Inside China’s Insane Witch Hunt For Slash Fiction Writers

Eight erotic fiction sites, or “slash fiction sites,” have been shut down and their staff arrested in China’s newest anti-porn sweeps. Netizens remember a 2012 sweep when dozens of women slash romance writers were arrested.

Chinese online writers tend to enjoy a popularity and critical respect unseen among their western peers. Han Han and Giddens Ko became best-sellers through blogs, and a viral memoir sealed Essay Liu’s movie deal. Online fiction is very popular in China, and readers are willing to pay monthly subscriptions for serial novels.

Massive demand for online romance novels have also made sites like Misty Rain & Red Dust and Yenqing Net into significant paid subscription services. There’s a smattering of fan fiction, and a lot of historical fantasies and modern urban tales. Unfortunately for some of the more explicit writers, a recent sweep on “pornography and internet indecency” in China is putting some of these writers and editors behind bars.

The punishment seems harshest against slash fiction — male same-sex romances targeted toward female readers. As of April 17, eight fiction websites have been shut down and their staff arrested. Some sites sport dodgy names like Dangerous Kindergarten, but most of these contain few if any explicit images — just words.

The Chinese Academy of Press And Publication says that online pornography degrades society and impedes the healthy growth of Chinese adolescents, but some online are noting a particular bias:

4. This recent porn sweep reminded a lot of netizens of a 2011 witch hunt against Danmei.org slash fiction writers, in which more than 20 college-aged female authors were jailed.

5. Danmei’s site owner was sentenced to 1.5 years of prison. In this 2012 Phoenix news footage, you can see police officers raiding these women’s houses.

6. The police described the slash fiction writers as “advocating homosexuality, violence, and gore.”

7. “These stories are unsuitable for anyone’s eyes.”

8. The police told an author’s mother that her daughter should surrender herself to the police for writing erotic stories, and the whole country was searching for her.

9. The mother explained that Xiaoli was a bookish girl with few friends, and mostly stayed at home after finishing high school.

10. Xiaoli loved reading comics, she said, and was overjoyed to find an appreciative readership online who would accept a mere high school graduate.

11. At the police station, officers accused Xiaoli of “spreading indecent sexual texts and images online…”

12. “…and reaching more than 5,000 clicks on them…”

13. “These are both against our country’s laws.”

14. Xiaoli said: “I think male-male and male-female relations are all the same.”

15. “I just treat them as stories. A sort of light pop cultural enjoyment.”

16. Another arrested romance fiction author explained that she’s always wanted to be a writer. Her Chinese literature grades were good. “I don’t believe in homosexuality,” she said. “I was just curious.”

17. The police then said: “Normally, you should know that…”

18. “…society wouldn’t understand or stand for gay male stories.”

19. At the scene of another arrest, a mother described her daughter as quiet and “too simple and pure to have a boyfriend… she mostly has women friends.”

20. A friend arrived as the police took her away. The author’s father yelled: “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

21. “I should murder you for dragging my daughter into the gutters with you.”

23. A psychologist then explained that erotic fiction like this is “a poison to healthy sexual attitudes among China’s youths.”

24. “It even advocates worship for violence and gore.”

25. Chinese readers can follow the ongoing anti-porn sweep on Weibo, or watch the whole 2012 news report here.

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