Top Ten Sex-Related Incidents In China

(China Economic Net via Xinhua)

1.  Sexy Photo Gate

Incident: Sexy Photo Gate shook up the entertainment industry in early 2008, and is associated with "indecent photos," "nude photos," "obscene photos," "pornographic photos" and other terms.  This incident involved many photos and it swept in many female celebrities.  The very explicit photos were widely circulated for a long period of time.  Any of the elements could have been a social incident by itself.  The affair came to an end when the male lead player Edison Chen made a public apology and officially retired from the entertainment industry in Hong Kong.  But the ripples can still be seen today.  For example, it was reported in November that Edison Chen was rated by the top American entertainment television channel as the 15th sexiest man in the world.  Meanwhile, the role of Gillian Chung in the big Lunar New Year movie <Mei Lanfang> was completely eliminated.

Comment: This incident is firstly a typical illegal and violent Internet incident involving pornography.  The privacy of the celebrities was seriously intruded upon.  Their rights -- including the right to privacy and the freedom to make their own sexual choices -- were violated.  The created a bad impact on society even as the the efficiency of law enforcement was also challenged.  In this large-scale peeping-Tom incident, the conflict between the intolerant social attitudes towards morality and the individual freedom to make personal decisions was highlighted, especially with respect to the pressure and restrictions on female sexual behavior.  The incident also raised the question of media responsibility.  Finally, this is also a case of sexual discrimination, because the artistes were treated differently based upon their gender and this showed the sexual power politics behind the moral standards of society today.

2. <Lust, Caution> Controversy and Ban

Incident: At the end of 2007, the movie <Lust, Caution> was enjoying its popularity.  But when Sexy Photo Gate occurred in early 2008, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television ordered a ban on <Lust, Caution> and caused a big debate among the culturati.  In late 2007, the <Order to ban the production and exhibition of erotic films> was issued.  In early January, the <Bulletin from the SARFT on the irregularity of the movie <Lost in Beijing>> was issued.  Thus <Lost in Beijing> became the first "erotic movie" to get into trouble.  In early March, it was said that the female lead actress Tang Wei of <Lust, Caution> was banned on account of full nudity in that.  SARFT then issued <Bulletin from the SARFT on the inspection standards for movies> in which the following erotic contents are banned: "Vulgar, cheap, obscene and erotic contents such as stories involving misogyny, rape, prostitution, sexual intercourse, sexual perversion, homosexuality, masturbation and so on, the exhibition of male and female sexual organs and other private parts and the use of filthy and vulgar script language, songs, background music, sound effects and so on."

Comment: This incident exposed the flaws of the current cultural management model.  <The Regulations for Film Administration> requires a pre-censorship system and administrative sanctions from a professional department after the fact.  These two systems are sometimes in conflict with each other, and the question of responsibility became the focus of the public debate.  There were two high points in that debate: the culturati debated about the possibility of a film classification rating system as well as about the standards for controlling film contents (such as whether the banned erotic content was acceptable, and whether a system that bans pornography but not violence is proper).  The legalists denounced the banning of Tang Wei, because they thought it was an abuse of authority and a violation of individual rights through the imposition of public policies.  The public generally stood on the side of Tang Wei because it was obviously sexual discrimination.  The controversy over <Lust, Caution> also brought up the issue of media responsibility under the influence of intolerant social moral standards., because the associated media reports seemed to hype up the love and sex aspects of Tang Wei.  As such, it was giving sex itself a bad name once again.

3. "Chastity Class" Incident

Incident: On April 11, Zhejiang University began to offer "chastity classes" to encourage university students to stay chaste before marriage.  This incident triggered vigorous debates within the academic world and society at large.  The incident highlighted the clash between the notions of "sex education based upon chastity" and "safe sex."  The point of contention was which one was more beneficial to young people.

Comment: Safe sex does not oppose "chastity."  It only opposes the educational concept of suppressing sex through chastity, and it advocates the provision of more diversified information on sex to young people to make their own decisions.  The debate around this incident was useful to promoting a more open and enlightened sex education in China.  "Premarital chastity sex education" is another instance of male-dominated hegemony wearing the coat of morality on the outsdie.  We advocated that sexual politics should have views on sex, sexual behavior, marriage and family life in a way that are more conducive to building a harmonious society while allowing individuals to exercise their sexual rights.

4. The Sanya Nude Beach incident and the debate over nudism

Incident: In July, there was a media report about a nude beach in Sanya.  Sexoligist Fang Gang published a blog post to propose that public nude beaches be established, and the resulting media reports drew public debate.  The supporters do so to defend the rights of a minority, while the opponents called this a deterioration of "good public order."

Comment: During the debate, the ideals of nudism received exposure and helped to eliminate the misconception about nudity as well as to de-eroticize the practice.  More importantly, the message that the rights of minority groups must be defended got through, and will help the public to become more tolerant of the Other.  A progressive society is one which should have more diversified lifestyles, and those groups that do not hurt the public interests should be able to function freely.

5. The First "Sexual Harassment Case" in China

Incident: In July, an eye-catching news report titled <First Sexual Harassment Criminal Case in China> circulated on the Internet and attracted much social attention.  This caused the issue of "sexual harassment" which had been fashionable several years ago but fell into oblivion to become a hot topic once more.  According to the news report, a Chengdu male manager made a proposition to a newly hired female employee and was rebuffed.  So he used force to embrace and kiss the female.  The man was later found guilty in court of molestation and sentenced to 5 months of detention.  This was labeled by the media as the first "sexual harassment case" after the <People's Republic of China Laws To Protect Women's Rights> came into effect.

Comment: This is a typical case of mis-reporting, because the debate never touched the real point.  The amended <People's Republic of China Laws To Protect Women's Rights> did cover "sexual harassment."  However, article 58 stated clearly that sexual harassment is a civil case or a matter of public disorder.  This particular case was prosecuted for "molestation" which had always been in the law books.  So this case has nothing to do with "sexual harassment" or the new laws.  A straightforward molestation case was hyped into the "first sexual harassment case in China."  This showed the abnormal tendency for people to want to be the "first" in everything.  At the same time, it also showed the attention that people pay to the issue of sexual harassment in real life.

6. Nanyang netizen downloads pornographic video and is fined by the police.

Incident: Nanyang city citizen Ren Chaoqi downloaded a pornographic video clip from the Internet and the police imposed a fine on him.  Ren Chaoqi was incensed and asked for a judicial review.  Netizens and police officers debated on the Internet whether Ren Chaoqi committed a crime, and the case drew media attention.  Beijing lawyers offered legal assistance.  The police rescinded the fine and changed the penalty to educational criticism.

Comment: Although the dust seems to have settled in this case, the associated problems have not completely solved.  The folks who supported the police fine cited the "Administrative regulations for protecting the security of computer information network and the Internet>, where as the opponents said that this was an invasion of private space by public authorities.  Whether the citizens' right to obtain erotic products is a protected right to information and whether certain laws need to amended remain to be resolved in the future.

7. Women commit suicide after marriage failures

Incident: In October, Beijing Sports Weekly female editor Li Ying killed herself by jumping into the river.  Shortly afterwards, Guizhou television host Yu Jing also committed suicide.  Both women reportedly killed themselves as a result of emotional problems with their husbands.

Comment: In China today, the traditional model of marriage and emotional relationship is being challenged, and women are more likely to become the victims of marital crises.  These incidents allows us see the inferior position of women in a patriarchic society.  While women are economically independent, their independence of characters or emotions is not yet evident whereas their reliance on men and marriage is more conspicuous.  When these women chose to commit suicide after their marriages were threatened, it showed that they still treated love and marriage as the highest values of their lives.  Society has to be provide these women with more psychological support and concern.  At the same time, women need to place more emphasis on their self-worth as the basis of their happiness as opposed to marriage with men.  We hope that these incidents will help us reflect on the values around marriage in society today.

8. China Political and Law University professor stabbed to death by student, reportedly connected to some love affair

Incident: On the evening of October 28, China Political and Law University professor Cheng Chunming was stabbed to death by a male student.  It was rumored that Cheng Chunming was romantically involved with the girlfriend of this male student who murdered him.  This rumor is unconfirmed, but it nevertheless triggered a public debate over teacher-student romance.

Comment: It is not clear whether there was a teacher-student romance in this case.  Besides, a teacher-student romance does not justify violence.  But this incident triggered social attention and reflection on teacher-student romance.  Such relationships have been deplored in the past because of the unequal power relationship.  In some countries, the Ministry of Education bans teacher-student romances.  But other people suggest that all social relations involve some kind of power relationship, and power does not need to figure in a teacher-student romance.  Besides, university students should have the right to choose and decide on their romantic objects, and so teacher-student romance should be allowed.  This incident also makes us think about why sex should be linked to male dignity to the point that the male student killed the teacher.  The regular education system in China should consider including more education about the marriage.

9.  Senior Shenzhen government official suspected of molesting a young girl

Incident: In October, Shenzhen Marine Affairs Bureau party secretary and deputy director Lin Jiaxiang was suspected of molesting an 11-year-old girl in a restaurant.  Faced with the questioning by the parents, Lin used his power to make threats.  He was very arrogant and overbearing.  He openly acknowledged that he "did it" and he shoved the father of the girl in the chest with his hands.  This incident and the associated video was exposed by the media and caused bad reverberations in society.  People were outraged.  The Shenzhen police investigated the case and concluded that Lin's actions did not constitute molestation.  The parents of the girl rejected the conclusion by the police, and the public also have their doubts.

Comment: Compared to the Chengdu molestation case in July, this Shenzhen case of suspected molestation left the public very disappointed and angry.  In this case, Lin Jiaxiang placed his hand on the shoulders and neck of the girl from behind.  The "sex" element is very clear.  Although his action is not so serious as to become criminal molestation of a child, it is at least a case that should be handled administratively.  The police conclusion was absurd because on one hand, they thought that Lin Jiaxiang acted improperly after having a few drinks too many, but on the other hand they believed that his actions against the girl was to "express friendliness and gratitude."

This incident reflects the conflict between the pervasiveness of the lust of power and the lack of gender awareness.  It also reflects the serious imbalance between the consciousness of political power and the legal rights of the people (including sexual rights).  This incident showed that the stratification of the judicial process: government officials use their public powers, social positions and money to commit improper acts.  As a result, people can see the "two-faced" and "flexible" nature of the law.  In this case, the law did not punish the wrongdoer and it did not protect the child.  Furthermore, we observed the bureaucratic bearing of certain Chinese government officials who thought that they could solve everything with money or power.  These government officials are corrupt not just in economic terms, but it also involves their personal lives and even the overbearing way in which they solve their problems.

10. <Beijing Implements <Law To Protect Women's Rights>>  Amendment draft begins to consult public opinion.

Incident: In December, the <Beijing Implements <Law To Protect Women's Rights>>  amendment draft begins to consult public opinion.  Certain regulations drew special attention: If a female worker is sexually harassed, the unit will be held liable for compensation if it has no preventative or curbing procedures in place; family violence is to be included under a public security administrative framework and perpetrators face administrative penalties; the retirement age limits on senior female cadres and intellectuals will be raised; etc.

Comment: The difficulty in obtaining evidence of sexual harassment and family violence, and the unequal retirement ages for men and women have always been in need of change.  This draft laws will help to implement the <Law To Protect Women's Rights> and promote gender equality in society.  But the draft laws still include parts that treat women differentially, such as only extending the retirement age limits for senior female cadres and intellectuals but not for other women.