A dispute over ownership of the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, which starts today, has caused a schism between the two groups that organize it and sparked a break-away event.

Arthouse exhibitor Broadway Cinematheque stands accused of turning the fest into a private enterprise by nonprofit independent filmmakers group Ying E Chi, which has co-presented the last four editions with Broadway.

Ying E Chi reps allege that they have been pushed aside and accuse Broadway of using government money to subsidize what has become a commercial entity.

 “We have invested over HK$1 million ($129,000) of our public funding and manpower to develop the HKAFF into the second largest film festival in Hong Kong,” said Vincent Chui, a founding member of Ying E Chi. “It is unacceptable for Broadway to make it the private property of its parent company, Edko.”

The allegations stem from competing claims of ownership of the fest’s name. Earlier this year, the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival was registered as a private limited company by Broadway. Ying E Chi had previously attempted to register it and had been rejected.

Broadway declined to comment on Ying E Chi’s charges. But company sources confirm that Broadway is now running the fest on its own and said it was Ying E Chi that walked away.

“In the beginning we said that we will organize it the same as last year, but they said they would like to do their own festival by themselves,” the source said.

 Ying E Chi has already made plans for its own event in November, and, in an obvious dig at the incumbent, has called it the Hong Kong Asian Independent Film Festival.

It has launched an Internet campaign alleging that the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival has been usurped. But protests have so far had little effect on ticket sales. Popular films like helmer Chung Mong-Hong’s “Parking” sold out a week ahead of its screenings. Event closes Oct. 26.

The territory’s largest film fest is the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival, which is organized by a separate society and runs for two weeks in March-April.