A China Daily report dated 14 December 2007 suggesting that Beijing may make a temporary exception for banned foreign publications such as Playboy and The Sun has travelled around the world and created a mini-furore and lots of confusion back home here. Here are the offending paragraphs:
All pornographic material is prohibited on the mainland but a temporary exception could be made for the Games, according to the biggest importer of foreign publications in the country. “Our law forbids Playboy and we should obey this, but we can’t rule out the possibility that it might make its debut. There might be a demand for it (from athletes or visitors) during the Games,” said Liang Jianrui, vice-president of China National Publications Import and Export Corporation, which will manage the nine magazine-selling kiosks sanctioned by Olympic organizers BOCOG during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Each kiosk will retail over 100 kinds of newspapers and magazines, including publications that are difficult to find in the capital like The New York Times, Newsweek and Britain’s The Sun famous for its topless Page 3 models. “We will provide most of the world’s top-selling newspapers and magazines,” said Liang. While Playboy, the brainchild of Hugh Hefner that is known for its “tasteful” photos of buxom beauties, remains a highly controversial choice at the Olympic Village, there is a growing trend in China to experiment with magazines that were once deemed dangerous or unsanitary.
The first question that came to our minds was:
Will Playgirl be available too? Doesn’t a temporary ban just to please supposedly horny foreign athletes and visitors smack of double standards? Besides, we’re not sure how a temporary ban would work. How do you temporarily unban something and then ban it again? The whole idea sounds somewhat ridiculous. And besides, the temporary ban would no doubt cause an army of entrepreneurial Chinese black marketeers to open their eyes and see what a great big market China was for Playboy. Once you decide to give people something, suddenly depriving them of it the next day just doesn’t cut it.
Anyhow, before we even find an answer for it, the story has gone around the world and back again into China. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (via ESWN) tells us the story was first picked up by Der Welt and other major German news outlets such as the ARD and Sueddeutsche Zeitung before Deutsche Welle itself picked up on it. The story had gained huge currency in Germany, but the tipping point was reached only when Deutsche Welle’s Chinese service translated the report by ARD.
According to an Interfax story by Adam Skuse, the report came to be relayed by our beloved Xinhua and even Sohu and Netease. Because anything that passes through Xinhua MUST be the whole gospel truth, the story became syndicated everywhere. It was like a bolt of lightning had hit the Chinese internet. Interfax’s check with China’s Press and Publication Administration found that “China has no plans to relax restrictions on foreign newspapers and magazines”. In the meanwhile, BOCOG also rushed to clarify with Southern Daily 《南方都市报》 that is has never made any statement on foreign publications.
In the meanwhile, we really don’t know what to think of these two paragraphs which appeared in a post by a supposedly well-known blogger on Southern Daily, entitled, “How long can foreigners live without porn mags?” (外国人可以多久不看色情杂志):
Another cause for anger is how this whole thing smacks of the “No dogs and Chinese allowed” sign that was placed outside parks in times past. It was an obviously discriminatory sign: The park is a good thing, and not prepared for ordinary Chinese folk, you guys have no right to come in. Now, Playboy is not prepared for ordinary Chinese folk, but you guys can take a peek when the foreigners are here. Parks are great, but how can you compare parks with Playboy?
The incident is also not without its humour. Not only does it insult the Chinese, it also insults the foreigners. As we all know, many of these countries which allow the sale of porn mags are also relatively conservative. How many of them would walk around in public with a copy of Playboy in hand? For us to suppose that these foreigners would completely lose their orientation for just a few weeks without porn, I wonder what they would think. We have completely thought of them as sex addicts. If you invited a guest over to your place and prepared condoms and porn CD’s by the bedside, imagine how embarrassed your guest will be.
Photo: Bai Ling on the cover of Playboy.