<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By Adam Minter</p> <p>Mr. Gu, an unmarried pharmacist in north China’s Jilin province, never aspired to be a champion for privacy, much less porn. Yet, sometime this spring -- probably in March -- Mr. Gu, possessor of 95 downloaded pornographic films on his hard drive, uploaded the wrong photo to a popular Chinese bulletin board.</p> <p>It was not titillating.</p> <p>Rather, it <a href="http://offbeatchina.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/201261910592549602.jpg">showed</a> a paunchy man in his late 20s, seated atop a squad car belonging to a local police chief. The young man wears gray plaid pants, a floral print button-down shirt and sunglasses as big as his chubby cheeks. His mouth is open, and a cigarette protrudes upward -– rakishly -- from his clenched teeth. His left hand rests on his hip; his right hand holds a machete.</p> <p>In short: He doesn’t look like the sort of fellow who should be hanging around the local precinct.</p> <p>It’s not clear how Mr. Gu obtained this photo (his original post has been deleted).  It's not even clear who Mr. Gu is. "Mr. Gu," in fact, is a pseudonym given to him by the independent Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis <a href="http://gcontent.oeeee.com/9/b8/9b86ec1dbee94037/Blog/73f/59d9b1.html?bsh_bid=101446141">Daily</a>. On QQ, one of China’s leading microblogs, he goes by the all-but-untranslatable “<a href="http://t.qq.com/sfd32126">Forgotten in the Rivers and Lakes</a>,” and on Tianya, a top Chinese Internet portal, microblog and forum, he is called "<a href="http://my.tianya.cn/name/81337184">81.337.184</a>." It was under that last identity that, on June 10, he blogged about the curious events of March 22.</p> <p>“I’m at home online. Suddenly there’s a knock on the door (I never had any reason to fear) and three men barge directly into the <a href="http://www.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/free/1/2583691.shtml">room</a>.” They invited him, and his computer, to “take a trip” with them that -- no surprise --led to the local police station. There, they had one question above all others: Where on earth did he get that photo of the man with the machete? According to reporting done by Southern Metropolis Daily, the photo resulted in the local police chief being removed from his position. While they interrogated Mr. Gu, the police also searched his computer for information on how he might have come across the photo in question. In the course of that investigation, they “naturally found the pornographic films,” Mr. Gu later <a href="http://www.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/free/1/2583691.shtml">blogged</a>.</p> <p>Chinese law on pornography is meant to be abundantly clear. Article 68 of the Public Security Administration Punishment Law reads, in full:</p> <blockquote><p>A person who produces, transports, duplicates, sells or lends pornographic materials including books, periodicals, pictures, movies and audio-video products, or disseminates pornographic information by making use of computer information networks, telephones or other means of communications shall be detained for not less than 10 days but not more than 15 days and may, in addition, be fined not more than 3,000 yuan (US $470); and if the circumstances are relatively minor, he shall be detained for not more than five days or be fined not more than 500 yuan ($78).</p></blockquote> <p>Mr. Gu argued that he hadn’t disseminated anything but rather kept the incriminating material on his hard drive for “personal use.” That didn’t convince his interrogators, who were clearly determined to lock him up. And so, without warning, Mr. Gu was dispatched to the Qianguo detention facility, incarcerated for 15 days and fined 3,000 yuan.</p> <p>On May 2, after his release, he petitioned the local government for “administrative reconsideration” but received no response. And so, with much to lose (and a reputation as a porn fiend to be gained), he went public with his experience in a series of blog posts that became online sensations.</p> <p>Mr. Gu, like most Chinese netizens, is surely aware that China’s official response to pornographic material has been inconsistent over the years. <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=3&amp;ved=0CFgQFjAC&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.reuters.com%2Farticle%2F2010%2F01%2F01%2Fus-china-internet-idUSTRE60004220100101&amp;ei=zL_hT6OhOq2wiQeElIWsDw&amp;usg=AFQjCNEguhOLKB7PkmkEn7X2yDn0IvA3Qw">In 2009, the government announced a wide-ranging and allegedly successful porn crackdown. </a>The next year, however, brought <a href="http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/malcolmmoore/100041760/in-china-pornography-is-fine-but-youtube-is-still-blocked/">a lowering of porn-related controls across the Chinese Internet. </a>Then in 2011, came <a href="http://www.china.org.cn/china/2011-11/01/content_23783050.htm">another crackdown</a>. Meanwhile, pornographic DVDs remain widely available in Chinese cities (I need only go to my Shanghai corner to purchase some). Japanese porn goddess <a href="http://weibo.com/u/1739928273">Sora Aoi</a> remains among the most popular figures on Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblog, with over 12.3 million followers (over a million more than <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/aplusk">Ashton Kutcher</a> enjoys on Twitter). Famously, in 2011, one Chinese police station was caught having configured its official <a href="http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2011-01/613927.html">Weibo account to follow exactly one other account: Ms. Aoi’s.</a> (She was in the headlines again today, with the <a href="http://www.shanghaidaily.com/nsp/National/2012/06/21/Store%2Bemployee%2Bplays%2Bporn%2Bvideo%2Bon%2Boutdoor%2BLED%2Bscreen/">Shanghai Daily reporting</a> that a man was detained for 15 days for playing one of her films on a screen outside a shopping mall in Henan province.) For the most part, though,  so long as you aren’t making money off it, the authorities will allow you to do with porn as you please in your own home.</p> <p>Mr. Gu’s blogged account of his porn-inspired incarceration and fine started running on<a href="http://www.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/free/1/2577192.shtml"> June 10</a>, and by mid-week had become <a href="http://topic.weibo.com/hot/24767?page=1">an online sensation</a>, trending in <a href="http://data.weibo.com/top?topnav=1&amp;wvr=4">Sina Weibo’s top </a>10, and being covered in some of China’s most distinguished newspapers –- not one of which seemed to think Mr. Gu deserved what he got. The Communist Party-owned and operated Shanghai Morning Post, for example, spoke with an air of institutional prudishness that, nonetheless, condemned the police and hinted at a Chinese version of the<a href="http://tx.southcn.com/hulianwang/content/2012-06/18/content_48551884.htm"> slippery slope</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>It’s immoral for citizens to watch porn but the harm from this kind of act is close to ZERO. Downloading pornography is far from a right. However, if individual judicial offices interpret law malevolently and expansively, using a moral standard to replace a legal standard … the relevant law enforcement departments will use their authority and cause a chilling effect.</p></blockquote> <p>China’s netizens -- especially those who blog anonymously -- were far less restrained. <a href="http://survey.ifeng.com/news/700.html?#p=result">A poll at ifeng.com</a>, a privately held online portal, asked respondents whether they believed downloading porn should be illegal and if they’d ever done it. Ninety percent -- or more than 345,000 people -- believed it should be legal, though only 61 percent -- or more than 234,000 people – admitted to having actually downloaded and watched it. One of those, presumably, was the anonymous person in Baoding -- near Beijing -- who left the very first comment on the poll: “A law that makes criminals of the majority of normal men (including most male police officers, if they can be counted as men) is an evil law."</p> <p>Nonetheless, the most surprising and poignant responses to Mr. Gu’s ordeal connected it to a recent, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-14/china-probes-claim-that-woman-was-forced-to-abort-7-month-fetus.html">highly publicized forced abortion</a> of a seven-month old fetus in Shanxi province. The incident provoked widespread outrage in China, in part due to the shear brutality and in part due to the local government's demand of a usurious fine to prevent it (40,000 yuan or around $6,300). Mr. Gu’s case is trifling in comparison, but some of the issues it invokes -- a right to privacy, in particular-- clearly resonated with those upset by the Chinese state’s continued interference in reproduction. There are several variations on these highly pointed <a href="http://weibo.com/1941190341/yoDa1vKEm">tweets</a>, but the most detailed in its outrage comes from an anonymous user of Sina Weibo in <a href="http://weibo.com/2013284001/yoE8NjibM">Beijing</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Recently an Internet user downloaded porn at home, intent on working hard to improve boudoir joy. As a result, he was visited by police, his computer confiscated as an instrument of a crime, fined three thousand [yuan], detained for fifteen days. In another case, a seven months pregnant woman in Ankang, Shaanxi Province was forced to induce labor, because she was unable to pay a fine of 40,000 yuan. Publicly extending your reach into our crotches, dear Party, how I love you!</p></blockquote> <p>On June 17, shortly after noon, Mr. Gu logged into his QQ account to announce that Qianguo County had refunded his fine, returned his computer and compensated him for his time and trouble with “thousands” of<a href="http://t.qq.com/p/t/139537089399742"> yuan</a>. “At this point, the incident is resolved.”</p> <p>But what, then, of the shady man with the machete perched upon the ex-police chief’s squad car? So far, he hasn’t been identified. But on Friday, one industrious netizen posted documentation showing that the police officer in charge of detaining and fining Mr. Gu is a real-estate tycoon worth <a href="http://tianya.cn/bbs/post-free-2588071-1.shtml">millions</a>. Since then, hundreds of comments have expressed outrage at what many presume is a connection between the machete-wielding thug and the police chief. Is there any truth to it? There’s no way to tell -- yet, that hasn’t stopped netizens from rendering judgments. “This post is worse than a porno,” wrote a <a href="http://tianya.cn/65609561">commentator</a> below the newly blogged documents. “Just seeing it is bad luck.”</p> <p>(Adam Minter, the Shanghai correspondent for the World View blog, is writing a book on the global recycling industry. The opinions expressed are his own.)</p> <p>To contact the author of this blog post: Adam Minter at ShanghaiScrap@gmail.com.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </body> </html>