Moore told the Age.

State and federal police are working on security strategies for screenings of “10 Conditions” due to preem Aug. 8, with Kadeer attending.

Australia’s largest fest is in unfamiliar territory as a protest target.

Opening night world premiere of “Balibo” was attended by peaceful campaigners against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian Territories on account of the fest’s screening of “$9.99″ and an appearance by its director, Tatia Rosenthal. Brit helmer Ken Loach pulled his Cannes player “Looking for Eric,” saying he could not support an event that had accepted funding from the state of Israel — the embassy is supporting the Israeli-born filmmaker, who will answer questions about “$9.99,” an Australian-Israeli production.

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