Olympics: fight against online sex used for broader crackdown
Beijing announces anti-porn drive, but bans Lost in Beijing, a movie about the new poor who are paying the price of the mainland’s “economic miracle.” Online pornography will come under close control but many fear that new policies might simply a license to crush freedom of expression and silence dissent.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Mainland censors are going to exercise greater control over the Internet to bar scenes depicting obscene and pornographic acts in order to protect minors and young people who are too immature and lacking in judgment that they might imitate them, this according to Huang Weiqun, an official with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

“Scenes that blatantly depict sex acts, the process of which are mingled with abnormal and unhealthy thinking on sex” are targeted by the new anti-porno regulations adopted yesterday. Vulgar talk and suggestive language also come under the new rules.

Producers of audio-visual material have three weeks to check their film banks before handing over or destroying the banned material or they will face penalties.

The same rules apply to web pages that might contain language that is not explicitly sexual but just suggestive. Websites that offer downloadable movies have a month to register.

According to estimates by the China Internet Network Information Centre in July last year, the country's total online population reached 162 million in June. Mr Huang said 70 per cent of these were under 30 years whilst 50 per cent were under 25.

Censorship has recently affected important movies. Some “steamy” sex scenes from Taiwanese director Ang Lee's award-winning film Lust, Caution (Leone d'Oro at the last Venice Film Festival) were cut.

Lost in Beijing, which won Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival, was also banned after its theatrical release on 30 November despite the removal of 17 minutes of footage of rape and class conflict. The movie tells the story of two rural migrants who arrive in Beijing searching a better life. After finding work the female character is raped by her boss and falls into a spiral that leads her into prostitution.

Producer Fang Li has been accused of releasing some uncut copies on the Internet and for this reason has been banned from producing for two years.

Under the new rules no movie deemed pornographic can participate in a festival.

The authorities want to do some “moral” house-cleaning ahead of this year’s Olympics.

Greater control over online pornography has however raised concerns that it might simply be a pretext for greater censorship and a crackdown on freedom of expression and dissent.

Press freedom  in China is practically non-existent. Mainland media outlets can only get news items from state-run Xinhua. And any news that might affect the social and economic system and the country’s stability have been banned.

Directives have been released in view of the upcoming Olympics ordering the media to “minimise” any negative stories and “consult” with the appropriate authorities before interviews can be conducted.