Tag Archives: Li Yinhe

Abstinence Education and Christian Fundamentalism in China

I was disturbed last week to come across this story:

In Yunnan schools this year, teachers are being trained with a sex education curriculum created by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. The agreement with the Yunnan ministry of education is a milestone for Focus on the Family, which has struggled for four years to make inroads on abstinence in China.

It is also the result of a narrow confluence of interests: Evangelical Christian groups want an entree into China. And Chinese authorities, despite the country’s official atheism, want help with controlling population growth and managing the society’s rapidly shifting values.

You might think that sex education in China needs all the help it can get — and you’re almost right. This, however, is a firm step in the wrong direction.

First of all, there’s significant evidence that abstinence education doesn’t work. Kids who are taught abstinence are just as likely to have premarital sex as everyone else. And, of course, since they haven’t been taught about sexual health or how to properly use condoms and other forms of protection, when they do have sex, it’s more likely to end badly.

Moreover, Focus on the Family is a religious group, and their form of sex education is likely to also include some homophobia if their founder, James Dobson, is any indication. In Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, he wrote:

“[The homosexual] agenda includes teaching pro-homosexual [sic] concepts in the public schools, redefining the family to represent “any circle of people who love each other,” approval of homosexual adoption, legitimizing same-sex marriage, and securing special rights for those who identify themselves as gay. Those ideas must be opposed, even though to do so is to expose oneself to the charge of being “homophobic.”

He has also suggested that gays and lesbians are intentionally trying to destroy marriage, and that same-sex families with children are unstable. He also opposes civil unions. And luckily for those studying the “science” that’s included in Focus on the Family’s sex ed curriculum, the group has also been charged with intentionally misrepresenting scientific data for its own purposes:

Judith Stacey, a sociologist at New York University, said her work was manipulated in an attempt to show gays and lesbians do not make good parents.

“This is a direct misrepresentation of the research,” she said.

(And here’s some more evidence of that.)

So why the hell is China letting these guys anywhere near their official sex ed curriculum? I have no idea, but it’s a terrible plan. Sex ed should be based in science — especially in an atheist country — and theirs is not, period. It’s based in an extremely narrow interpretation of a several-thousand-year-old book.

Li Yinhe, China’s foremost sexologist, agrees with me. In a recent blog post, she wrote:

In my point of view, this is a huge step backward. As the Chinese Minstry of Education and people in sex ed circles is pulling together and pushing forward an appropriate sex ed curricula, preparing to teach children about sex using scientific knowledge and promoting the correct attitude about sex, [Yunnan officials and Focus on the Family] are suddenly promoting an anti-sex, ascetic abstinence program. This will become a milestone for China’s step backward in terms of sexual values and sex education. It’s a huge victory for American sexual conservatives, and a huge loss for people everywhere who are open-minded about sex.

Amen. Not to mention that letting these guys in (and giving them official government acceptance, what were you thinking, Yunnan?) paves the way for other Christian fundamentalists, like this asshole and these bigger assholes.

Of course, people are free to do (and believe) whatever they want when it comes to sex. However, in China as everywhere, children should be taught about their bodies and their options based on the latest science, not based on the way some people interpret one book that’s meaningful for one particular religion. Especially given that probably 99% of the kids in Yunnan have never read the Bible and don’t know much about Christianity generally.

I know the government wants “help with controlling population growth and managing the society’s rapidly shifting values,” but abstinence-only education isn’t going to help with the population growth issue. In fact, it’s probably going to hurt (especially since Focus on the Family is pro-life). And I’m fairly sure this is not the direction the government wants China’s values “shifting” towards.

I do realize my opinion isn’t the only one out there, though ((It is, however, the correct one.)). What do you think about this?

(Also tangentially related: this post on OkCupid’s statistical analysis blog is fascinating for many reasons, but scroll down to the end to check out what they learned about the correlation between religion and writing ability. The short version is that they found religious people to be better writers when they were half-assed about their religious beliefs, and they found atheists who were very committed to their atheism to be better writers than fundamentalists from any religion. Agnostics are next. Protestant fundamentalists like our friends at Focus on the Family, sadly, rank dead last. Color me shocked.)

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Li Yinhe: Should University Student Mistresses be Punished?

Li Yinhe’s latest blog post is about her position on the introduction of rules at Chongqing Normal University and Southwest Normal University that ban students from having one-night stands and being mistresses, an issue that has provoked a debate on sexual freedom, human rights, and the involvement of the authorities in people’s private lives. She argues that whilst from a legal standpoint people’s extra-marital affairs are their own dirty business, Chinese people should use the power of shame to prevent people from having affairs.

Translation

Recently, a certain university learned that a female student was a mistress, and planned to take disciplinary action, provoking much debate.

If a female student becomes someone’s mistress, it is certainly wrong on a moral level. Even if she is not a mistress, and just a normal lover, it’s still morally wrong, because she has ruined someone else’s family and marriage. This is essentially different to her having a relationship with and living with a single person; pre-marital cohabitation may contravene normal societal conventions, but on a moral level, it is not much of a problem.

The question is whether or not the university should take disciplinary action. The issue of how to deal with the violation of marital morality has been a focal point of debate in recent decades. Before Reform and Opening, extra-marital sex was punished quite severely, with administrative demerits and punishments that would [negatively] affect promotions and pay rises. It is said that during the Cultural Revolution there existed the crime of ‘breaking a family’, which specifically punished extra-marital sex. Since Reform and Opening, this crime no longer exists, work units no longer control the private lives of their workers, and the administrative punishment of this sort of immoral behaviour is no longer carried out. In 2000, when marriage law was amended, there were still those who strongly advocated the use of judicial powers to control extra-marital sex, but after the issue was debated in legal and social scientific circles, they ultimately abandoned this attempt. One reason for this was that studies conducted in Western countries showed an extra-marital sex rate of around 40 per cent. The proportion of extra-marital sex in China was a little lower, but it was still at roughly 16 per cent. If the target of a law renders 16 per cent of the population guilty, then even if it does become legislation, it will exist in name only; there is not enough police power to investigate these kinds of cases and to carry out this kind of punishment.

Aside from this, when we look at the extent to which the powers (judicial and administrative) should control the private morality of citizens, punishing extra-marital sexual activity also becomes a problem. If we are to punish this mistress, then are we also to punish the person who was keeping her (some say that his mistake was even greater, this mistress was, after all, single)? If we are to punish extra-marital sex, then are we also to punish pre-marital sex? Because, although there is no moral problem with pre-marital sex, it is certainly a contravention of traditional norms. If we are to punish this heterosexual activity that violates traditional norms, then are we also to punish homosexual activity, which violates traditional norms even further? The list goes on. This brings us back to the previous question: to what extent should [government] powers control citizens’ private lives, which [aspects] should they control, and which should they not.

My position on this is: the border of control should be whether or not there is personal harm. To put it differently, if someone’s behaviour causes personal harm (such as rape, seduction, obscenity), then punishment should be administered; if it has only violated morality and traditional norms, then criminal and administrative punishment should not be given.

So, how should we deal with behaviour such as keeping a mistress or having an affair? Just let things slide? No. This type of behaviour, we should correct with educational criticism methods. Our culture is often categorised as “shame culture” (as opposed to Western “guilt culture”), and the issue of extra-marital sex is exactly where we should allow this culture to show its strength. We should create a strong public consensus (in fact, this public consensus is and always has been strong), and disgrace those who have affairs and keep mistresses, and let those involved know that to have a mistress is shameful and devious. […]

This way, we can regulate immoral behaviour without having to use (judicial and administrative) powers, [which would] impose upon and control the private lives of citizens; we can both keep an orderly society and protect personal rights, prevent the abuse of common rights and the abuse of private rights, putting public and private rights into equilibrium.

Comment

Keeping administrative interference to a minimum? Cool. Doing away with the destructive and often exploitative culture of extra-marital affairs? Awesome. Doing it all the Chinese way? Right on. But whilst the proposed disciplinary policy is ill-conceived and unworkable, that doesn’t change the fact that thousands of female university students feel that their best chance of getting ahead in life is to go and ruin someone else’s marriage. Li is dead right that the problem is cultural rather than legal but, as she says herself, this type of behaviour is already publically deplored in China; when someone is caught having an affair, the media is very quick to shame them. Meanwhile, the practice is still rife in private. This would seem to be the result of a combination of a perceived lack of better options amongst female students (as pointed out by Shanghaiist), a swelling demographic of moneyed pervs, and a relationship culture that often places more importance on how much money your partner makes than on whether or not they’re already married. Whilst Li’s suggested course of action is probably the most rational, the roots of the problem could be far deeper than can be reached by simple “shaming”.

Li Yinhe on Nudity in Art and Society

The following post is a translation of this blog post written by China’s foremost sexologist, Li Yinhe.

An important note. In the piece, Li Yinhe uses the term 性 repeatedly. I’ve translated it as “sex”, but this doesn’t necessarily mean “sexual intercourse” so much as it means the more general nature of physical sexes, the differences between men and women, it. Of course, it can also just mean sexual intercourse, but in some places here Li Yinhe is talking about more than that.

Yang Linchuan

Translation

I really admire Yang Linchuan’s activities; he’s a courageous and knowledgeable artist who has truly become a model for the modern Chinese man.

From Liu Haisu‘s nude sketches at the Shanghai school of Fine Arts starting in 1914 and up through the collected nude works of Tang Jiali a few years ago, the issue of nude models in art has been rattling around China for 96 years–now it’s a new century and we still haven’t figured it out! This issue even bothered Chairman Mao enough to write memos on it twice (1965 and 1967). In 1983 a group od art students were arrested for spreading [works with nudity] around, and in 1986 a nude model who went home to the countryside to visit relatives was driven mad by the townspeople there. Even the beautiful and pure Yang Jiali, living in the twenty-first century, is often driven to tears.

What is so terrible about the human body? Is it really that ugly, dirty, and obscene? Why can’t bodies be beautiful? The old saying goes: when looking at the same thing, the benevolent see benevolence, the wise see wisdom. We ought to add a like: the perverted see perversion. Looking at an aesthetically pleasing piece of body art taken by an expert photographer, most people see beauty. But people with darkness in their hearts can’t see the beauty, all they see is obscenity. This makes them shy, which makes them suspicious, which makes them angry. This doesn’t mean the work itself is flawed, it shows that the viewer is flawed, and even that their mentality is gloomy, vulgar, distorted, and perverted.

Chinese culture over the past thousand years, and especially over the past few hundred, is truly distorted, perverted, and stupid when it comes to anything involving sex. After 1840, ancient China’s strengths began to weaken in all areas when compared to the West, and a poor, weak, and suffering country came into the light of the world stage. In what was once a country with a glorious five thousand years of history, people were suddenly suffering, poor, and upset. Life is short; living life in a country like that was painful. In such a society, the beauty of the human body and sex were luxuries. Beauty was not something people demanded, and they didn’t pay attention to whether or not they had the happiness that beauty and sex can bring.

I was once touched greatly by an event, something that happened at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. An ordinary Chinese scholar got a pass to visit the US. His trip was set to cover only the eastern US, but as it was widely known within China that Las Vegas was widely known as a city of gambling and sex shows, he took out a sum of money entirely disproportionate to his meager salary and took the long trip just to see a performance. This just shows how the beauty of the body and of sex suppressed to such a degree in China, so much so that people would think doing something as absurd as this was worth it. From this, I could feel just how pathetic and suppressed Chinese people were, going to the other side of the earth and paying huge sums of money just to satisfy the natural desires of our sensory organs. Yang Linchuan was just an accidental model who naturally fell into the position of using his body in the place of a model’s. But his showing this much respect for his artists’ work didn’t attract praise, instead it caused a great uproar. Does China actually want art or not? Does it want to enjoy sensory pleasures? Why is it that something that’s enjoy by cultured people all over the world encounter such abnormal restraint in China? Must Chinese people always live this pitifully?

Chinese people have always believed that food and drink and the desires of men and women are fundamental. Chinese people who’ve resolved the issue of food and drink and satisfied their sexual desires will be happy. Satisfying the eyes, ears, tongue, nose, body and other sense organs will go a step further towards spiritual happiness. Chinese people can abandon the sickness that’s plagued us the past hundred-odd years, and use health and happiness as the basis for a new emergence into the world. The Yang Linchuan incident makes me feel pessimistic about this, but I still have a basically optimistic view about the Chinese people’s chances to be happy in the future. I think that most people in China see this stuff the same way that I do, but that’s just my optimistic outlook.

Comments

One wonders what Li Yinhe thinks of the fact that some pornographic websites are now unblocked in China. Given that Yang Linchuan posed nude only last week, perhaps this is another case of one step forward, one step back when it comes to opening up Chinese culture. My own views on pornography are public, of course, but even if you don’t agree, China’s odd occasional aversion to nude models in art is a bit more difficult to explain.

At least, most of the time. Sometimes, it’s pretty understandable.

Li Yinhe: In Defence of Professor Ma Xiaohai

Sexologist and activist Li Yinhe has dedicated her latest three blog posts to the defence of Ma Xiaohai, a Nanjing Technical University professor who recently pleaded ‘not guilty’ to accusations of group licentiousness, having been caught organising group sex meetings. In a previous post, Li defended Professor Ma’s right to sexual freedom (referring to him with the pseudonym Professor Wang).

Professor Ma is involved in the ‘swingers trial’ currently in progress in Nanjing, in which 22 people are accused of violating group licentiousness law for participating in ‘wife-swapping’ activities. The law forbids all sexual activity between three or more people, even when private and between consenting adults, but has never been invoked before.

The case has attracted plenty of attention from the media and on message boards, especially given that Professor Ma was the only defendant to plead not guilty. Interestingly, although the media have generally slated him, Ma receives considerable support in online discussion forums.

In the last week, Li Yinhe has published three blog posts about the case. Here are the highlights:

Translation:

Post 1 – Punishing Swinging is Rare in this World

Li argues that it’s senseless to punish people for simple differences in taste:

If we say that a regular extra-marital affair should be criticised for transgressing the morality of marriage, then partner-swapping doesn’t even come up to the level of damage done by an extra-marital affair, because it is the result of discussion between a husband and wife. The nature of such an activity is similar to the nature of a husband and wife going to a restaurant to eat together; it’s just that some couples jointly decide that they want to have their dinner in private, that’s all. Their only difference to the general public is that whereas most people eat rice and noodles, they eat scorpion. Many people won’t eat scorpion themselves, and can’t bear to see others eating scorpion, but we can’t round up all the people with a certain taste and sentence them.

Then, as she often does, Li puts China’s sex laws into a global context, calling on the Chinese people to push for change:

This is the reason why no [other] country in the world has a law that penalises partner-swapping activities. […] Owing to rapid economic development, China’s global image is increasingly open, wealthy, civilised, the people are respected; but the penalisation of partner-swapping greatly discredits the image of our country, and makes it look like we are an undeveloped, barbarous country. Patriotic friends, we must rise up and protect the image of our country, and protect the rights of those accused.

Post 2 – Would Repealing Group Licentiousness Law Ruin the Atmosphere of Society?

In her second post, Li addresses the media storm surrounding the case, the scale of which she describes as having “far surpassed the case itself”. Li begins with a rejection of the use of the concept of ‘societal norms’ to determine criminal guilt:

In a criminal law case, it’s highly debatable whether or not societal norms can be used to maintain an argument, and be seen as an entity that has been harmed. If when societal norms are violated we maintain that the violator has caused injury and society has suffered, and extrapolate this logic, we create an aspect that cannot be taken back. For example, in China, most people will get married, and only a few percent will stay single their whole life. [Singles’] behaviour clearly violates societal norms, but we can’t string up all singles for this, so taking ‘societal norms’ to be a harmed entity is ridiculous.

She then argues that the law is outdated and its removal will cause no harm to society:

In reality, group licentiousness law punishes any sexual activity involving three or more people, just like the old hooliganism law punished any sex outside of wedlock. In 1997, the big change in Chinese law was the removal of the hooliganism law, and the crime of being a ‘counter-revolutionary’ was removed at the same time. My first reply to the worry that the removal of group licentiousness law will increase the number of sexual activity involving three or more people is: did the number of hooligans increase in ‘97 with the removal of hooligan law? Did the number of counter-revolutionaries increase with the removal of counter-revolutionary law? According to the logic of the worriers, should we reinstate hooliganism law and counter-revolutionary law?

The amount of sex [in society] is increasing, the number of people taking part in sexual activities is increasing, the number of sexual partners per person is increasing (in China, sexual partners per-person per-capita is the world’s second-highest), sexual practices are becoming more diverse, [but] this won’t ruin the atmosphere of society; it might alter the traditional cultural norms of society, [but] it will more likely increase the happiness index of those taking part in activities, and satisfy all kinds of desires, which at times may even be very peculiar, whilst at the same time causing no harm to others or society.

Post 3 – Inconceivable Criminals and Criminality

Li’s third post is a copy of an announcement letter she received from the Nanjing Qinhuai District court, and her reaction to it. It describes the court’s official position on the case:

Ma Xiaohai’s defence entered a plea of ‘not guilty’, believing that on the grounds that the group licentiousness law infringes on public order in society, and that the activities of Ma Xiaohai and others did not involve the exchange of currency, and were in private and closed off, and because they did not encroach upon public order protected by criminal law, the sexual meetings involved in this case should be considered in the category of private rights, and should not penalised by criminal law.

Except Ma Xiaohai, all 21 others accused pleaded guilty, and each of their advocates also entered ‘guilty’ pleas.

With regards to the assessment of punishment, the prosecution believes that punishment must be decided separately, based on the circumstances under which crime was committed: after committing the crime, some of the accused gave themselves up…and can be punished with lenience, but the first accused Ma Xiaohai has throughout proceedings lacked clear-headed acknowledgement of his criminal behaviour, and will be punished severely according to discretion.

A date is to be fixed for the pronouncement of sentencing.

Quoting a passage from a novel written by her deceased husband, Chinese writer Wang Xiaobo, Li reflects on how the letter from the court left her in disbelief:

I remember when Xiaobo was alive, we were discussing how in China, writing fiction doesn’t really require much imagination; with many things, just writing the truth can bring about drama, comedy and absurdity beyond the imagination of normal people. Xiaobo’s novels are still selling well today. Apart from the fact that they’re beautifully written, could it also possibly be that the absurdities that he satirised are still being relentlessly played out on China’s stage?

Li Yinhe: “Things are Getting More and More Astonishing”

Sexologist Li Yinhe has been very vocal recently about her dissatisfaction with China’s pornography law. In her latest blog post, Li uses pretty rousing language to encourage readers to rebel against what she sees as improper enforcement of the law.

Translation

From the ‘Taiyuan porn site’ case [9 individuals were jailed for running pornographic websites] to the ‘Sichuan man Yang Huajun fined for downloading obscene video’ case [where a young man was fined 3000 RMB for downloading porn to his personal computer], things have been getting more and more astonishing. In the beginning, it was [only those who were] making profit that were being punished, [but] then those not making a profit were punished too, and now they’re even punishing people inside their own homes. I think that if we quiet down and stop rebelling, it will progress to a stage where everyone who peeks at a pretty girl on the street will have their eyes gouged out.

In my opinion, citizens watching pornography in their homes and online is fairly equal to looking at pretty girls on the street: the degree of harm it causes to society and to other people is similar [to that caused by looking at girls on the street]. It isn’t necessary to see this as being like confronting a mortal enemy; the heavens will not collapse, there will not be chaos in society, and the stability of the regime and of society will not be threatened. Who knows, maybe it could make society more stable – if everyone was to concentrate their desires and passions into sexual happiness, they wouldn’t be going out on the streets causing trouble, let alone thinking about overthrowing the regime. This [would be] a shared victory for the common people and the government.

The ‘Shaanxi porn DVD’ case ([in 2002, police officers burst into the house of a young husband and wife and violently arrested the husband for watching an erotic DVD, summary in Chinese here] provoked nationwide debate, and in the end it was the police who put an end to the matter with an apology. However, some people have short memories, and are committing the same mistakes. Recent internet obscenity clean-ups have been increasingly astonishing, we should all come out and yell “stop”. I’ve noticed that there’s a very [fresh] phrase in legal circles, that ‘lower-level law’ must obey ‘upper-level law’. [Law enforcers] say that being a fining guideline, the lower-level law “Measures for the Security, Protection and Administration of the International Networking of Computer Information Networks” should abide by the upper-level “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Public Security Administration Punishments”. To use their own words, the lower-level “Obscene Goods Law” must also abide by the article about free speech in the upper-level law “The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China”.

For more debate on this topic, read this post over on china/divide, written by the ChinaGeeks editor.

Li Yinhe: “Who Will Protect Prof. Wang’s Sexual Rights?”

Sexologist and social commentator Li Yinhe, long one of my favorite Chinese bloggers, is finally back. After months of just posting Nietzsche translations, she’s finally posting original stuff again, faster than we can translate it.

Recently, she called for an end to China’s now-outdated “Group Licentiousness” laws — laws that banned any and all group sex acts, even when they were conducted in private and involving only consenting adults (see our translation here). These laws are infrequently used, but Li argued there was no reason for them to stay on the books at all. A few days ago, we found out why.

Translation

Recently, associate professor Wang of a Nanjing college [she is being intentionally vague to protect the man’s privacy] was charged for particpating in a “wife-swapping” activity. If convicted, under the group licentiousness laws, he could be taken into custody to serve a prison sentence. His college has already suspended his employment and the dispensing of his salary.

Originally, I thought there weren’t cases of people being sentenced under the group licentiousness laws in the past twenty years, but it looks like I was too optimistic about China’s progress. If [Wang] is actually convicted, it will be a great leap backward for China’s human rights situation.

Group licentiousness laws violate the constitution; the conflict between the two appears on the front of “respecting and protecting human rights”. These laws infringe on the basic rights of citizens: the constitution (section 33) reads, “All those holding P.R.C. nationality are citizens of the People’s Republic of China. The nation respects and protects [their] human rights.”

What citizens choose to do in private in terms of consensual sexual activity should be protected under the constitution. Just as the constitution doesn’t have a provision that “Chinese citizens have the right to eat food”, it doesn’t have a provision saying “Chinese citizens have a right to participate in [private, consensual] sexual activity” because these two rights are part of the ‘fundamental human rights’ the constitution protects. For the same reason, just as we cannot use the penal code to forbid people from eating, we [should not be able to] use the penal code to prevent people from engaging in consensual sexual activity in private. Additionally, it’s worth reminding everyone: just as eating food isn’t fundamentally harmful to people, neither is sexual activity fundamentally harmful to people.

The crux of this [the Prof. Wang case] is that it hasn’t hurt anyone. Wife-swapping is a sexual activity enjoyed by an extremely small minority. It does violate [social] conventions, and the vast majority of people will not participate in it or approve of it. But just violating social convention isn’t violating the law. As long as activities that violate convention don’t harm anyone else, one has a right to participate in them. This right should not be stripped away in the name of protecting “morality” or “convention”.

I call on those people who are still rational, raise the voices of justice and mercy to protect the rights of Professor Wang. Improving the human rights situation in China isn’t just saving Professor Wang, it’s saving ourselves. Worsening the human rights situation isn’t just hurting Professor Wang, it’s hurting every single one of us. I hope everyone will raise their voice, and strongly oppose and obstruct Prof. Wang’s conviction.

Guest Translation: Li Yinhe on Porn and the Law

The following is a guest post written by Alex Taggart.

It seems Li Yinhe, one of China’s most prominent sexologists, is on a roll. Following her recent call for an end to ‘group licentiousness laws’, Li is now proposing that Chinese law on ‘obscene goods’ should also be reformed.

According to the CCP Customs Bureau’s explanation of its smuggling law, ‘obscene goods’ (淫秽品) include but are not limited to “obscene films, videotapes, audiotapes, pictures and publications”.

Li argues that the current law is unconstitutional, first citing the right to free speech:

The 35th article of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China states: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” Obscene goods are the product of human imagination, [so] they are speech [expression] and not action, therefore the obscene goods law and the ‘freedom’ article of the constitution contradict each other […] I propose to preserve the freedom article of the constitution, and the logical result of this is to change the obscene goods law.

…then on the grounds of the right to personal freedom:

Just as the constitution doesn’t contain the likes of “Citizens of the PRC have the right to eat”, neither does it contain “Citizens of the PRC have the right to have sex”, because these two rights should be provided for in the [constitutional] article protecting the right to personal freedom. In the same way, just as we cannot use criminal law to prohibit eating, we cannot use criminal law to prevent people from taking part in sex acts and consuming sex-related goods.

Similar to her criticism of group licentiousness laws, Li then gives a clear example of an instance where the law has failed:

There was once a failed experiment: in the early 80s, the Beijing police department ambitiously began [an action of] seizing all propagators of obscene goods. Before long, all prisons and detention centres were bursting at the seams, and they had no choice but to hurriedly outsource hotels and reception centres as ‘instant detention centres’.

Given that the CCP tends to defend obscenity laws on an “If you had kids, you’d understand” tack, Li Yinhe points out that it could be possible to protect the nation’s children whilst allowing free speech and ensuring sexual openness for adults:

We should think of a way to prevent adolescents from coming into contact with obscene goods […] Every country has measures to protect adolescents, such as film classification, age restrictions on erotic websites, and so on. However, there’s an important proviso: we must also protect the right of adults to consume obscene goods.

Finally, Li warns of potential consequences should the law remain:

The current obscene goods law’s biggest malady is that it has set a precedent for using criminal law to punish free speech. Since this special type of speech has become a crime, other types of speech can too. If we continue like this, we could once again end up with the disastrous policies of ‘literary imprisonment’, punishment on the basis of speech, and cultural absolutism.

This is not the first time that Li Yinhe has criticised obscene goods law. In a blog post in 2006, Li gave outlines of individuals who had fallen foul of the same law. As in her most recent post, Li’s 2006 post explained the absurdity of a law that effectively criminalises a very large portion of the population simply for having “crude tastes”.

Translation

The current obscene goods law is an unconstitutional law that encroaches on basic citizen’s rights. It is a draconian law, left behind by the age of cultural autocracy.

1) The issue of being unconstitutional. The 35th article of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China states: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” Obscene goods are the product of human imagination, [so] they are speech [expression] and not action, therefore the obscene goods law and the ‘freedom’ article of the constitution contradict each other. In order to defend the rigorousness and authoritativeness of the constitution, we should either alter it, or alter the obscene goods law. I propose to preserve the freedom article of the constitution, and the logical result of this is to change the obscene goods law.

2) The right of citizens to consume obscene goods is protected by the constitution. Just as the constitution doesn’t contain the likes of “Citizens of the PRC have the right to eat”, neither does it contain “Citizens of the PRC have the right to have sex”, because these two rights should be provided for in the [constitutional] article protecting the right to personal freedom. In the same way, just as we cannot use criminal law to prohibit eating, we cannot use criminal law to prevent people from taking part in sex acts and consuming sex-related goods. Aside from this, it’s worth reminding people to bear in mind: just as eating is fundamentally harmless to people, so is sex, as are its related goods.

3) Obscene goods are considered to be part of vulgar culture, a crude interest. We should vigorously promote the consumption of elegant consumerism, whilst resisting the consumption of obscene goods using the full extent of the greatest societal powers. But, we cannot use criminal law to penalise people’s crude tastes, because if we do, those imprisoned would number in the tens of millions. This is unrealistic. There was once a failed experiment: in the early 80s, the Beijing police department ambitiously began [an action of] seizing all propagators of obscene goods. Before long, all prisons and detention centres were fit to bust, and they had no choice but to hurriedly outsource hotels and reception centres as ‘instant detention centres’. The folly of this activity gradually became obvious, and finally, an order was passed down from the upper echelons that it should stop, and the entire activity left behind the result of ‘the head of a tiger, the tail of a snake’ [a strong start but a weak finish], and the matter was ‘settled by being left unsettled’.

4) We should think of a way to prevent adolescents from coming into contact with obscene goods. This is a commonly-faced problem by all countries that protect the citizen’s right to freedom of speech (most of them don’t have an obscene goods law). Every country has measures to protect adolescents, such as film classification, age restrictions on erotic websites, and so on. However, there’s an important proviso: we must also protect the right of adults to consume obscene goods.

5) The current obscene good law’s biggest malady is that it has set a precedent for using criminal law to punish free speech. Since this special type of speech has become a crime, other types of speech can too. If it continues like this, we could once again end up with the disastrous policies of ‘literary imprisonment’, punishment on the basis of speech, and cultural absolutism.

In order to ensure the citizen’s right to free speech, I propose to get rid of the unconstitutional obscene goods law that encroaches on the basic rights of the citizen.