- China is clamping down on the portrayal of all kinds of “obscene” behaviours online, according to a report from The Globe and Mail.
- Video platforms must censor tattoos, drinking, smoking, “flirtatious dancing,” and even scenes that use a bed or sofa as a prop.
- The censorship directive, according to The Globe and Mail report, is also targeting online content that promotes groups of people gathering, such as direct-selling networks and proselytizing.
- 29 years on from the Tiananmen Square massacre, The Chinese Communist Party still seems fearful of citizens gathering to protest, so it’s banning entertainment that could encourage dissent to grow.
China is clamping down on the portrayal of all kinds of “obscene” behaviours online, according to a report from The Globe and Mail.
A number of sources told The Globe and Mail that a directive, titled “Management requirements for live service information and content,” is being used to guide censorship decisions at some of China’s most-popular video-streaming sites.
The behaviours in videos being censored include tattoos, gambling, drinking, smoking, “flirtatious” dancing, being shirtless. Scenes that use “a bed or sofa as a prop or background” are also on the no-no list.
Despite President Xi Jingping’s renewed focus on the environment, discussing issues caused by smog or soil pollution is banned. So, too, is attacking political leaders and government policies. There’s even an explicit prohibition on using the names or photographs of political leaders.
The Globe and Mail believes the document was issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which has the power to prevent websites and apps from operating in the country – as it has done with the social-media networks Facebook and Twitter, as well as Google and Skype.
The organisation’s Shanghai branch was responsible for shutting down hotel chain Marriott’s website for a week earlier this year after it failed to describe Taiwan as a province of China, starting a wave of similar complaints on foreign companies.
The document could have been written by a separate organisation, but it is being treated with the same authority as a directive from the CAC.
According to The Globe and Mail report, the directive also targets online content that might encourage large gatherings, such as direct-selling networks or the recruitment of religious believers. This week may have marked 29 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, but China seems more apprehensive than ever about growing communities, out of fear of dissent.
This could go some way in explaining why the Duanzi app was shuttered in April. A strong community of users had coalesced around the popular app, which allowed jokes and memes to easily be shared. The app even had bumper stickers, an unofficial anthem, and gave users the ability to greet one another on busy streets with a secret honking signal.
There were also WeChat group messages and offline meet-ups where fans would chant slogans and take group photos – flash-mob stunts like spelling out words with their cars, the groups were also celebrated for organising charity events, such as donating blood and secondhand goods, and some have even attended each others’ weddings.
The Chinese Communist Party seems particularly unnerved by its citizens’ love for jokes and puns, and its actions indicate they see this form of humour as a threat to social stability and socialist values.
People regularly try to skirt censorship by posting tongue-in-cheek cartoons of Winnie the Pooh, which is said to look like Xi. But in 2017, one man was sentenced to two years in prison for using the satirical nickname “Steamed Bun Xi” for the president in a private WeChat group.
And in March, the media regulator implemented an immediate crackdown on any and all parodies and spoofs.
China has long had a “Great Firewall,” but censorship has soared under Xi.