A new report has found that the Chinese government’s influence on Hollywood poses a serious threat to free speech.
The 94-page study, from the literary and human rights group Pen America, describes the many ways in which studios and filmmakers continue to change “cast, plot, dialogue and attitudes” in an “attempt to avoid opposing Chinese officials” in films including Iron Man 3, World War Z and the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick.
Through dozens of interviews and case studies, the authors explain the many changes that have been forced on films before they are granted release to a lucrative market. LGBT content was removed from Bohemian Rhapsody, Star Trek: Beyond, Alien: Covenant and Cloud Atlas, scenes where Chinese were killed were removed from Skyfall and Mission: Impossible III and a main character was changed from Tibetan to Celtic in Doctor Strange, a decision made by the screenwriter to avoid the risk of “promoting a billion people”.
In the report, Stanley Rosen, professor of political science and international relations at the University of Southern California, says that the government “will focus on everything that has a China component in it. Do not think that if you do something that is not intended for China, it is an indie film intended for a small market, that China will not notice and that it will not harm your motion picture. It will. “
The report recommends that “Hollywood studios undertake to publicly share information on all censorship requests received by government agencies for their films.”
In 2019, American movies made more than $ 2.6 billion in China with Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far from Home and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw making more money there than in the United States.
The release of the report comes after the US government openly criticized Hollywood for cowtowing into Chinese intervention, and also blamed the studios for preventively censoring or preserving potentially difficult projects.
“Many more scripts never see the light of day because writers and producers know they are not testing the limits,” lawyer William Barr said in July. “Chinese government censors do not have to say a word because Hollywood does its work for them. This is a massive propaganda coup for the Chinese Communist Party. “
In June, Richard Gere appeared before the US Senate to warn of the dangers of letting China control its contents. “The combination of Chinese censorship, combined with American film studios’ desire to gain access to China’s market, can lead to self-censorship and overlook social issues that major American films once addressed,” he said.