HONG KONG: The screening of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a British slasher film due to be released in Hong Kong this week, has been cancelled, its distributor said on Tuesday (Mar 21), without giving a reason for pulling it.
VII Pillars Entertainment said on its Facebook page that it was with "great regret" that the scheduled release of the movie on Mar 23 had been cancelled. It did not give further details.
Chinese censors have in the past targeted the film’s main character, originally conceptualised by English author AA Milne, due to memes that compare the bumbling bear to President Xi Jinping.
Milne’s 1926 book, Winnie-the-Pooh, with illustrations by EH Shepard, became public domain on Jan 1 when the copyright expired.
The comparisons began in 2013 when Xi visited the United States and met his then counterpart Barack Obama and some online commentators seized on their likeness to Pooh and Tigger.
Some people have used the image of Pooh to signal dissent.
The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA) told Reuters that it has issued a certificate of approval to the applicant.
"The arrangements of cinemas in Hong Kong on the screening of individual films with certificates of approval in their premises are the commercial decisions of the cinemas concerned, and OFNAA would not comment on such arrangements," a spokesperson said.
A ticket-booking link on its Facebook page brought up a message saying ticketing was temporarily unavailable.
Moviematic, which had organised a screening of the film for Tuesday evening, reported the cancellation on its social media page earlier in the day and cited technical reasons for the cancellation.
A new censorship law in the former British colony came into effect in 2021. Some films have been prevented from being shown in the Chinese special administrative region.
The city's censorship law bars films that "endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security".
Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 after the city was rocked by anti-government protests. The law sets out punishment for anything deemed subversion, secession, colluding with foreign forces and terrorism.
Two films were dropped from Hong Kong's international film festival last year after failing to get approval from authorities.
The cancellation comes as Hong Kong hosts the Art Basel contemporary art fair with authorities keen to promote the city as a vibrant cultural hub.