Anti-Porn and Clean the Web 2014 Campaign

by Tienchi Martin-Liao    /  May 7, 2014  / No comments

Nothing new in the East

Ren Hang

Photograph by Ren Hang, who has been classified as a 'pornographer' by Chinese authorities.

The Chinese authority can be crowned World Champion of launching campaigns out of political motives. It has inherited Mao Zedong’s spirit of mass movement that was used to strike the so-called “bull ghost and snake demon” (meaning “evil intellectuals”) in the 50s and 60s. Mao predicted that every six or seven years those evil demons would jump out and disrupt the empire’s peace. Today his descendants follow the doctrine, but mobilize the campaigns even more frequently.

  1. Blind Chess, a column by Tienchi Martin-Liao
  2. During the Cultural Revolution, people were sentenced to death or outright murdered because of one wrong sentence. In China today writers do not lose their lives over their poems or articles; however, they are jailed for years. My friend Liu Xiaobo for example will stay in prison till 2020; even winning the Nobel Peace Prize could not help him. In prison those lucky enough not to be sentenced to hard labor play “blind chess” to kill time AND TO TRAIN THE BRAIN NOT TO RUST. Freedom of expression is still a luxury in China. The firewall is everywhere, yet words can fly above it and so can our thoughts. My column, like the blind chess played by prisoners, is an exercise to keep our brains from rusting and the situation in China from indifference.
  3. Tienchi Martin-Liao
  4. Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

In April the State Internet Information Office, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the Ministry of Public Security decided that, from mid-April to November this year, a nationwide “Cleaning the Web 2014” campaign of “anti-pornography, strike illegal publications” will be launched as a special action.

In the past, “anti-yellow, strike BLACK” was the slogan; yellow means pornography, black means all the dark and mafioso forces which threaten the public and private spheres. Now “black” is replaced by “illegal,” referring to underground political and pornographic publications and online products. Sure enough, days later, a portal on China’s most popular website sina.com was closed because of obscene porn-ebooks. The moral police found 20 pornographic books there along with four dirty video programs.

Sina Corp, the owner of the website, published an online apology for this misstep and promised strict self-control in the future.

For Sina.com the problem is not just the fine (up to 10 times the profit Sina Corp gained from the alleged smut) or the revocation of its online-publishing and audio-video program licenses; the real problem is the damage to its reputation. Now the 230 million registered daily users will know that their favorite website has been punished for indecency. The already “foot-binding” state of press freedom has grown even tighter. This is another “kill the chicken to scare the monkey” strategy and now self-censorship will be practiced more voluntarily than ever.

The first part of the anti-porn campaign has been carried out frequently, though irregularly, in recent years. China, with the largest population in the world, also has the largest sex industry. According to the US State Council’s 2001 Human Rights report on China, there are over 10 million people working in the sex industry in China. In the southern city of Dongghuan alone there are over 100 thousand prostitutes. The February anti-porn operation hit the city’s economy hard. After the cleanup, the city lost its vitality and prosperity. Hotels and entertainment businesses have stagnated.

Still, Beijing is actually the real “porn-capital.” There are tens of thousands of sex workers, all hidden in hair salons, foot-bath houses, massage parlors, club houses, hotels, and inns.

In China, sex is not only a lucrative business, it’s also a part of political life. It’s a symbol of power. The higher a cadre is in the party, the more mistresses he has. Zhou Yongkang, the former member of the Politburo Standing Committee and Secretary of the Central Political and Legislative Committee, who is now under investigation for abuse of power and corruption, is said to have 29 mistresses.

The former railway minister, Liu Zhijun, who’s been accused of the same crime as Zhou and sentenced to death with reprieve, had 18 sex partners, including Russian girls.

It’s not unusual for public servants to invite colleagues to brothels with public money. Bribes from high officials consist not only of money, luxurious limousines, and real estate, but also of women. The new vocabulary for a female sex object, such as “second madam” (ernai), “little three” (xiaosan, or mistress), “missy” (xiaojie), and “little cutie”(xiaomi), are all connected with male officials, who maintain liaisons beside their marriages.

President Xi Jinping has declared a fight against corruption since he’s been in power, and the politicians mentioned above, Zhou, Liu, and some other high ranking officers, have either been dismissed, are under investigation, or in jail. Yet they are only handful of black sheep; there are still thousands more martens in the rotten system. While the new policy has intimidated lots of parasites, it’s also a hard blow to the sex industry. Brothel madams and pimps complain that they’ve lost their good customers—the corrupt officials are truly ideal guests; they want sex and fun, don’t do drugs, and they pay in cash. In the anti-porn campaign, the police have raided the common brothels and arrested the prostitutes and frequenters, but haven’t touched the roots of evil. Those who steal the public’s wealth and keep several concubines are not on the most-wanted list. That’s why so many people are against this kind of hypocritical operation. It cannot prohibit the abnormal sex industry and lift the moral and ethics in the society, as long as the ramshackle system exists. As soon as the action is over, everything is business as usual.

About the Author

Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

View all articles by Tienchi Martin-Liao

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