The BBC chronicles the misadventures of 29-year-old Jiang Yilei, a Chinese Internet sensation who works under the name “Papi Jiang.” She was a video blogger, racking up 100 million views for her amusing commentary videos and building a following of 11 million fans, until she disappeared.
Papi Jiang’s fans discovered that only five of her videos remained available on her Youku channel (China’s version of YouTube), and her usually effervescent social media presence had gone dark.
After about a week, Jiang resurfaced with a short statement on her Weibo page (comparable to Facebook) in which she explained, “As a self-made media figure, I will also be more careful of my words and image, resolutely responding to requests for corrections in internet clips, and broadcast positive energy for everyone.”
The Chinese Communist Party let it be known that Jiang had been “disciplined and corrected,” her video clips taken offline by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television to “get rid of the vulgar and coarse content” supposedly lurking within them.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television said something about experts evaluating her videos and restoring some of them after they had been properly sanitized.
This censorship was presented as part of the Chinese government’s commitment to create a more “beautiful” Internet.
The BBC cites Chinese President Xi Jinping telling an Internet security symposium that his government would “work to ensure high quality content, with positive voices creating a healthy, positive culture that is a force for good” – which, by an amazing coincidence, sounds exactly like what Papi Jiang promised to do, after she got her mind right.
The Politburo might have underestimated the amount of anger they would unleash among the populace by cracking down on Jiang. The pushback seems quite fierce, although, of course, the government assumes everyone will settle down soon enough, with the video blogger herself firmly under control.
Shanghaiist notes Beijing has been on a censorship tear lately, shutting down a number of highly popular TV shows for depicting such “vulgar, immoral, and unhealthy content” as “smoking, drinking, adultery, sexual freedom, homosexuality, perversion, and reincarnation.”
It is not entirely clear exactly what Jiang did wrong, which, of course, is one of the perks of authoritarian dictatorship: the charges do not have to be laid out in any great detail, and there is no due process to speak of. There is little indication she said anything politically sensitive, as her commentaries primarily poke fun of the small irritations of everyday life.
The Sydney Morning Herald ventures a few guesses: the censors are worried about other – more politically provocative – video bloggers following in Jiang’s footsteps; they thought her lampooning of Chinese culture, such as “the incessant pressure on young women to get married,” might be subversive, or they were angered by a clip where she did an insulting impression of former leader Jiang Zemin.
Then again, the Chinese government’s stated intention to impose a higher level of moral purity on the Internet is evidently serious. The Sydney Morning Herald notes the censors shot down a popular historical drama because the period costumes “revealed too much cleavage.”