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Re-igniting the ratings debate
By Wang Ru (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-03-06 07:55

Members of the film industry attending the ongoing Second Session of the 11th National Committee of the CPPCC, China's top advisory body, re-ignited the thorny issue of a movie ratings system for the Chinese mainland.

"No movie can satisfy the tastes of all filmgoers at all times. As a director, I support the launch of a ratings system," said Zhang Yimou at a group discussion on art and literature with other CPPCC members on Wednesday in a Beijing hotel.

"Establishing a ratings system does not mean a green light for violent and sexually-explicit films pouring into our society, but is aimed at categorizing films for different audiences," he said, adding that he was not sure why such a system could not be launched in China.

In the absence of a ratings system, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) censors and issues licenses to all domestic and foreign movies that want to be shown in the Chinese mainland.

"A movie ratings system should be introduced in China as soon as possible," said well-known director Feng Xiaogang, a vehement advocate.

"A movie ratings system will definitely promote the film industry. The current censorship system stifles the talent of our directors," said Wang Xingdong, chairman of the Chinese Academy of Film Literature, at the group discussion.

In 2001, Wang, a then-member of the CPPCC became the first person to propose a movie rating system. He had, in fact, been advocating one for many years.

In 2005, a draft proposal was given to the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, but was not passed.

"(A ratings system) has been adopted by many countries as an effective way to regulate and manage their film industry. I can't figure out why it is so hard to launch it in China," said Feng Xiaogang at the discussion.

Feng Xiaoning, a Chinese director known for his patriotic films, however, expressed a different view.

"We shouldn't push in a hurry for a ratings system now. The Chinese film industry has its own characteristics," said Feng, "Setting up a new system means making new laws. I think we still need five to 10 years to do this."

Tong Gang, director of SARFT's Motion Picture Bureau, told the Xinhua news agency in February that a draft law had been submitted to the State Council but did not say whether the National People's Congress, which opened yesterday, would review or approve it this year.

"Film rating is essential," said Tong, "but must be adapted to the characteristics of the country."

In a recent Internet survey initiated by the China Youth Newspaper, an overwhelming 89.9 percent of 2032 netizens supported the launch of a movie ratings system, with just 5.9 percent opposing it.

(China Daily 03/06/2009 page18)