China forces theaters to screen propaganda on Party centenary

Ahead of the Party centennial festivities on July 1, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) orders revolutionary and propaganda movies to be screened and viewed in theatres across the nation, Radio Free Asia reports. 

The National Film Administration, in a directive, addressed to "all federal, autonomous regional, and local bodies in charge of the film, all movie theatre corporations, and all production units,"  for showing off at least two CCP-backed films in movie theatres around the country at least twice a week, the report says. 

According to the declaration, movie theatres in the People's Cinema and National Coalition of Arthouse Cinemas chains shall screen government-approved films at least five days a week during the centennial.

"The competent film authorities in each locality are responsible for organizing and formulating a plan for local screenings," the directive, published on the Administration's website, said.

Around a dozen films about the Japanese invasion during World War II, the Civil War with the Kuomintang government that followed, the Korean War of the early 1950s, and the Culture Revolution period, from 1966 to 1976, will be shown in theatres as per the mandate, including film versions of Cultural Revolution-era works such as The White-Haired Girl and The Red Detachment of Women.

Meanwhile, on April 3, a new musical based on the American Hollywood blockbuster La La Land was released, portraying idyllic scenes of ethnic unification in the northwestern territory of Xinjiang, where at least 1.5 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups are imprisoned in camps.

Witness testimony has time and again linked the CCP's system of "re-education" camps in Xinjiang to forced labor, forced sterilization, systematic rape, and sexual assault, as well as the brainwashing of Uyghur children to deny their cultural identity after their parents were deported.

But the musical seems to be a public relations response to counter the growing media and international criticism of the CCP's atrocities in the region, Radio Free Asia reports. 

Happy, beer-drinking Muslims

The musical is set in a "Xinjiang" where Muslims happily drink beer and never wear veils or go to the mosque, with no armed police, panopticon-style security cameras, roadblocks, or ID checks on the sidewalks.

Local politicians and political parties were also urged to "mobilize" people to watch them, according to the National Film Administration. The directive said it would be important to organize and mobilize party representatives, leaders, and audiences to take an active role.

The films will be seen as part of a national campaign to "educate" people about the CCP's roots as the ruling party celebrates its 100th anniversary, according to the statement.

"All distribution units, theaters, and screening units must actively prepare for film screenings, produce promotional materials, make screening arrangements, and run publicity campaigns," it said, suggesting preferential entry fees and "other incentives" to encourage people to attend.

The screenings will foster "love of party, country, and socialism," as well as a patriotic spirit, the directive said.

Screenings will start in April 2021 and run throughout the year.

No 'discordant voices'

Officials from his local community committee have also given notices to locals, according to writer Han Yiwen, that there must be no "discordant voices" during the centennial.

"This year, in the centennial year of the group, they had a special message for me," Han told RFA.  "I'm not allowed to make any remarks of that sort."

"I can only really respond in general terms," he said. "If a child were to never grow up, and were to remain a child for the rest of his life, that would be a tragedy."

"But if the same thing were to happen to a country, then that would turn into a nightmare for everyone in that country," Han said.

The Chinese Communist Party's incursions into public and private thinking and expressions are becoming more common, according to an online analyst Zhou. 

"Controls on speech are pretty unscrupulous, and there is no concept of what is legal anymore," Zhou said.

"They had already banned any dissenting voices, but now you're not allowed unspoken opposition either." "It's hard to imagine how things will turn out in the future," he said.

Only praise for the CCP is now permitted, according to a retired teacher named Wang from Hebei's northern province.

"Authoritarian regimes can only tolerate praise and more praise, but nobody is allowed to talk about their problems," Wang said. "The system we have in China is awful."

With reporting from Radio Free Asia. 

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