Before the latest Hollywood blockbuster movie Men In Black 3 could open, the Chinese government insisted on removing three scenes, totalling 13 minutes of the film.
Beijing’s censors deemed the alien disguised as a Chinese restaurant worker too offensive for the screen.
The first scene features an extraterrestrial cunningly disguised as a Chinese waitress, while in the second a Chinese cashier girl attacks Will Smith’s character Agent J with her elastic alien tongue.
The third deleted scene featured Smith’s secret agent erasing the collective memories of a group of Chinese bystanders.
“This could have been a hint on the use of internet censorship to maintain social stability,” China’s Southern Daily newspaper mused.
This is not the first time that Chinese film-lovers and industry experts have been frustrated by the removal of ‘offensive’ film segments.
Determined to micromanage the country’s image, China’s ruling Communist Party also cut scenes showing a Chinese pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
Big-budget spy thriller Mission: Impossible was ‘adapted’ for Chinese viewers when the censors had some of its dialogue garbled.
“Unless there is a flattering image of Chinese people, you are going to run into a challenge from the State Administration of Film, Television and Radio (SARFT),” the Daily Mail quoted Robert Cain, whose company Pacific Bridge Pictures specialises in Chinese productions, as saying.
“The list of taboos is so long it is very often too difficult to make anything entertaining.
“I had a friend submit a script and the censors asked him to change the name of one of the characters. He could not understand why, so he asked them and they said it was the pet name that Deng Xiaoping (former leader of the Communist Party) used for his granddaughter,” he said.
Though they still exercise high levels of control over imported movies, film experts claim China’s rulers are gradually relaxing their grip.
As recently as two years ago, the censors would simply block ‘offending’ films altogether.