Film “Winnie the Pooh” is yanked from Hong Kong theaters
AP — HONG KONG The abrupt cancellation of public screenings of a slasher movie starring Winnie the Pooh in Hong Kong on Tuesday sparked debates over the city’s expanding censorship.
The debut of “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” in Hong Kong and the adjacent Chinese territory of Macao on Thursday has been postponed with “with regret,” the movie distributor VII Pillars Entertainment announced on Facebook.
The distributor informed The Associated Press via email that theaters would not be able to screen the movie as planned, but it was unsure of the reason. A request for comment was not immediately answered by the affected movie theater chains.
The Winnie the Pooh character is regarded by many locals as a lighthearted jab at Chinese President Xi Jinping, and in the past, Chinese censors momentarily outlawed the bear’s social media searches within the nation. Winnie the Pooh was also in the 2018 movie “Christopher Robin,” which was apparently refused a distribution in China.
The movie’s cancellation in Hong Kong has raised questions on social media about the territory’s declining freedoms.
According to a report last week by VII Pillars Entertainment, the film was previously planned to be presented in roughly 30 Hong Kong theaters.
The Office for Film, Newspaper, and Article Administration declared that it had given the movie its stamp of approval and that local theaters’ plans to show approved movies “are the business decisions of the relevant theaters.” On such arrangements, it declined to comment.
One cinema’s initial Tuesday night screening has been postponed due to “technical issues,” the promoter announced on Instagram.
Kenny Ng, a professor at the academy of film at Hong Kong Baptist University, declined to speculate on the cause of the cancellation but pointed out that the process for stifling criticism looked to be using business judgments.
In 1997, Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China with the promise that its liberties would remain in line with Western norms. But after significant pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019, China enacted a national security law that silenced or imprisoned a number of dissidents.
The government increased regulations in 2021 and gave censors the go-ahead to prohibit movies they felt violated the broad rule.
According to Ng, censorship has increased in the city during the past two years, mostly targeting indie short films and other non-commercial motion pictures.
There are more taboos when there is a red line, he claimed.