top of page

China: Religion and Dissent Excluded from Live Streaming

A new regulation targets influencers and will also punish jokes about Xi Jinping.

By Zhou Kexin

June 29, 2022

Live streaming on featuring a Feng-Shui-based game. On the right, now adds a notice that they abide by the laws, inspect content every 24 hours, and “do not promote feudal superstitions.” Will it be enough?

Most young Chinese follow live streaming on social networks, and some influencers who function as anchors have tens of millions followers. On June 22, the CCP decided their activities should be regulated too. The State Administration of Radio and Television and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism jointly issued the “Code of Conduct for Online Anchors” (网络主播行为规范).

Anchors should “adhere to the correct political direction,” and avoid what the CCP calls “deformed aesthetics.” They are reminded that their main aim should not be to promote themselves or make money but to “guide their audience” to internalize the “core socialist values.”

As comments by several netizens evidenced, one of the most restrictive provision in the regulation is that to comment in areas “that requires a high level of professionalism (such as medical and health care, finance, law, education), the anchor should obtain the corresponding practicing qualifications and report the practicing qualifications to the live broadcast platform, and the live broadcast platform should qualify the anchor.” What this mean is that to comment on medical issues you should be a doctor and to comment on legal issues you should be a lawyer. This would greatly restrict the ability of anchors to host discussions on “hot” topics. For instance, the authorities could claim that if they are not doctors anchors are not allowed to host a discussion on the Zero COVID policy.

But at any rate they should avoid “hot topics” altogether. The new regulation forbids “hyping up social hot topics and sensitive issues, or deliberately creating ‘hot topics’ for the public opinion; hyping up scandals and bad deeds, spreading low-profile content, and promoting content that violates the core socialist values and public order.” If there is a scandal involving the CCP, anchors are prohibited from hosting discussions of it.

The regulation also provides for the case of dissident artists or performers who have been banned offline but still find opportunities to make their works known online. “Artists who violate the law and violate morality shall not be provided with the opportunity to publicly perform literary and artistic performances or make appearances, so as to prevent them from relocating and making a comeback,” the regulations say.

Growth of live streaming users in China between 2016 and 2020. Source: GMA Digital Marketing and Adverting Agency.

There is a long list of 31 types of contents that are prohibited in live streaming:

“1. Content that violates the basic principles determined by the Constitution and violates national laws and regulations;

2. Content that subverts state power, endangers national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, endangers national security, leaks state secrets, and damages national dignity, honor and interests;

3. Content that weakens, distorts, or denies the leadership of the CCP, the socialist system, and [Deng Xiaoping’s program of] reform and opening up [presumably, this provision targets left-wing ‘Maoist’ dissidents];

4. Content that denigrates the fine cultural traditions of the nation, incites national hatred and discrimination, distorts national history or figures in national history, hurts national feelings, undermines national unity, or violates national customs and habits;

5. Violating the national religious policy [which forbids any religious broadcasting with few limited exceptions for the five authorized religions], conducting religious activities in non-religious places, and promoting religious extremism, xie jiao, etc.;

6. Spoofing, slandering, distorting or displaying Chinese excellent traditional culture, revolutionary culture and advanced socialist culture in an inappropriate way;

7. Spoofing, distorting, vilifying, blaspheming, denying the deeds and spirits of heroes, martyrs and exemplary figures;

8. Using deep-fake technologies such as face changing to forge or tamper with Party and state leaders, heroes and martyrs, party history, Chinese history, etc. [this has a clear and not-so-implicit reference to humorous shows where the face of Xi Jinping is changed into Winnie the Pooh or inserted in famous paintings];

9. Damage the public image of the People’s Liberation Army, the police, the judiciary, and other official occupations and groups;

10. Advocating discrimination based on race, nationality, region, gender, occupation, physical or mental disability, and so on;

11. Promoting obscenity, gambling, drug use, exaggerating violence, bloodshed, terror, pyramid schemes, fraud, instigating crimes or teaching criminal methods, exposing investigative methods, displaying guns, and teaching about knives;

12. Fabricating and deliberately spreading false terrorist information, false dangers, epidemics, disasters, and police situations, disrupting social security and public order, and undermining social stability;

13. Excessive horror, physical pain, mental hysteria, pictures, lines, music and sound effects that cause strong sensory and mental stimulation and can cause physical and mental discomfort;

14. Insulting, slandering others or spreading their privacy, infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of others;

15. Unauthorized use of copyrighted works of others;

16. [as mentioned earlier,] Hyping up social hot topics and sensitive issues or deliberately creating ‘hot topics’ for the public opinion;

17. Hyping up scandals, scandals, and bad deeds, spreading low-profile content, and promoting content that violates the core socialist values and public order and good customs;

18. Clothing and makeup, language behavior, and live broadcast room scenery, etc. show content that is sexually suggestive and sexually provocative;

19. Introducing or displaying suicide, self-mutilation, bloody violence, high-risk actions and other dangerous behaviors that are easy to imitate by minors, and showing content that induces minors’ bad habits such as smoking and alcoholism;

20. Content that uses minors or minor characters to conduct non-advertising commercial promotions, performances or as gimmicks to obtain commercial or illegitimate benefits, and promote wrong values or outlooks on life and morality;

21. Promoting feudal superstitions, unauthorized cultural customs and ideas, violating scientific common sense, and so on;

22. Destroying the ecological environment, displaying cruelty to animals, killing and eating animals under state protection, and so on;

23. Excessive waste of food, displaying fake eating, vomiting, overeating, etc., or other content that is likely to lead to poor dietary consumption and food waste demonstration;

24. Guiding users to interact in a vulgar manner, organizing and inciting fans to slander each other, step on and provoke war, spreading rumors and attack, and implementing cyber violence;

25. Marketing fake and shoddy goods, infringing intellectual property rights, or not meeting the requirements for personal and property safety, falsifying or tampering with data traffic such as transactions, attention, page views, and likes;

26. Exaggerated propaganda to mislead consumers, deceive consumers through false promises, use of absolute terms, live broadcast sales of franchised and monopoly items without permission, etc. in violation of relevant laws and regulations on advertising;

27. Spreading false and harassing advertisements through ‘barrage,’ live broadcast room name, announcement, voice, etc.;

28. By means of organized hype, persuading audiences to buy ‘gifts,’ publicizing ‘gift lotteries’ and other means, implying, tempting and encouraging users to send large sums of money, luring underage users to sending money as ‘gifts.’

29. Filming or broadcasting in places involving national security and public safety, affecting the normal production and living order of the society, affecting the normal life of others, violating the privacy of others, and other places prohibited by laws and regulations;

30. Displaying or hyping up a large number of luxury goods, jewelry, banknotes and other assets, displaying uncontrolled extravagant life, and belittling low-income groups to show off their wealth;

31. Acts prohibited by laws and regulations and other acts that have a negative impact on online performances and online audio-visual ecology.”

Bitter Winter readers would be particularly interested in the prohibition of shows and discussions about unauthorized religion, xie jiao, and “feudal superstitions” (which would allow for a cracking down on the popular Feng Shui and I Ching shows).

Anchors who would violate the regulation once would be placed on a “warning list.” At the second violation, they would go into a “blacklist,” meaning their shows will be banned and they were not allowed to work as anchors again. For more serious, or repeated, breaches of the regulation, there will be arrest, criminal prosecution, and jail terms. Xi Jinping’s attempt to control all niches of the Internet continues.


bottom of page