HONG KONG (AP) – Public screenings of a slasher film that features Winnie the Pooh were scrapped abruptly in Hong Kong on Tuesday, sparking discussions over increasing censorship in the city.
Film distributor VII Pillars Entertainment announced on Facebook that the release of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey had been cancelled with “great regret” in Hong Kong and neighbouring Macao.
In an e-mail reply to the Associated Press, the distributor said it was notified by cinemas that they could not show the film as scheduled, but it didn’t know why.
The film being pulled in Hong Kong prompted concern on social media over the territory’s shrinking freedoms.
The movie was initially set to be shown in about 30 cinemas in Hong Kong, VII Pillars Entertainment wrote last week.
The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration said it approved the film and arrangements by local cinemas to screen approved films “are the commercial decisions of the cinemas concerned”. It refused to comment on such arrangements.
A screening initially scheduled for Tuesday in one cinema was cancelled due to “technical reasons”, the organiser said on Instagram.
A professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s academy of film Kenny Ng refused to speculate on the reason behind the cancellation, but suggested the mechanism of silencing criticism appeared to be resorting to commercial decisions.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to China’s rule in 1997. In 2021, the government tightened guidelines and authorised censors to ban films believed to have breached the sweeping law.