Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chai Ling Sues "Gate of Heavenly Peace" Producer

This does not appear to be a most recent development but was made public only this month. Chai Ling, the former leader of the 1989 student movement, and her husband are suing the producers of the documentary Gate of Heavenly Peace for deformation and trademark infringement. China Beat carried a lengthy interview with Geremie R. Barme on the details of the case.

On the web site for the documentary itself, there are new pages spelling out an appeal on the ground of freedom of speech on this issue. The appeal takes the form of an open letter and is cosigned by the producers as well as more than a hundred supporting signatories, most of them are faculty members specializing in China affairs. The author is calling for more signatures of support.

Mr. Barme believes the lawsuit, which started a couple of years ago, is an attempt to silence the documentary and its web site, which contains material which could be viewed as negative to Chai Ling's reputation. He indicates that the deformation suit has already been thrown out of the court but the trademark infringement suit was allowed to continue. Under the pressure of mounting legal fees, the non-profit organization behind the documentary and the web site might be forced to close.

The documentary Gate of Heavenly Peace has caused great controversy since its release in 1995. Most of the dispute centered on its highlighted use of Chai Ling's videotaped "Last Word" speech in which she indicated that she was "hoping for bloodshed" ("期待流血") while she was planning to survive herself. There have been different accounts on the circumstances of the taping as the recorder Phillip Cunningham and Chai Ling's ex-husband and fellow student leader Feng Congde each provided conflicting background information.

Chai Ling's videotape has also been extensively described in my own book, Standoff at Tiananmen.

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