The Chinese government has apparently lifted its longtime ban on IMDb, making the encyclopedic movie website available to users in both Chinese- and English-language versions. As the AFP reports, the restrictions were unexpectedly lifted on Wednesday, though the reasoning behind the change remains unclear.
IMDb was first blocked in 2010, ostensibly because of a documentary on Tibet that was prominently displayed on its homepage. The move was met with consternation from many Chinese cinephiles, though it was hardly surprising, considering Beijing's strict censorship of politically "sensitive" online media.
A sign of things to come?
As the South China Morning Post reports, today's sudden lift has been received with pleasant surprise, with one Sina Weibo user writing, "Thank you, China’s new leaders, this is wonderful." The Chinese regime hasn't offered an explanation for the move, though it coincides with annual legislative meetings held by the National People's Congress and the People’s Political Consultative Conference.
The change also comes at a time of unprecedented growth for the Chinese movie industry, spurred in part by recent decisions to relax restrictions on foreign films. According to CNN, China currently has about 12,000 movie theaters, and is adding to that total at a rate of about eight to ten every day. Hollywood studios have also begun tailoring their projects to the largely untapped Chinese market, in response to the government's decision to increase its quota for foreign-produced movies.
It's unclear whether economic motivations were behind the decision to unblock IMDb — a site used as much for industry insight as it is for movie trivia — or whether the government will continue to block access to certain titles it finds objectionable. It's also difficult to gauge whether this week's move is a harbinger of future relaxations. The government raised hopes among civil libertarians in December, when it allowed V for Vendetta to air on national television, but struck a notably more authoritarian tone in February, when it announced plans to extend pre-broadcast censorship to TV documentaries.