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2014.08.23 Sat, by
Beijing Independent Film Festival Shut by Authorities

Authorities have shut down the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, according to reports (link in Chinese; and Li Xianting’s WeChat account). The film festival, organized by the Li Xianting Film Fund, was originally due to open on Saturday, August 23 on the outskirts of Beijing, in Xiaobao Village within Songzhuang.

Li Xianting, a noted critic of art and film and the founder of the film fund, has over the past week made posts in social media (link here in Chinese). On August 19, Li said national security agents came to the fund office and requested the festival to be halted, citing two (unnamed) films in particular. Li agreed to move the festival to Yanjiao in Hebei. On August 22, the festival team was ordered out of the hotel in Xiaobao Village, stating that they had no permission to stay there. Wang Hongwei, the director of the film festival, and Fan Rong, the executive director were held by the police (paichusuo) until they promised to stop the festival.

On the day of the opening, Li Xianting claimed that police set up blockades on the roads into the Film Fund offices with cars, garbage cans, bikes and other debris. Then the local officers forcibly climbed over the courtyard walls to undertake an inspection. The Film Fund was then told that starting tomorrow, the electricity would be cut.

Judging from the T-shirts the organizers had prepared, it appears the festival was well prepared for a possible closure.

The Beijing International Film Festival was first founded in 2006 and has played an important role for independent films within the country. They had faced problems with the authorities before, with electricity being cut off in 2012, and public screenings canceled in 2013.

[UPDATE: the authorities have confiscated CD-ROMs, computers, and account ledgers of the festival. Li Xianting is believed to be under police custody currently.]

[UPDATE 2: Li Xianting has since been released.]

Sources: in Chinese and English