China independent film festival shut by authorities

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese independent film festival was closed by authorities on its opening day, organisers said Saturday, the latest sign that free expression is being increasingly targeted in the tightly-controlled country.

Police prevented film industry workers and the audience from attending the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, organiser Wang Shu told AFP.

"We were forced to close, and it was really bad," said Mr Wang, from the Li Xianting Film Fund, who were behind the event. "It's so sad being born in a country like this."

The festival has regularly been targeted by authorities, who disrupted its opening day last year before organisers continued the event in defiance.

Heavy security also turned up in 2012, when state media reported that the event was interrupted by a power cut.

Sources told AFP that authorities had put heavy pressure on organisers to cancel this year's event in the days leading up to it.

AFP was also told that the films that were planned to be shown at the festival were not "sensitive" in terms of being anti-Government.

Local police told AFP Saturday that they were not aware of the festival.

Chinese authorities keep a tight grip on information, with the media controlled by the government and online social networks subject to heavy censorship.

Hundreds of internet bloggers and journalists have since last year been rounded up in a Government-backed campaign against "Internet rumours".

The clampdown appears to be part of a concerted effort by China's ruling Communist party, which maintains an iron grip on power, to rein in criticism.

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