or writing and selling gay “pornographic” novels online, a Chinese author is now facing more than a decade in prison following a sentencing which has been widely criticized on social media for being extremely excessive and outdated.
The female writer surnamed Liu, who used the pen name Tianyi, first caught the attention of the authorities with her 2017 workOccupy (攻占), a novel about a forbidden student-teacher relationship which contains scenes described as including “obscene sexual behavior between men” and “perverted sexual acts like violation and abuse.”
Occupy ended up selling thousands of copies online. According to police in the Anhui city of Wuhu, Liu made more than 150,000 yuan ($21,000) from writing gay erotic books. On October 31st, she was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for her illicit business.
Pornography is illegal in China and being caught creating or distributing smut can carry a wide range of punishments depending on the severity, as defined by the court.
In Liu’s case, it turns out that the basis of her sentencing dates all the way back to a 1998 judicial interpretation issued by China’s supreme court which said that selling more than 5,000 copies of pornographic materials or making a profit of over 10,000 yuan on such materials would be treated as an “especially serious” offense, requiring a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.
On Weibo, a number of Chinese web users have reasonably pointed out that it is much easier nowadays to sell 5,000 copies of something than it was two decades ago, arguing that the law should be changed to reflect current conditions.
Meanwhile, other netizens have noted how those who have been convicted in China of crimes like rape, molestation, and manslaughter have received lighter sentences than did Liu, who simply wrote some steamy stories.
“You won’t be punished at all for plagiarism, rape will get you several years, and molestation several months. It’s funny.” wrote one web user.
Liu has appealed her sentencing.