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Law Student Sues Chinese Government for Censoring Steamy Scenes in Ang Lee Movie

The case highlights public dissent about China's censorship system, which doesn't classify films by age-appropriateness

Min Lee

The Associated Press

November 16, 2007


China is too cautious about the lust in Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" -- or so alleges a Chinese student who is suing the government for asking the Taiwanese director to cut steamy sex scenes from his new movie.


The case highlights public dissent about China's censorship system, which doesn't classify films by age-appropriateness. All movies that clear censors are open to everyone.


Dong Yanbin has accused the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or SARFT, of failing to set up a ratings system that would allow adults to see an uncensored version of the movie, he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.


The doctorate law student at the China University of Political Science and Law is also suing the movie theater where he saw the film, alleging that it denied him a consumer's right to information, and wants 500 Chinese yuan ($67) for mental suffering and apologies from the theater and SARFT.


"Only when I see the full version can I fully appreciate the intentions of an outstanding director like Ang Lee," Dong said.


A man who answered the phone at the publicity office of Beijing's Xicheng courthouse confirmed Dong filed the lawsuit but said the court hasn't decided whether to accept the case. He declined to give his name.


Calls to a SARFT spokesman went unanswered.


Liu Hui, a duty manager at the movie theater Dong sued, UME Huaxing International Cineplex, said the theater screened the version of "Lust, Caution" the government asked it to.


"Lust, Caution" is about the sexually charged relationship between an undercover student activist and the Japanese-allied intelligence chief in World War II-era Shanghai. Its explicit nature -- featuring abusive sex and a variety of lovemaking positions -- have earned it adult-only ratings in the U.S. and Asia.


Though the censored version was shown in China, mainland audiences appear to be aware of the sex scenes cut from the film from media reports.


Despite the cuts, "Lust, Caution" has quickly become a big hit in China, earning more than 90 million Chinese yuan ($12 million) since opening two weeks ago and generating a huge number of Internet commentaries.


Lee himself, however, hasn't made a big fuss about the cuts in China.


"It doesn't affect the story or character development because they only involve a few minutes ... The movie will feel much less intense. That's all," he told reporters while promoting the film in Hong Kong recently.


China's lack of a ratings system has been a major gripe of local filmmakers, who favor more explicit censorship standards. Some believe the government is deliberately vague to give it discretion in tightening and loosening media controls.


Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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