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China Bans Law-Breaking Actors From Movies and Television

Media Regulatory Agency Says it’s Upholding ‘Socialist Culture and Core Values’

Amid an ongoing government campaign against drugs, prostitution, and other moral vices, a powerful government agency has reportedly issued new regulations banning actors with histories of drug use or prostitution from appearing in movies and television.

According to Chinese Internet portal Netease, on September 29, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) declared that all movie theaters, television broadcasting networks, and online television sites must suspend the broadcast of movies or television shows which feature actors who have engaged in “illegal behavior” such as drugs or prostitution. Citing the role of broadcast media as an “important vessel” for “transmitting socialist culture and core values,” the new regulations claim that the illegal behavior of actors has “corrupted the social atmosphere” and creates a “detrimental influence on the development of many young people.”

Victor Fraile—Getty Images
Hong Kong actors Fiona Sit, left, and Jaycee Chan arrive at the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards in 2009. Chan, son of actor Jackie Chan, was arrested for drug use in a high-profile drug bust last month.

Authorities have detained a string of Chinese celebrities this year as the government has launched multiple campaigns against pornography, corruption, prostitution, and other perceived social ills. Following President Xi Jinping’s injunction in June to “strike hard” against illegal drugs, Chinese authorities have made several high-profile drug busts, including the September 17 arrest of Jaycee Chan (pictured above), the son of Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, one month after the younger Chan was found smoking marijuana in his Beijing apartment. Authorities detained popular star Huang Haibo in May and famed Chinese director Wang Quan’an in September, both under suspicion of having sex with prostitutes. Under pressure from authorities, more than 40 performing arts organizations in Beijing have agreed not to employ actors with a history of drug use.

After the new regulations hit mainstream media on October 8, Chinese netizens reacted swiftly, with some criticizing the ban while others stating that it did not go far enough. Many users on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, decried the ban as discriminatory, and a number of popular comments lamented Huang’s fate, demanding that he be given “another chance.” Others poked fun at the ruling by suggesting other performers SAPPRFT should ban, such as bands who cheat their paid audiences by lip-synching. But many Weibo users also called for a similar bar on performers who have voiced support for Hong Kong or Taiwan independence, such as Taiwanese director Giddens Ko and the popular Taiwanese band May Day.

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SAPPRFT’s sometimes sudden rulings are often unpopular. The agency drew online criticism in April after its unexpected ban of four U.S. shows popular in China, including The Big Bang Theory, with some suspecting that the ban was aimed at boosting the domestic Chinese television industry. In June, SAPPRFT announced that online video sites providing “unauthorized” foreign content would be subject to immediate shut-down, leading to accusations that government regulation was strangling online innovation.