— China is proposing to ban movie content that it says disturbs social stability and promotes religious fanaticism, the latest attempt by the authoritarian government to tighten control over what people see.
According to a draft law posted on the Cabinet's website on Thursday, films must not harm national honor and interest, incite ethnic hatred, spread "evil cults" or superstition, or propagate obscenity, gambling, drug abuse, violence or terror. A total of 13 types of content are banned in the draft law, but no terms or phrases were defined.
The proposal appears to be part of an overall tightening of cultural industries that are fueling more independent viewpoints, particularly social media and hugely popular microblogs where citizens often vent anger and frustration.
In recent weeks, users of China's Twitter-like sites have blamed the government for the poor quality of rural school buses after a series of accidents and criticized local environmental bureaus for not reporting full air quality data.
China announced last month that it was issuing orders to prohibit news media from reporting information taken from the Internet or mobile phones without firsthand verification, with serious infractions possibly leading to criminal charges.
A media regulator said those rules were needed to restore government prestige and media credibility following a spate of reports based on "false information" — often a euphemism for reports the government would rather suppress.
In October, a major Communist Party meeting asserted the need for strengthening social morality and boosting China's cultural influence abroad — a recognition by the party that it is losing its power to dictate public opinion. A week later, the government said it planned to limit reality TV shows and other light entertainment fare shown on satellite television stations.
Thursday's draft law also bans content that harms national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, discloses state secrets and endangers national security, or jeopardizes social ethics. It does not specify penalties for noncompliance, and it was unclear when the draft — which is open to public consultation — may become law.
The draft as a whole covers a wide range of aspects, including banning movie theaters from showing advertisements after the film's scheduled start time, supporting the development of the film industry in rural areas, and banning people from carrying explosives or radioactive items into cinemas.
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