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China Raises Eyebrows with a Surprising Censorship Lift for Banned “V for Vendetta”

In a positive sign for the state of censorship in China, CCTV6 is showing 'V for Vendetta' . This will be the first time the film, which depicts the overthrow of an authoritarian government, is shown in mainland China.

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V for Vendetta, a thriller film produced in 2005 about a near-future dystopian society, previously censored in China, was aired on China Central Television Station (CCTV) Channel Six on December 14, 2012. Many people are surprised by the screening, in particular the mask of V, which has been used by activists all over the world as a symbol of resistance against government oppression.

Screening of a politically charged film

This video uploaded three years ago by youtube user loveforchina is an example showing how activists have made use of the film to protest against the human rights situation in China:

That’s why CCTV’s gesture soon became a hot topic online on Chinese micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo. A huati [zh], topical discussion, was even set up on the platform, which soon had more than 3469 conversation threads.

Trumpet Micro News (喇叭微新聞’s highlights [zh] this popular discussion thread:

V occupied the China Central Television Station. A photoshopped image by Twitter user Kunshou.

NOW!CCTV6正在播出《v字别动队》(又名《V字仇杀队》)。应该算是大陆首播了!

Now! CCTV6 is showing V for Vendetta. This should be the first time the film is on show in mainland China.

The news highlight attracted many to join the conversation:

橐橐:禁播才心里有鬼,放开后发现其实也没什么大不了,也许中国不要中共的领导也不会有什么啦,一切都是猜测。

橐橐:Censorship means that there is a ghost in [the authorities] heart. Once the censorship is lifted, everything is normal. Maybe China does not really need the Chinese Communist Party for leadership, of course this is speculation.

叶孤城蝶恋花:知道CCTV6播V确实是激动了半天,感觉天朝还是有希望的,就是没想通怎么要改成个别动队,求解释

叶孤城蝶恋花:I am so excited about CCTV 6′s screening of V and feel that there is hope for the Empire after all. But I don’t understand why they changed the film title (from V Revenge Killing Squad” V字仇殺隊)to “V Don’t Move Team” (V字別動隊 – or V Commando Team) . Can someone explain?

Less censorship in the future?

Apart from the film title, its content had not been edited, as pointed out by the China Digital Times. LosAngels Angel pointed out [zh] that the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARF) is directly responsible for the management of CCTV 6′s program, that’s why the gesture has political implications:

2月14日晚,大陆央视电影频道首次播放了禁片《V字别动队》,该举动引发了了网友们的热议,很多人甚至在怀疑自己的眼睛或者是电影频道的编审们睡过了头。不过,据圈内人介绍,央视电影频道名义上属央视,但该频道播出与制作分离,行政上由国家广电总局负责,

On the evening of December 14, CCTV aired the censored movie, V for Vendetta for the first time. The move has triggered hot discussion among netizens and some found it unbelievable or said that the channel operators had fallen asleep [at the controls]. However, according to the TV circle, the production and management of CCTV’s film channel are separate, the SARF is directly responsible for its administration.

Even Global Times, the state controlled media outlet, highlighted netizens’ reactions on their microblog and attracted some critical comments:

南扉:能不能放,不是由老百姓说了算。制度不改革,老百姓只能旁观是明君还是昏君

南扉:Whether the movie can be aired or not is not decided by the people. If there is no reform within the system, people can only comment on whether the king is good or bad.

我愛壹玖捌柒:该上船的早已经上去了,谁还管你电视放什么电影,既然这样,把那部三个小时的《天安门》也放一下吧。

我愛壹玖捌柒:Those who decided to leave have already gone and no one cares what films are put on air. Why not show the three-hour long movie: Tiananmen?

Cupid_Yes:干脆把局域网也开放点?

Cupid_Yes:Why don’t you open up the Great Fire Wall (internet filter)?

静静的粉玫瑰:真心希望这是一个好的信号。其实中国一直是一个有深厚文化底蕴的国度,非常怀念春秋战国时期百家争鸣,各种思想家争相涌现的时代。解放思想,文化多元,这个国家才有希望,才会让脚踏实地地人们学会仰望星空。

静静的粉玫瑰:Really hope that this is a good signal. China is a nation with rich culture. I miss the the Spring and Autumn warring states period where there were so many schools of thought competing with each other. A country has hope when it has liberated thought and diverse culture. Only till then people can look at the starry sky peacefully, while staying on solid ground.

Bridge bloggers were quick to pick up the news. Brendon Connelly also found the screening surprising:

I have no idea how many millions may have seen this story of a masked insurgent leading a revolution against a corrupt regime, and we can only guess what cultural impact it may – or may not – have had. Pretty soon, maybe, all of the cheap V masks won’t be just made in China.
So have things started to change in Chinese broadcasting? Xi Jinping assumed office as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China on November 15th and he may have brought a more liberal attitude with him…
…or perhaps V was a one-off. Time will tell.

This article was written by Oiwan Lam and originally published on citizen journalism platform Global Voices Online.