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First Film Rating Scheme in the Making

Li Chunping, a trading company clerk in Beijing, regrets that she went to the cinema with her 11-year-old son for the movie A World Without Thieves (Tianxia Wuzei) last weekend.

She expected it to be something for both adult and underage viewers. But she was wrong.

"The movie, gripping and touching as it is, contains enough love scenes, violence, blood scenes, scenes of swindling, theft and robbery to make me upset," she said.

"If I knew in advance that the film was labeled as 'unsuitable for kids,' I would have not been there with my son, who, at that age, is not prepared for the film."

For quite a long period of time, without the rating or classification system, "allowing underage audiences no access to violence or sex on the big screen" has been the only criterion, rough and simple as it is, when examining films to be shown on the mainland market.

The absence concerns Li and other movie-goers, media researchers and the movie industry, who have called for the establishment of such a system in China for years.

The popularity of A World Without Thieves and mounting concerns about its negative impact upon children, have rekindled the outcry for a rating system.

"In a market economy, any film must have a specific target audience. It is too demanding for the film-makers to produce one that captures audiences of all age groups," said film director Li Yang.

A movie rating system can make it easier for Chinese film-makers to decide how far they can go when shooting scenes with love, violence or horror and to bring out their best to cater for specific target audience groups, said director Zhang Yuan.

But some critics have expressed concern that the implementation of a film rating system may unleash more erotic films like those in some Western countries, and affect the ethics and moral integrity of Chinese society.

Film Bureau chief Tong Gang gave his response on Wednesday: China's first ever film rating or classification system is expected to come out next year as a vital part of the China Motion Picture Industry Promotion Law.

"The legal framework of the law has already been laid out and the legislative draft is expected to come out in 2005 and be put on the nation's legislative agenda," Tong said.

The rating or classification system will be implemented to regulate various genres, including imported films, screened on the Chinese market, he said. It will help protect the minors and boost international co-operation.

But "I want to make it clear that we will not copy Western style motion picture rating systems blindly," he noted.

Tong said that, for the sake of plots or for artistic merit, some content unsuitable for underage movie-goers has been kept in many films screened in China.

(China Daily December 17, 2004)

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