In China, religion can also be pornography

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The government says those staying home for COVID lockdowns are watching too much porn. Yet for the CCP, “pornography and underground” also includes independent religion.

by Tan Liwei

Poster promoting the Office of the National Task Force for the Suppression of Pornography and Illegal Activities. From Weibo.

Last month, the Office of the National Task Force for the Suppression of Pornography and Illegal Activities released a memorandum on its planned activities for 2022.

The Office has an interesting history. In 1989, the Office of the National Leading Group for Cleaning and Rectifying Books, Newspapers and Periodicals, ie the Chinese Censorship Office, was established. Already at that time, it was explained that there was a problem with underground pornography, and combating it was a main task of the office. However, the new Central Censorship Authority was created in August 1989, just two months after the events in Tiananmen Square, and as part of tighter control over everything published in China.

In 1998, the slogan “suppress (or ‘sweep away’) pornography and fight illegals” (扫黄打非) was launched, and a special anti-pornography and illegals division of the censorship office was established. It was reorganized into a National Task Force by the CPC Central Committee in 2000. In 2013, the Task Force came under the authority of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, cinema and television. In 2018, it was transferred under the authority of the Central Propaganda Department.

These were not mere administrative readjustments. The fact that the anti-pornography task force came under the authority of the Central Propaganda Department means that the fight against “pornography and illegals” is considered part of domestic propaganda.

The CCP has consistently denounced pornography as part of “spiritual pollution” and imposed sentences of up to life imprisonment on those who post pornographic material. However, this fight was not very effective. According to the polls, 70% of Chinese men aged 18-29 watch pornography. And now the government says these men have been spending even more time watching pornography when they had to stay home due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

Hence stricter rules. As usual in China, a popular and laudable objective, to fight against addiction to pornography which is a real problem, especially among students, is used as a Trojan horse to introduce at the same time forms of control which do not have nothing to do with this problem.

The memorandum includes a long list of publications deemed to be pornography. They include those who “endanger national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”; “harming national honor and interests;” “disrupt social order and disrupt social stability;” “to endanger the social morality or the fine cultural traditions of the nation”. Last but not least, are included “publications promoting xie jiao [religious groups banned as ‘heterodox teachings’] and superstitions. This recalls the fact that, according to Chinese law, religion and representations of sexuality have something in common: both are prohibited for minors. Even infants in their mother’s arms are not allowed to enter a place of worship, and any form of religious education for those under 18 is illegal.

As for “pornography and illegals”, perhaps a list is not even necessary, since we are reminded that “‘illegal publications’ refer to books, newspapers, periodicals, audio-visual products and electronic publications that are not published by accredited publishing units. by the state and are publicly distributed in society.

Basically, anything that is not authorized by the government and the CCP can be banned under “Pornography and Illegals”.

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