As “10 Conditions” continues to screen at film festivals around the world the Chinese government maintains its effort to silence the film and the voice of Rebiya Kadeer. Today Muslim Uyghurs living in China are arrested and video stores closed down for possessing this film deemed by Chinese authorities an “illegal counterrevolutionary propaganda DVD.”
Below we revisit the Chinese government’s initial reaction to the film in 2009. Articles and editorials reveal how some festivals’ decision to screen “10 Conditions” forced their governments to make a stand on the state of China’s Muslim Uyghurs.
Screening “The 10 Conditions of Love”
Protest And Violence In Xinjiang Province, China
On June 25th two Uyghur factory workers were killed by Han Chinese in China’s southern Guangdong Province. On July 5th thousands of Uyghurs in China’s Northwestern Xinjiang province publically protested this killing as well as their ill treatment and reluctance by the Chinese government to address their concerns. This protest was blocked by Chinese police and quickly became violent leading to almost 200 mostly Han Chinese deaths (Death toll in Xinjiang riot rises to 156 China Daily July 7th, Is China fraying? The Economist July 9th 2009). Rebiya Kadeer, leader of The World Uyghur Congress, a Uyghur exile organisation, was blamed by the Chinese government for masterminding this violence as an act of terrorism (Government: evidence shows Rebiya Kadeer masterminds violence China Daily July 10th).
Chinese Government Demands Film Be Dropped
On July 10th 2009 the Melbourne International Film Festival announced the screening of The 10 Conditions of Love featuring a Q&A with the director Jeff Daniels and subject of the film Rebiya Kadeer who was a guest of the festival. That same day the Chinese Consulate in Melbourne called Richard Moore, director of the festival, demanding he not screen this film or invite Ms. Kadeer as they deemed her a terrorist and mastermind of recent violence in Western China. This news made front page headlines throughout Australia and internationally (Uyghur activist film row CNN July 16th, Beijing pressures film festival to dump documentary The Age July 15th, 7:30 Report ABC TV, Rebiya Kadeer row engulfs Melbourne film festival The Guardian July 15th, China orders Australian film-makers to drop Uighur documentary The Times July 16th).
Chinese Filmmakers Withdraw Films In Protest
Chinese government condemnation of Rebiya Kadeer as the mastermind of this violence followed by news that a film about her was to be screened in Melbourne became widespread news throughout China (Chinese films quit Melbourne festival over Kadeer film China DailyAugust 27th, China criticizes Australia over Kadeer visa China Daily August 4th). After receiving phone calls from Chinese Communist Party officials, three Chinese filmmakers pulled their films out of the festival in what they call a protest to Kadeer’s attendance at the event. One of the Chinese filmmakers who directed the controversial film Petition, about the unaddressed grievances of Han Chinese by their government, withdrew his film without comment. His French producer was careful to comment “lest the film’s director be harassed by police in China.” (China runs true to type in snubbing film festival The Age July 23rd).
Soon after 4 other Chinese films withdrew in similar protests. (Chinese directors protest film on Uighur’s Kadeer Time Magazine July 24th, Tit for tat: Chinese films pulled from festival Sydney Morning Herald July 22nd, Uighur tensions show up at Australia film festival Los Angeles Times July 25th).
Chinese ‘Patriots’ Hack Into MIFF Website
Shortly after news that Chinese filmmakers pulled out of the festival, Chinese hackers broke into the MIFF website putting a Chinese flag on its homepage with statements such as “We like film, but we hate Rebiya Kadeer” (Chinese hack into film festival site The Age July 26th, China-based cyber attack hits Australia Film Festival site The Washington Post August 2nd, Hackers clash over China’s rule in Muslim province PC World August 14th). Soon hackers overwhelmed the site preventing online ticket sales which cost the festival over AU$50,000 (Second Cyber attack on Australian festival The New York Times August 2nd, Film Festival hacked CNN July 27th, Chinese hackers circulate email on how to hack film website The Age August 1st).
The 10 Conditions of Love suddenly became an international symbol of artistic and political expression (We are all Melbournian The New Yorker July 27th). The controversy highlighted the purpose and importance of film festivals (Withdrawls lead to program rethink The Age August 1st, Public outcry at what appeared to be a Chinese government provoked attack on Australia’s freedom of expression was displayed in articles and TV news around the world (Australian Film Festival Hacked, Japan Next? The Wall Street Journal July 27th, China pressures film festival CNN July 27th, Politics come before lights and camera The Age July 27th).
The 10 Conditions of Love Is Finally Screened
After arriving in Australia, Rebiya Kadeer met the press to talk about the film and China’s response (Uyghur activist at premiere CNN August 5th, China’s Public Enemy The Wall Street Journal August 7th, Uighur leader to launch film in spirit of peace The Age August 5th, ‘We’re all Melbournians’: Uighur leader controversy goes global The Age August 5th, Kadeer finds support at Melbourne Film Festival NTDTV August 5th).
The film made front page news again when Rebiya Kadeer led a protest at the Chinese consulate the day before the film’s screening with a hundred other Australian Uyghur exiles (Call for Australia to stand up to China The Australian August 7th). At the same time Chinese officials threatened Melbourne’s Lord Mayor with ending Tianjin’s long sister city relationship if the screening went ahead (China’s new film threat The Age August 8th).
Sudden overwhelming demand by filmgoers to see The 10 Conditions of Love prompted festival organisers to plan a second preview screening and move the original screening to the prestigious Melbourne Town Hall. 1000 additional tickets sold out in less than 4 hours (Controversial Uighur film a festival sell-out The Age July 27th).
Finally on the night of the screening, with a strong police presence, 1700 people lined up around two blocks to see the film and ask Rebiya Kadeer questions (Kadeer hopes for democracy and freedom AAP August 9th, Australian local news reports).
The screening ended with a standing ovation as international press hovered over Rebiya Kadeer and the film’s Director Jeff Daniels and Producers John Lewis and Dennis Smith. Press from various countries told their own versions of the film’s reception (A dull show by Rebiya Kadeer Xinhua News August 10th, Film Festival in the Cross Hairs The New York Times August 9th).
The Controversy Continues
After Rebiya Kadeer’s appearance at the screening of The 10 Conditions of Love her invitation to speak at Australia’s National Press Club was met with more condemnation and pressure from the Chinese government.
Since Ms. Kadeer’s visit to Australia its relations with China have been “challenging” as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd puts it (Australia-China tie ‘challenging’ BBC August 20th, Different approaches The Economist August 20th, We decide who gets visa: PM The Australian August 22nd, If crossing the dragon’s path tread warily The Age August 24th) The Chinese government has made other attempts to prevent the broadcast of The 10 Conditions of Love. In New Zealand, indigenous broadcaster Maori TV sought to screen the film on their station feeling it struck a cord with native New Zealander’s historic struggle to maintain their culture and land title.
Again the Chinese government stepped in. Embassy officials in Auckland visited the station to demand that Maori TV not broadcast the film, but instead broadcast a Government-produced documentary “proving” Rebiya Kadeer’s involvement in the July 5th violence in Western China. Maori TV politely refused to pull The 10 Conditions of Love from their schedule (China wants Maori TV to show riot film New Zealand Herald August 11th, China finds scapegoat for bloody unrest New Zealand Herald August 22nd, Chinese Embassy asks Maori TV to pull controversial doco 3 News August 16th).
In Taiwan, government officials were outraged when the film Miao Miao a Taiwan-China coproduction was withdrawn by Chinese producers from the Melbourne International Film Festival. Taiwanese government officials were not consulted over this decision and clamoured for the screening of The 10 Conditions of Love everywhere in Taiwan as a matter of national pride to protect their stance on freedom of expression and human rights (Why Taiwan must show ‘The 10 Conditions of Love’ Taiwan News August 7th, Now for the overseas fifth column Taipei Times August 27th).
First TV Broadcast
Maori TV scheduled the broadcast of The 10 Conditions of Love for 8.30pm on September on Maori TV, but during the day issued a press release saying the Chinese Government propaganda program, ‘Xinjiang, Urumqi, July 5: Truth’ would be broadcast immediately following without explanation, but flatly denied that it had been pressured by the New Zealand Government, the first Western government to enter a Free Trade Agreement with China (Maori TV to show Chinese Govt video – after Kadeer documentary NZ Herald September 1st, Producer protests screening of Chinese programme Radio New Zealand September 2nd). It was later reported that 63,000 people watched the program - a small audience by most standards, but a big audience for Maori TV.
Taiwan Festival Defies Chinese Government
The Kaohsiung Film Festival in Taiwan’s second largest city became the first festival in Asia to announce that it would screen The 10 Conditions of Love (Taiwanese fest to screen controversial doc Variety September 17th). There was an instant - and furious - response by Chinese hackers who replaced the film festival’s website homepage with pictures of Ms. Kadeer and the Dalai Lama with rude sexual comments (Taiwan festival hacked over Uighur film Agence France-Presse September 8th, Chinese hackers strike again in protest over Uighur activist film The Guardian September 22nd).
Protests followed by local tourism groups due to an expected loss in revenue from Chinese tourists. The Kaohsiung government decided to screen the film before the festival to avoid any controversy (China furious as Taiwan prepares to show Rebiya Kadeer film The Telegraph September 20th, Taiwan to screen Uighur activist film before festival Bloomberg September 20th). The screenings soon sold out and protestors showed promoting the rights of Uyghurs (‘Rebiya’ film lauded by first Taiwan viewers Taiwan News September 23rd). After the screening of 10 Conditions Freddy Lim, the frontman of popular Taiwanese metal band Chthonic, flew to Washington to personally invite Rebiya Kadeer to Taiwan (Kadeer to apply for visa to visit Taiwan in December Taipei Times September 25th).
After serious public debate over whether the original plan to screen the film at the festival should go ahead, a decision was made in favour of screening 10 Conditions at the Kaohsiung Film Festival (Chen Chu gives support to film, human rights Taipei Times Sept 22nd). Despite this decision Kadeer’s visa request was denied by the Taiwanese government stating, “We don’t wish to see the shadow of terrorism fall on Taiwan” (Taiwan won’t allow visit by Uighur leader The Wall Street Journal September 28th, Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer denied entry visa to Taiwan The China Post September 26th).
Since this period "The 10 Conditions of Love" has been screened by over 25 film festivals and television broadcasters across the world including a special screening at the US Congress and New York's Lincoln Center. TV broadcasts include the ABC (Australia), Outside TV (US), Doc24 (Holland), RTE (Ireland), the Democratic Voice of Burma (Myanmar) and in South Korea, Denmark, New Zealand, Israel and Slovenia.
Editorials and opinions on the issue:
New Zealand Screening