China Censors the Oscars To Block a Hong Kong Protest Film

Documentary short Do Not Split draws the ire of Beijing.


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In 2019, Norwegian director Anders Hammer traveled to Hong Kong to document the demonstrations that erupted after a bill was introduced allowing criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

It was the beginning of the end for Hong Kong's political independence.

Hammer's documentary short, Do Not Split, takes viewers into the streets as protesters go head to head with the police in a desperate fight to preserve their freedoms.

Do Not Split, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival, has garnered glowing reviews and an Academy Award nomination. The film is also one reason why the Oscars won't be broadcast live in Hong Kong for the first time in more than half a century. 

"The Communist Party's propaganda department issued the order to all media outlets" not to broadcast the Oscars in real time, according to anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg. Along with Do Not Split, censors object to the nomination of Beijing-born director Chloe Zhao, who is up for best director for her film Nomadland, and was once hailed as "the pride of China." But then it came out that in a 2013 interview with Filmmaker magazine, Zhao recalled the China of her youth as "a place where there are lies everywhere."

"Beijing is known to react," explains Hammer. "They will take action in many different ways if they feel that something is going against their plan."

Ironically, Beijing's actions are having the opposite of their intended effect.

"We have had so many more media requests after this became a news story," says Hammer. "In that sense, I think that Beijing is helping the aim of this movie, which is to bring attention to the critical situation in Hong Kong."

Produced by Meredith Bragg.

Photo Credits: Li Gang / Xinhua News Agency/Newscom; Winson Wong/SCMP/Newscom; John Angelillo/UPI/Newscom; WENN / WENN English Top Features/Newscom; Hahn Lionel/ZUMA Press/Newscom; ABA/Newscom;  Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom; WENN / WENN English Top Features/Newscom; Winson Wong/SCMP/Newscom; Rafael Ben-Ari/Rafael Ben Ari/Newscom; Chinee Nouvelle/SIPA/Newscom; Matthias Balk/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom