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By HRF Manager of Asia Policy & Programs and HRF Communications Director Elisha Maldonado 

For too long, America’s film industry has complied with the Chinese government’s censorship demands. Now is the time to fight back.

Hollywood has a China problem. If we didn’t know that already, it’s been made starker by the silence of America’s entertainment capital on the latest wave of protests in China.

Last weekend, thousands of Chinese took to the streets — from Ürümqi to Hong Kong to Shanghai to Beijing — demanding freedom and human rights. The catalyst for the latest demonstrations was a devastating fire on November 24 in an apartment building in Ürümqi; at least ten residents, all Uyghurs, were trapped inside and died. Xi Jinping’s draconian zero-Covid lockdowns, which contributed to these deaths, have prompted righteous fury.

Out of that fury, a simple plea has also emerged: “I want to go see a movie.” That might sound trivial to anyone living in a free country, but for those living under a dictatorial regime whose ongoing sinister policies squelch citizens’ already-meager civil liberties, it’s massive.

What’s more benign than sitting in a dark theater, watching play-acting and eating popcorn? For an oppressive regime hell-bent on controlling its citizenry and preventing its population from thinking for themselves, it’s extremely dangerous. Movies inspire peoples’ imaginations to run free, and dictatorships can’t stomach that.