Chinese-American author Geling Yan has attacked the companies involved in releasing a Zhang Yimou film based on one of her novels outside of China, without naming them.

Yan’s name was removed from Zhang’s 2020 film One Second, despite it being an adaptation of part of one of her novels, after she made a outspoken social media post about a trafficked woman from rural China who was found chained by the neck in an outbuilding belongs to her “husband”.

Now the film is being shown outside of China under collusion with foreign companies not bound by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) strict censorship policies, a move that infuriated Yan, who protested with her husband outside the Berlin cinema The film was screened over the weekend Premiered.

“If this problem were limited to China, it would be totally understandable,” she said. “But they are taking it too far to ignore my intellectual property rights and my moral rights around the world.”

“And I think that for these companies that work with them, it’s a particularly shameful manifestation of their double standard,” Yan said after Sunday’s protest, which was attended by entrepreneurs, musicians, economists, poets, artists and other human rights activists from China .

“Civilization [should be] based on allowing people to think freely and to freely publish the results of their thinking,” she said.

Yan said she condensed 30 years of lived experience and national trauma into her novel, The Criminal Lu Yanshi, on which One Second is based.

“How many works like ‘The Criminal Lu Yanshi’ can one person write in a lifetime? I attach great importance to it, then they just strangle and erase my intellectual property and kill part of my intellectual life,” Yan said.

“A person must fight for their human rights, and a writer must fight for their intellectual property rights when they are violated,” she said.

Prior to her social media comments about the chained woman, Yan’s work was already banned for criticizing the CCP’s response to the pandemic.

Yan said it is highly unlikely that she will start praising the current regime in China as she prefers to focus on the dignity and freedom of the individual.

“I can pay a higher price and fight for the truth, whether it’s about a virus or a woman in chains,” Yan said. “Or that one of my works was strangled and castrated.”

A scene from Zhang Yimou's film "One second," adapted from Geling Yan's novel "The criminal Lu Yanshi." Photo credit: Geling Yan
A scene from Zhang Yimou’s film One Second, adapted from Geling Yan’s novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi. Photo credit: Geling Yan

victim of censorship

Yan said she considers Zhang Yimou a victim of the CCP’s censorship system, but cannot accept him boasting about her work abroad.

“There has been forced censorship of films in China for too long,” she said. “Every film involves a very painful process of trying to pass that test.”

“Every filmmaker was banned from working, and Zhang Yimou [said] he wouldn’t do this to an author if there were any other way; he was forced to do it,” Yan said.

“But I told him that wasn’t good enough … this helpless attitude of ‘they made me do it,'” she said. “I don’t forgive him.”

Yan and her husband and agent Lawrence Walker are now suing Zhang’s Beijing Huanxi Chuan Media Group, as well as the film’s international distributors and US, French and German producers.

“We sent an attorney’s letter but nothing came of it and the film was released anyway,” Walker told RFA. “So we started taking to the streets.”

He said that while China is a powerful nation, the CCP should not be allowed to export its censorship practices, which threatens freedom of speech abroad.

Chinese citizen journalist Li Tingyu protested alongside Yan and Walker.

“Geling Yan has been my favorite author since high school,” Li said. “I read Lu Yanshi when I was in the detention center.”

“Her books are very popular… but now, because she has spoken out for women and for justice, her name has disappeared and her voice has been extinguished [in China],” She said.

Employees who answered repeated calls to Beijing Huanxi Chuan Media Group on Monday declined to comment.

Repeated calls to the home number of the film’s producer, Zhao Yijun, also went unanswered.

Edits and Deletions

The saga began when Chinese director Zhang Yimou and Yan signed an agreement in 2011 that gave Zhang the film rights to her novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi, which tells the story of a man turned right-wing man for political crimes. to be, was sentenced to a labor camp.”

Zhang then made a film based on the book Coming Home. However, he also completed a second film based on the novel, titled One Second, but deleted any reference to Yan or her novel work from the promotional materials.

In February 2019, the crew of “One Second” traveled to Berlin for the Berlin International Film Festival. They met at Yan’s house and were looking forward to seeing the presentation in the Golden Bear competition and entered the red carpet venue together with her.

But the film was abruptly canceled just an hour before its scheduled media showing, ostensibly for “technical reasons.”

More delays followed before the film was finally released in November 2020 after Zhang made a series of edits and deletions to please Chinese officials.

When the film finally came out, Yan was not mentioned.

Yan and Walker have contacted the Hollywood Screenwriters’ Guild, of which Yan is a member, the French film distribution company Wild Bunch of Paris, the online platform Mubi, the Toronto Film Festival and the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain.

Mubi has since reintroduced a reference to Yan as the author of the novel that inspired One Second.

Producer Zhao has informed the couple that Yan’s name was removed for political reasons by order of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and that Huanxi was obliged to implement the order.

Zhao also tried to threaten Yan when she tried to speak out about the film abroad.

Yan’s outspoken criticism of official cover-ups in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan has made her persona non grata in Beijing.

Yan once called CCP leader Xi Jinping “also a human trafficker” in connection with the chained woman incident in Jiangsu, unaware that the conversation she was having was live streamed online.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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