Ang Lee's Lust, Caution has had several of its most explicit scenes removed by the Chinese censors.
Increasingly affluent Chinese movie-goers are however no longer content to accept their government's views on morality. For weeks now, the ranks of Chinese visitors to Hong Kong have swelled with a brand-new category of film-loving tourists.
Mainland movie fans are flocking in their thousands to the former British colony to see the full, uncut version of the Taiwan-born director's Lust, Caution.
The phenomenon of so many people voting, as it were, with their feet has highlighted the public's rapidly changing attitudes toward the long unquestioned practice of government censorship of the arts, and prompted debate about the way films are
regulated in China.
Travellers have made their way to Hong Kong to see movies before, of course, but always in much smaller numbers. Critics and commentators attribute the interest in Lee's movie to a variety of factors, from word of mouth about risque sexual
content stripped from the censored version, to a sensitive political subtext rarely seen in mainland cinema, to the fame of the Academy Award-winning director.
At least one Chinese movie fan has tried to sue the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, which regulates the industry, for deleting some of the film's content. The director, Lee, has said the censored material was regarded as
politically unacceptable in Beijing because it reinforced the notion of sympathy between a young Chinese woman and a collaborator with the Japanese occupiers.
Many in the Chinese film industry support the idea of introducing a ratings system like those used in Britain and the United States, which advocates say would lessen the need for outright censorship. The state film administration, however, has so
Two months after being banned in China as lewd and unpatriotic following her critically acclaimed role in Lust, Caution , Tang Wei has yet to work again.
Activists and people in the film industry are now beginning to take up her cause on commercial, artistic and legal grounds.
Lust, Caution was made chiefly in Shanghai by Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee, and applauded by many Asian critics as a masterpiece. But China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) insisted that seven
minutes - essentially, a sex scene with Tang and the male lead, played by Hong Kong actor Tony Leung - be removed.
The film has nevertheless been a massive hit since its theatre release in China. Thousands of mainland Chinese travelled to Hong Kong to watch the uncut version, helping make it the most popular Chinese language film of the past year.
But during the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, a veteran Communist Party cadre viewed the film on DVD and was disgusted by what he saw as its glorification of traitors and insult to patriot" , the phrase he is said
to have used when complaining to SARFT. He was angry that SARFT allowed the film to be shown at all, even with the requested cuts. He was disgusted that Tang's character, a member of a resistance group during the Japanese occupation, warns and
ultimately saves a Japanese collaborator from execution.
As a result, several SARFT staff lost their jobs. And after the rap over its knuckles, SARFT hastened to issue a statement reasserting censorship guidelines , warning all film and broadcasting bodies that it was renewing its ban on
products that show promiscuous acts, rape, prostitution, sexual intercourse, sexual perversity, masturbation and male-female sexual organs and other private parts . SARFT reassured the powerful official by issuing an internal instruction
to China's television stations and print media - which are all ultimately owned by the Government or Communist Party - to drop Tang's advertisements for a cosmetics company.
Tang'sHong Kong-based agent tells The Australian that she is not answering questions about the issue. She appears to be hoping the storm will blow over.
But Zhao Guo-jun, director of China Law Watch Centre, a legal affairs non-government organisation based in Beijing, says: We are pursuing this case because it highlights what we see as a cultural blockade, which restricts artistic creativity
and breaches workers' rights.
It is a characteristic case, he says, because there is no legal, public document, no formal procedure or hearing. That leaves the victim with no chance to make a formal complaint, or get legal help.
Scenes involving Tang Wei hit the cutting room floor after objections that explicit nude sex scenes in the 2007 Ang Lee spy thriller Lust, Caution had rendered her unsuitable for such a sensitive role, according to leaks sourced to
the film's crew.
The casting of Miss Tang as Tao Yi , the young revolutionary who Mao fell in love with in the late 1910s, was seen as a signal of her political rehabilitation when it was announced earlier this year.
The role effectively ended a three-year year exile for the Hong Kong-based actress who was banned by state censors from the China's TV screens and billboards in March 2008 in order to guard public morals after clips of the sex scenes emerged on
However China's film gossip bulletin boards have been buzzing all week to the news that Miss Tang, 32, had been cut from The Founding of a Party after renewed political objections from Red families that guard the legacy of the
former Communist leader.