Oscars 2021: Hong Kong’s TV broadcasters to skip airing awards after China’s censorship order

Oscars 2021: Hong Kong's TV broadcasters to skip airing awards after China's censorship order

Since its premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, ‘Do Not Split’ has won praise on the festival circuit for its intense, street-level depiction of the 2019 Hong Kong protests against a harsh extradition law. The 35-minute film was nominated for Oscars 2021 in the Best Documentary Short Subject on March 15. 

The touchy subject of the documentary and its western acknowledgement has irked many in China.  Now, Hong Kong’s largest TV network Television Broadcasts Ltd., known as TVB has decided not to broadcast the Oscars for “purely commercial” reasons. The move has come after the reports of China asking the media to play down the awards, made rounds.

It’s interesting to note that TVB, has broadcast the Academy Awards on its English-language channel every year since 1969. According to Bloomberg, other local broadcasters including Now TV, Viu TV and Cable TV also don’t have the broadcast rights, the Standard newspaper reported.

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Post the nomination, China’s state-run Global Times stated that the short film “should not win the award as it lacks artistry and is full of biased political stances.” Citing unnamed Chinese film industry sources, the article continued, “The Oscars should not be reduced to political tools; otherwise, it will hurt Chinese audiences’ feelings and may lead to a heavy loss in the Chinese film market.”

Do Not Split’ which has been helmed by Norwegian filmmaker Anders hammer, documents the 2019 protests in Hong Kong over the proposal of a law that would have made it possible for Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China to face Beijing’s legal system. The student-led protests drew the attention of the world, and the documentary shows the brutal backlash the activists faced by the Hong Kong police. The protest evolved into a broader call for democracy and human rights. 

The film also highlights Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, which effectively quashed the protest movement in 2020 and resulted in the arrest of scores of activists.

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As per Bloomberg’s report, China’s government reacted to the nominations quickly, issuing an order instructing media outlets “that Oscars coverage should focus on awards that aren’t seen as controversial.” This potentially could include the cancellation of the live telecast of the awards show in China or the censorship of certain categories from the broadcast, such as Documentary Short Subject.

 The success of Beijing-born “Nomadland” frontrunner Chloé Zhao has received a mixed reception in her home country. Following Zhao’s Golden Globe wins for Best Picture and Best Director, a 2013 interview with Filmmaker Magazine resurfaced in which she referred to China as “a place where there are lies everywhere,” sparking a backlash on Chinese social media.

Oscars 2021 will take place in Los Angeles on April 25. 


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