I met Ying Liang in late 2009 at a Chinese restaurant near Keio University. It was quite a coincidence, we were both at the university for separate screening events (he was a guest of a showcase of independent Chinese directors, I was there for the Con-Can Movie Festival Screening of my Grand Prix-winning short, Fleeting Images), and we all ended up at the same restaurant. It was even more coincidental when it turned out that he knew Ming Jin too (and a bunch of other Malaysian director friends of mine whom he met in various film festivals).
Ying Liang had directed a few feature films, like TAKING FATHER HOME 背鸭子的男孩 (2005).
THE OTHER HALF (2006), GOOD CATS (2008), and the Tiger Award-winning short film CONDOLENCES (2010).
He also ran the Chongqing Independent Film and Video Festival. My dad went to the 2010 edition of the festival and ended up meeting Ying Liang as well. The world is very small.
A few days ago, Dad called me from the Jeonju International Film Festival (which Ying Liang was invited as one of the three directors for this year's Jeonju Digital Project, along with Filipino director Raya Martin and Sri Lankan director Vimukti Jayasundara).
"Did you hear what happened to Ying Liang?" Dad asked. "He can't go back to China anymore. It had something to do with the new film he made."
I was a little mortified.
A few days have passed. And finally, on Ying Liang's Facebook status update, he sort of shed some light upon this matter:
It's a so stupid country! I just made a film, maybe it's very bad, very boring, very bullshit, and it's really a film only...
In the past one month, the policemen from Police Department, National Security, National Protection visited my family in Shanghai at least seven times. They used the intimidate words to talk with my parents, such as: "Major Case", "Special Case", "Important Case","Force Action", "Arrest" ... Then they went to Sichuan, visited my wife's family, used the same way to do...Then they went to HK, fault me that my film didn't meet the truth, and violate somebody's emotion (they got my script through non-legal way)... Then they went to South Korea, want to use 10,000,000,000won (about 50,000,000CNY, about 5,000,000Euro) to buy the copyright of this film... I came back in HK the day before, and heard the head of Shanghai Police Department gave an order: once I am in China, they will arrest me.
OMG, I just made a film, it's really a film only...
This is indeed quite horrifying.
Looking at the comments section, Ying Liang responded to some well-wishers.
The title of his film is WHEN NIGHT FALLS 《我还有话要说》 (literal translation: "I still have something to say"), which is possibly a fictionalized (?) account about the case of Yang Jia (a guy who got executed in 2008 for murdering six policemen with a knife in a Shanghai police station after being arrested and beaten for riding an unlicensed bicycle. Mr. Yang became a hero among many Chinese, and was later executed.) and his mother. (who disappeared after being taken to the police station for questioning prior to her son's trial, and, well, reappeared months later in a psychiatric hospital with a different name, another article about Yang Jia's mother can be read here)
It is his contribution to the Jeonju Digital Project.
Ying Liang is now stuck in Hong Kong.
He later posted (on Facebook) a letter to his parents.
My (rough) translation of his letter:
My dear parents,
If you really want to help me, did you record what the police said when they were threatening you? If not, if this happens again, please record them. They are important evidences.
I don't really want to get into a long debate with you. I merely want to point out that, what I learnt when I was a child is that, when facing injustices, be it a personal one or a political one, the first thing that crosses my mind is not my own self-preservation, because those who caused these injustices are destroying our environment, our rights and our future.
This system existed til today: A single line you say or a single film is enough threaten your own safety. Freedom is used merely as a bargaining chip. This system existed because we ourselves contributed and encouraged it.
I wish you (my parents) can uphold what you taught me from before. I wish you will not choose conformity, compromising or persuasive methods to indulge this country's corrupt system, just for the sake of self-preservation, you'll end up causing your son to lose his dignity as a human being and also the loss of opportunity to fight for his rights.
I don't know what will happen next. Hang in there, Ying Liang.
(you can follow Ying Liang on Twitter)