“It is very possible that CCTV decided by itself” to broadcast the film, Liu said. If so, he added, it would have been “due to a gut feeling that China’s film censorship will be loosened or reformed.”
“V for Vendetta” was released in the United States in 2005 and around the world in 2006. China has a yearly quota on the numbers of foreign movies that can be imported on a revenue share basis, making it tough to get distribution approval. Other movies that failed to reach Chinese screens in 2006 include “Brokeback Mountain” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” Chinese moviegoers that year were able to see “Mission: Impossible III” with Tom Cruise and “The Painted Veil,” which was filmed in China and set in a Chinese village.
Warner Brothers, which produced and distributed “V for Vendetta,” declined to comment.
China doesn’t have a classification system, so all movies shown at its cinemas are open to adults and children of any age. A filmmaker and Beijing Film Academy professor, Xie Fei, published an open letter on Sina Weibo on Saturday calling for authorities to replace the movie censorship system that dates from the 1950s with a ratings system.
The airing of “V for Vendetta” raised some hopes about possible changes under Xi, who was publicly named China’s new leader last month. He has already announced a trimmed-down style of leadership, calling on officials to reduce waste and unnecessary meetings and pomp. His reforms are aimed at pleasing a public long frustrated by local corruption.
State media say they have reduced reports on officials’ trips as part of this drive. The official Xinhua News Agency warned this week that media outlets should “learn to play professionally in today’s information age as an increasingly picky audience is constantly” putting them under scrutiny.
An American business consultant and author with high-level Chinese contacts said there is no less commitment to one-party rule in China, so any media reforms will only go so far.
“You can’t have a totally free media as we would have in the West and still maintain the integrity of a one-party system,” said Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who wrote the book “How China’s Leaders Think.” He said he thinks restrictions are being eased, “but it has to be limited.”
The new leadership has to tread carefully, Kuhn said, because in the age of the Internet, talk about reforms won’t be forgotten.
“High expectations, if they are not fulfilled, will create a worse situation,” he said.
AP researchers Flora Ji and Henry Hou contributed to this report.
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