Still, even if the Oscar ratings shrink, few winners will ever have as big a live audience as they do at that moment, while accepting their trophy. And if they want to make great use of their platform while showing real courage and producing striking television, they should take up an issue that would alienate neither the left nor the right, and speak truth to their industry’s own failings: the striking abuse of the minority Uyghur population by the Chinese government.
If anyone out West needs some tips, here’s what one such speech might look like:
Thank you to the Academy, to my parents, to my agents, to my producers. It was an honor to work on this picture, and I can’t wait to do more great work with everyone in this room.
I’d also like to thank Richard Gere. Richard, you don’t know me, and you’re not here tonight because you’ve been largely banned from the show. Not for vulgarity or coarseness, but because you dared call out China for its shocking abuses of Tibet.
But you were right to criticize the Chinese government then. And I’d be remiss if I did not highlight another atrocity happening right now, as we fete ourselves and launch yet another blockbuster season in China: the oppression of the minority Muslim Uyghur population in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese Communist Party has engaged in what can only be described as ethnic cleansing.
You can see it in the region’s birthrate, which has fallen by almost half among Uyghurs. In some prefectures, the decline has been even more precipitous because of forced sterilization campaigns that include implanting IUDs in women against their will.
You can see it in the campaigns to alter the very foundation of these Muslim strongholds, where mosques and shrines have been destroyed, where minarets have been removed, where cemeteries have been razed.
You can see it in the horrifying practice of family separation, an act we rightfully condemned when it happened within our own borders, yet stand silently about as it happens in Hollywood’s largest foreign market. That Uyghur children are torn from the arms of their parents and reeducated to hate their heritage is abominable.
I, for one, will be silent no longer. Thank you again for this award.
That speech took about 90 seconds for me to read, roughly twice the length of the traditionally afforded 45. But one of the changes that Steven Soderbergh has promised this year is to “give [winners] space. We’ve encouraged them to tell a story, and to say something personal.”
Few stories are more important right now than that of the Uyghur population’s suffering at the hands of the Chinese government. It’s a crime against humanity taking place while the whole world watches — or, rather, turns its head in shame and lets occur, worried about losing access to the valuable Chinese market as retailers H&M and Nike have for criticizing the use of forced labor to pick cotton in Xinjiang.
Hollywood is as susceptible to these pressures as anyone else, possibly more so given the beleaguered state of domestic theatrical exhibition and China’s increasingly important global market share. But the movie business is unsure of how to dance around China’s crimes against humanity, often winding up in hot water even as it tries to placate the Chinese Communist Party. Consider the fate of “Mulan,” which was crafted with the Chinese market in mind yet cratered at that country’s box office after Disney offered thanks to governmental agencies linked to concentration camps in Xinjiang, sparking outrage in the United States and causing embarrassment in Beijing.
What China is doing to its Uyghur population is a story that needs to be told. And telling stories is what Hollywood does best — when they’re not too scared to spin a tale.