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Report: Law Student Sues China’s Government for Censoring Steamy Scenes in Ang Lee Movie


China is too cautious about the lust in Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” or so alleges a Chinese student who is suing the government for asking the Taiwanese director to cut steamy sex scenes from his new movie.

The case highlights public dissent about China’s censorship system, which doesn’t classify films by age-appropriateness. All movies that clear censors are open to everyone.

Dong Yanbin has accused the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or SARFT, of failing to set up a ratings system that would allow adults to see uncensored version of the movie, the Beijing Times newspaper said in report on its Web site Thursday.

The graduate law student at the China University of Political Science and Law is also suing the movie theater where he saw the film, alleging that it denied him a consumer’s right to information, and wants 500 Chinese yuan (US$67; euro46) for mental suffering and apologies from the theater and SARFT, the Beijing Times reported.

“The publicly released version of ‘Lust, Caution’ is structurally flawed. It fails to portray the psychology of the female lead,” Dong was quoted as saying.

Asked about the newspaper report, a man who answered the phone at the publicity office of Beijing’s Xicheng courthouse said Dong has filed such a lawsuit but that the court hasn’t decided whether to accept the case.

“He has filed the lawsuit, but the court hasn’t created a case yet,” the man said, declining to give his name. He said he didn’t know the details of the case.

Dong couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Calls to the graduate student office at his university, to a SARFT spokesman and the movie theater, UME Huaxing International Cineplex, went unanswered.

“Lust, Caution” is about the sexually charged relationship between an undercover student activist and the Japanese-allied intelligence chief in World War II-era Shanghai. Its explicit nature featuring abusive sex and a variety of lovemaking positions have earned it adult-only ratings in the U.S. and Asia.

Though the censored version was shown in China, mainland audiences appear to be aware of the sex scenes cut from the film from media reports.

Despite the cuts, “Lust, Caution” has quickly become a big hit in China, earning more than 90 million Chinese yuan (US$12 million; euro8 million) since opening two weeks ago and generating a huge number of Internet commentaries.

Lee, himself, however, hasn’t made a big fuss about the cuts in China.

“It doesn’t affect the story or character development because they only involve a few minutes … The movie will feel much less intense. That’s all,” he told reporters while promoting the film in Hong Kong recently.

China’s lack of a ratings system has been a major gripe of local filmmakers, who favor more explicit censorship standards. Some believe the government is deliberately vague to give it discretion in tightening and loosening media controls.

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