Chinese Censors Crack Down on Gays on Television

Same-sex couples are also banned from online programming.
A scene from Chinese Web series 'Addicted.' (Photo: YouTube)
Mar 5, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Alex Reed is an editorial intern at TakePart and a senior at the University of Southern California.

Depictions of same-sex couples, drugs, and witches—all have landed on a laundry list of scenes that can no longer be shown on television in China. That’s according to a new set of government-sanctioned regulations banning content broadcast officials in the Asian nation say is immoral.

The nine-page guide, written by the government-sanctioned TV Production Committee of the China Alliance of Radio, Film and Television and the China Television Drama Production Industry Association, was released in December. However the details of the new censorship rules were only leaked this week after Li Jingsheng, a broadcast regulator for the government, mentioned them during a nationwide TV production conference, according to Gay Times.

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The guidelines prohibit content that depicts “abnormal sexual relationships and behaviors, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.” The document goes on to discourage extramarital affairs, one-night stands, and any excessive on-screen sex. Shows glorifying superstitions—such as witchcraft and reincarnation—and the consumption of drugs and alcohol also fall under what the guidelines call “morally hazardous content.”

While the new rules are not currently enforced by law, Li encouraged those in the television industry to follow the “professional guideline.”

“Television programs should have not only attractive actors, but they should also demonstrate value. They should not only be easy on the eyes, but also be nurturing for the heart. They should not only entertain, but they should also be educational,” Li said at the conference, according to The New York Times’ translation of a report by The Beijing Times.

Though homosexuality was decriminalized in China nearly 20 years ago, prejudice persists, and media representation of LGBT individuals remains sparse. A small victory was achieved last September when regulators allowed the release of Seek McCartney, a Chinese and French film about a secret affair between two men. The film was the country’s first to feature gay lead characters.

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The recent censorship crackdown also impacts online content. The guidelines were issued along with a series of new policies forcing online content to adhere to the same standards as broadcast television. Online content creators are now required to bring in full-time regulators and undergo training from China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

As a result, several online Chinese shows, which have traditionally enjoyed looser restrictions, have been blocked from the Internet. Chief among them was Addicted, a popular drama series about a teenage gay couple.

The increased policing of LGBT-focused content arrives on the heels of a Chinese court decision to hear a case that could grant same-sex couples the right to marry. The outcome of case could drastically shape the country’s attitude toward sexuality and LGBT rights.