Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Locked Out of His Own Country – Short Interview with Ying Liang, Director of When Night Falls

Director Ying Liang, currently threatened with arrest if he returns to mainland China.

As I noted in a "Newsbites" post back in June, director Ying Liang was threatened with arrest if he set foot back in mainland China earlier this year, following the unveiling of his film When Night Falls (Wo hai you hua yao shuo) at South Korea’s Jeonju International Film Festival on April 28. The threat received some press back in May, but little has been reported since.

I wrote about Ying’s case in an article for Crikey last week, and interviewed the director via email about his predicament. He confirmed that the threat of arrest still stands. Ying is currently living and working in Hong Kong. I have reproduced his answers from our online chat below with his kind permission.

I’ve also reproduced a short excerpt from my Crikey article giving some background on the film:

“Ying’s film tells the story of Wang Jingmei, the mother of Yang Jia, a young man executed in November 2008. Yang Jia was allegedly beaten after being wrongfully detained in Shanghai in late 2007 on suspicion of riding a stolen bicycle. After failing to obtain an apology or compensation for the alleged beating, he entered a police station on July 1, 2008—the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party—and stabbed nine unarmed officers. Six subsequently died. Yang was sentenced to death in August 2008 and executed less than a month later. Yang’s mother was forcibly detained in a mental hospital throughout her son’s trial and execution.

When Shanghai authorities learnt of Ying Liang’s film, the director claims his family was approached by police and pressured to encourage Ying not to screen it. The Korean festival was also approached by a figure claiming to represent ‘a Chinese film company,’ who offered to purchase Ying’s movie.

Following the festival’s debut of When Night Falls, Ying’s family in Shanghai was informed that if the director returned to mainland China he would be arrested. Ying is currently in Hong Kong, but says his permit for the Special Administrative Region expires in November. He is unsure what he will do when his visa runs out.”

You can read the full Crikey article here.

A still from Ying Liang's When Night Falls.

Here is the text of my online exchange with Ying Liang last week, conducted between Hong Kong and Melbourne:

Dan Edwards: Are you still currently teaching and living in Hong Kong?
Ying Liang: Yes, I am still in Hong Kong.

As far as you are aware, does the threat from the Shanghai Public Security Bureau to arrest you if you enter mainland China still stand?
It is still valid. And they are waiting for me.

Has your family in China suffered any further harassment since May?
Last month, my wife heard that the police had gone to her university and investigated her personal file. We are not really sure why they did this. And my home phone and computer are being monitored, so it is really hard to contact my family.

How long are you able to remain in Hong Kong for?
Until the end of November.

What do you intend to do when your Hong Kong permit expires?
I don’t have a plan yet. If I return to China, and trade my personal freedom to achieve a small change, it will worth it.

In a statement you posted on Facebook, you mentioned that friends in Hangzhou and Shanghai were approached by security personnel before When Night Falls was even completed. How did security forces know about the film at that point?
I have no idea how they knew about it then.

In the same statement you say the police informed your family that they had read the script of When Night Falls before the film screened in Korea. How did they obtain a copy of the script?
Through people that I know – I sent the script out many times via e-mail to discuss it with other people.

Had you ever experienced problems with the authorities as a result of your filmmaking prior to making When Night Falls?

Small troubles. For example, state security guys have tried to investigate me through my friends. But nothing like the troubles I’ve experienced this time.

Stay tuned for developments in Ying Liang's case.


  1. He confirmed that the threat of arrest still stands. Ying is currently living and working in Hong Kong. I have reproduced his answers from our online chat below with his kind permission. china manufacturing

  2. I can't help but woner what kind of applause and accolade if a cop killer film is made about Christopher Dorner for his slaying of corrupt LAPD police?

    Is there really any justification to kill a police officer? How can exhibit such schadenfreude?

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for your comment. It's a good question, but I think perhaps you have misunderstood the nature of Ying Liang's film.

    Firstly, his film is not about a cop killer - it's about the mother of someone who killed Chinese police. This woman was locked up in a psychiatric ward without having committed any crime whatsoever, simply to prevent her testifying at her son's trial, illustrating the corruption and blatant abuses of power in China's legal system.

    Secondly, Ying's film in no way applauds the police killer's actions. I think he was simply trying to highlight that these slayings took place in response to police cruelly and violence, which is extremely widespread in China (as it is in many countries). Violence, unfortunately, tends to beget violence. That doesn't mean the slaying of police was in any way justified. But it does help us understand why this happened, which is the first step to preventing such occurrences in the future.


    Dan Edwards