China film festival organisers speak out after detention
AFP, Monday 25 Aug 2014
Li Xianting and Wang Hongwei were detained on Saturday after police closed the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival on its opening day.

Chinese organisers of an independent film festival shut down by authorities said Sunday they had merely been exercising basic freedoms, as a broad clampdown on expression in the country intensifies.

Li Xianting and Wang Hongwei were detained on Saturday after police closed the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival on its opening day. They were released later that evening.

The two told reporters however that agencies, including one that enforces laws covering the cultural industry in Beijing, had opened an investigation.

They must appear before authorities again on Thursday and present various documents including a business licence, according to a paper they showed reporters.

"Freedom to create, freedom of expression -- these are basic rights," said Li, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund.

Police had prevented film industry workers and the audience from attending the festival before it was shut down, organisers said Saturday.

Li and Wang, who is the festival's artistic director, were then taken for questioning.

The festival has regularly run afoul of authorities. Its opening day last year was disrupted although organisers continued the event in defiance.

Heavy security also turned out in 2012, when state media reported that the event was interrupted by a power cut.

Local police told AFP on Saturday that they were not aware of the festival.

China maintains a tight grip on information, with the media controlled by the government and online social networks subject to heavy censorship.

Hundreds of bloggers and journalists have since last year been rounded up in a government-backed campaign against "Internet rumours".

The clampdown appears to be part of a concerted effort by the ruling Communist Party to rein in criticism.

China has this year jailed around 10 members of the New Citizens Movement, a loose network whose members held peaceful protests in Beijing and other cities last year calling for officials to disclose their assets.

A founder of the movement, legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, was jailed for four years in January.

Under President Xi Jinping, who assumed party leadership in 2012, the government has repeatedly vowed to combat rampant graft in the face of public anger over the issue.

But the party has cracked down on activists pursuing the same goals, seeing independently-organised groups as a challenge to its grip on power.

The arts have been no exception.

Guo Jian, a Chinese-Australian artist and former Tiananmen Square protester, was detained in June after making an artwork about the 1989 crackdown ahead of its 25th anniversary and was ordered deported from China.

Tiananmen is a particular sore spot for authorities who do their utmost to wipe even the slightest reference to the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters from books, television and the Internet.