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Thin-skinned China targets online pranksters

Thin-skinned China targets online pranksters

China's censors are targeting online spoofs of films, celebrities and Communist icons, a Chinese newspaper reported on Tuesday, in the government's latest campaign to regulate Internet content.

The State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) is drafting rules to block Internet broadcasts of short films that mock officially approved culture, the Beijing News reported.

Targets of China's online pranksters have included Lei Feng, the soldier who became a model of Maoist loyalty before dying in a truck accident, as well as the heavily-hyped blockbuster, "The Promise", directed by Oscar-nominated Chen Kaige.

The report said China's broadcast authority will allow commercial web companies such as Sina and Tom to expand into broadband webcasts, but will also "launch a severe attack on rule violations across the entire sector."

"SARFT has established a quite advanced Internet audio-visual monitoring centre and plans to set up monitoring centres in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong," Lui Jianhui, a censorship official at SARFT told the paper.

"Connected with each province, a timely, effective monitoring system will be formed."

The new law would bolster a regulation issued in 2004 requiring censor's approval for the distribution of all audio-visual material on the Internet, mobile phones, television and other media, the report said.

Despite existing regulations, a rash of unapproved video spoofs parodying popular culture and targeting iconic Chinese figures have emerged online in recent months, often created by hobbyists and some becoming hugely popular.

In February, "Murder Over a Steamed Bun", a 20-minute film sending up costume drama "The Promise" and mocking China's state TV presenters' stonefaced news reading, gave young Internet prankster, Hu Ge, widespread fame and a threat of legal action from director, Chen Kaige.

In July, the short film, "China Wins the World Cup!", parodied Jackie Chan, China's underperforming national football side and TV announcer Huang Jianxiang's overzealous rant during Italy's victory over Australia in a World Cup knock-out match.


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