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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.

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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:

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."

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

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