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Ang Lee's protege allegedly banned?
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By Zhang Rui

Rumor has it in recent days that Ang Lee's protégé, Tang Wei, has been banned by the Chinese broadcasting administration. A top official indirectly confirmed the story today at an ongoing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

According to a report from Xinhuanet.com, when asked by a Taiwan reporter, Zhang Haitao, the deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, responded by indirectly confirming the rumor, stating the "policy has nothing against any specific individual." He declined to give any detailed reasons for banning Tang Wei.

Tang Wei is a rising starlet. She gained her overnight fame primarily from Ang Lee's spy thriller Lust, Caution that aired last year. She has been reportedly banned from Chinese screens since March 5, when various Chinese TV station executives received an order instructing them to stop reporting on the actress and to exclude all the commercials featuring her.

Both the administration spokesperson and the reps for the star refused to make any further comments.

The speculation circulating on the web guesses that the ban may have something to do with the Lust, Caution, an "un-patriotic" and "erotic" feature film directed by Ang Lee, China.org.cn learned.

In the movie, Tang played an activist student, who uses her beauty to seduce a Japanese-allied Chinese traitor working in an intelligence department during World War II in Shanghai. She tried to create an opportunity to assassinate him but she gave up her attempts at last minute because she felt she might have fallen in love with her nemesis. This decision took her life and her colleagues' lives as well.

This controversial film won the Golden Lion at the 64th Venice Film Festival and dominated Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards by winning 7 awards, paving the way for the film's access into the Chinese mainland market.

The edited version of the film, with explicit sex scenes almost completely deleted by Ang Lee himself, hit mainland screens in November and ended up grossing over 120 million yuan (US$16.89 million) at the box office. Lust, Caution was one of the Top 3 best selling Chinese films in 2007.

Last Friday China's regulators reiterated the criteria for censorship, saying that films with explicit sex and fear-provoking elements must be cut or revised before release.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said in a notice on its website that the move was intended to purify screen entertainment and create a more harmonious and healthy film environment for the public.

Rumors indicate that Tang Wei and Lust, Caution may be the first target.

"I am very disappointed that Tang Wei is being hurt by this decision," Ang Lee, the director said. He expressed his support of Tang and commented the rumored ban: "She gave one of the greatest performances ever in a movie that was properly produced and distributed. We will do everything we can to support her during this difficult time."

(China.org.cn, March 11, 2008)

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