New York (CNN Business)One of this year’s Oscar nominees, “Do Not Split,” is a documentary about the 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests. But residents of Hong Kong who participated in — or were affected by — the movement cannot watch the awards ceremony this year.
That’s because Hong Kong’s leading broadcaster, Television Broadcasts Limited (TBL), is not airing the Academy Awards for the first time in more than 50 years. A TBL spokesperson told CNN last month that it was “purely a commercial decision.” But that decision comes in the same year as “Do Not Split” and Chloe Zhao, the Beijing-born film maker who wrote and directed the Best Picture-nominated drama “Nomadland,” both faced criticism in mainland China.
Speaking with CNN’s John Avlon on “Reliable Sources” Sunday, “Do Not Split” director and co-producer Anders Hammer said his team expected the Chinese government to react to the documentary, but not in this way.
“It’s basically a movie about a big group of mostly young people standing up against Beijing,” Hammer said. “Beijing is known to react very strongly if they feel that their main political aims are creating resistance. In our documentary, we are portraying these protesters, so it was no surprise that Beijing reacted, but we didn’t know that it would be in this form of censorship which affects the whole Oscars.”
Hammer said “basic democratic rights were disappearing very fast from the city” when his documentary was filmed and that the crackdown has continued. Avlon noted 96 journalists were arrested and held behind bars in China in 2019 and 2020, citing data from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“I hope the world will care because it’s really dark times in Hong Kong,” Hammer said. “I’m frightened by how fast the whole city has changed and how fast it’s actually possible to just remove all these political freedoms.”
The Academy did not respond to a request for comment.