Updated: September 27, 2021 10:00 AM GMT
A screenshot of the teaser of Chinese film 'Moses on the Plain' which has been renamed as 'Fire on the Plain.' (Photo: YouTube)
The director of an upcoming Chinese film has dropped “Moses” from its original title, sparking concerns about the overt influence of communist authorities in eliminating Christian vocabulary from the social and public domain.
The film Moses on the Plain, directed by Zhang Ji and starring Zhou Dongyu and Liu Haoran, is scheduled for release in December. It has been adapted from the novel of the same title by writer Shuang Xuetao.
The story of the film revolves around a police officer investigating a homicide case who discovers that his friend was involved in the murder, leading to a series of predicaments.
The director, however, announced the renaming of the movie as Fire on the Plain just ahead of the Beijing Film Festival being held from Sept. 21-29, reported the Mandarin Service of Radio Free Asia.
While the decision came as a surprise for film buffs, Christian leaders found it shocking.
Chinese Protestant pastor Liu Yi, founder of the Chinese Christian Justice Fellowship, said the name change shows the Chinese authorities are adamant about removing Christian words from the public sphere, which means China is inching toward an extreme form of communism like North Korea.
Moses is not just a name in the Bible, he is also a national hero of the Israelites
“If a Biblical name like Moses can be excluded, I suspect such a move would be extended to churches and religious groups. How could they have Michelangelo's David or Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper? If the Chinese government aims to expand such oppression, China will become a country like extremely closed North Korea or the Cultural Revolution era of Mao Zedong," said Pastor Liu, now based in California.
“Moses is not just a name in the Bible, he is also a national hero of the Israelites. Do the Chinese authorities fear the positive meaning behind this name? For instance, he once led the Israelites against the tyranny of Egyptians and fought for freedom and liberation of his race.”
Director Zhang defended the name change as a logical move.
When asked about the reasons during the opening ceremony of the film festival in Beijing, Zhang reportedly said: “In this movie, we use a lot of fire as an element. I hope that we can use fire to connect different time and space, emotions, and that it can shine into our lives. I hope it can bring everyone brightness and strength.”
In an interview with China’s leading online movie entertainment platform Cat’s Eye Film, actor Liu Haoran said he didn’t seek the finished product of the film, which loosely implied that he was not aware of the change to its title.
The title change sparked discussions on Chinese social media sites. One netizen commented that “Moses is a foreign god who influenced public opinion.”
US-based Christian group International Christian Concern expressed concern about the name change.
Pastor Liu said the move is part of China’s attempts to eliminate religious influence in recent years, adding that since 2019 the government has been pressing for deletion of religious words in Chinese translations of world-famous literary works.
China recognizes the legal entity of five religions — Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. However, for decades, authorities have strictly controlled official religious groups and persecuted those adhering allegiance to unrecognized or unregistered groups.
China’s repressive policies and actions against religious groups including Christians have also triggered condemnation from global watchdogs.
In January, US-based Open Doors published a World Watch List that listed China 17th among 50 countries where Christians face the most severe forms of persecution.
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