China’s government wants to make it illegal for celebrities to misbehave

Men behaving badly.
Men behaving badly.
Image: Reuters/Siu Chiu
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After a string of high-profile incidents of prostitution and drug use in China’s showbiz world, the government wants to legislate against bad behavior by celebrities.

A new draft law (link in Chinese), announced Aug. 30 during a meeting of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee—the country’s top law-making body—requires that actors, directors, and film industry workers “obey laws and regulations, respect social and public integrity, abide by professional morals, reinforce self-discipline, and establish a good public image.”

The proposed legislation is a result of “high-profile arrests of film celebrities involved in drug abuse and prostitution” in the past few years, the body said.

“What does this mean exactly? Does it mean no more murders or illicit love in movies?” asked one user (link in Chinese, registration required) on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent.

China has made examples of badly behaved celebs in the past. Kung fu star Jackie Chan’s 32-year-old son Jaycee Chan was arrested for drug use in Beijing along with another Taiwanese actor Ke Zhendong, also known as Kai Ko, in 2014. Ke made a confession on state broadcaster (link in Chinese) CCTV where he admitted that he was “sorry for setting the worst example…to young people in society.” Ke took part in an anti-drug campaign in 2012. Jaycee Chan served six months in jail in China and was fined 2000 yuan ($300).

Actor Wang Xuebing, a former anti-drug ambassador, was arrested in March 2015 after acknowledging he had a history of drug use (link in Chinese). Golden Bear award winner Wang Quanan was arrested for prostitution (link in Chinese) in September 2014. That month, China’s censorship watchdog, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), ordered a ban on screenings involving anybody who had engaged in criminal activity (link in Chinese).

On the same day that the latest draft legislation was announced, SAPPRFT also said that all social and entertainment news should promote ”positive energy”—a favorite buzzphrase in China’s government propaganda—and avoid putting “stars, billionaires, or Internet celebrities on pedestals,” the People’s Daily said (link in Chinese). Shows promoting “Western lifestyles” also face being censored.

Last year, SAPPRFT asked all reality TV show programs to promote socialist values and reduce reliance on foreign shows (link in Chinese).