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Saturday, 19 August, 2000, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Chinese cinema mobilised against corruption
A Chinese journalist walks past a mock Chinese criminal law trial court at a corruption and economic crime exhibition
A mock Chinese trial in an exhibition on corruption
By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

The Chinese authorities have ordered officials at all levels to go to the cinema - to see a new movie depicting the battle of an honest mayor against corruption in the communist party.

The release of the film follows the sentencing to death of a top official this month on corruption charges.

It also forms part of a nationwide campaign against corruption which also sees the opening of a new exhibition in Beijing this weekend.

Most Chinese cinema goers have spent their summer queuing to see Hollywood movies like Gladiator or Mission Impossible Two.

An improving blockbluster

But state media say the latest offering from the Shanghai film studio could yet outdo them all at the box office.

A foreign journalist, standing next to a photo of former chairman of the National Peoples Congress (NPC) Cheng Kejie - the highest ranking Chinese official to be sentenced to death for graft
Photo of top official sentenced to death for corruption
"Life and Death Choice" depicts the fight of a city mayor against corrupt officials, including his own wife and one of his best friends.

Ticket sales for the 160-minute epic have been boosted by the fact that the communist party has ordered officials at all levels, particularly local leaders, to go and see it.

The release of the movie comes amid widening alarm at the spread of official corruption, highlighted by the recent death sentence handed down to a vice chairman of China's parliament, and the execution of a deputy provincial governor.

Grounds for hope?

In Beijing, where the former mayor is currently serving a 16-year jail term for corruption, the film is reported to have received spontaneous applause during a preview screening.

Among the audience was the city's current Communist Party secretary, whose wife recently appeared on Hong Kong television to dispel speculation that she too was under investigation for corruption.

State media quoted viewers as saying the film gave them hope that the party was now serious about tackling the problem; and the country's biggest exhibition on economic crimes has just opened in Beijing.

But with a number of top leaders from the southern city of Xiamen expected to go on trial soon in a multi-billion dollar smuggling scandal, the party may still find real life less appealing than fiction.

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See also:

09 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese corruption partner gets life
20 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China expels 'corrupt' official
21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Three Gorges corruption scandal
21 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
China uncovers corruption rackets
08 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Top Chinese official executed
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