BEIJING — * The international award-winning film "Farewell to My Concubine" was closed down just after its opening in Beijing in an apparent clampdown on expression in China. The movie, which shared the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May, will continue to be screened in Shanghai until Aug. 4 because tickets have already been sold. But Shanghai film officials say the movie's fate was sealed after observances to mark its China premiere were cancelled.
"Farewell to My Concubine" and its long-banned Chinese film director, Chen Kaige, have run afoul of Communist censors for the film's depiction of the decade-long tumult of the Cultural Revolution and a homosexual relationship between two Peking Opera stars. The ending, in which one of the characters commits suicide, is viewed as inappropriate in modern China.
According to Chinese press reports, a censored version of the movie was initially cleared for screening despite outrage and objections of Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin and other conservative leaders. Of late, Western diplomats and Chinese analysts have detected a tightened government oversight of the press and cultural scene after a measure of opening triggered by reform-minded leader Deng Xiaoping's triumph at a party congress last fall. The tightening coincides with a government auster ity program aimed at reining in a fast-growing economy and cooling inflation, which threatens to incite political unrest. In addition, the elderly Mr. Deng is reported to be seriously ill.
New press regulations covering content and advertising have been issued to newspapers whose numbers have mushroomed in the last year. Last week, the conservative newspaper Guangming Daily reported new enforcement measures targeted at an estimated 90,000 illegal fax machines in Beijing.
Chinese analysts say the regime fears that the proliferation of fax machines is allowing information to flow too freely. Such machines were used extensively during student demonstrations in 1989 that resulted in a military crackdown.
Chen, the film's director, has expressed regret that the movie cannot be shown in China. But he has refused to grant interviews, fearing that speaking out will harm the movie's chances of being seen on the mainland in the future.