Chinese authorities have set their sights on online music in the latest crackdown due to hit web operators early next year.

In a statement released on Monday, the country’s Ministry of Culture (MoC) lays down new rules that require censors to approve every song before it is broadcast or made available on streaming platforms such as those operated by Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

On mainland news portal Sina, one user in northeastern Harbin exhorted fellow readers to make the most of their time before the new rules come into force on January 1, 2016: “Hurry up and download all the songs you want while you can.”

Baidu Music, censored. Photo: HKFP.

The MoC document, entitled “Notice on Further Strengthening and Advancing the Management of Online Musical Content,” adheres to the established practice of holding website operators responsible for all publicly shared content.

Web operators are therefore required to establish internal censorship departments that, from January 1, will need to approve all songs before they go online, carefully expunging any potentially subversive content “in strict accordance” with the MoC’s “unified audit standards and specifications.”

In-house censors will also have to compile blacklists and “warning lists” of artists whose work consistently fails meet these rigorous standards. Expenses incurred in training and employing these teams will fall entirely on the companies themselves.

China censors its internet. Photo: Creative Commons.

In August, the MoC released a list of 120 songs banned online in an effort to “purify the online music market” by penalising tunes that “promote licentiousness and violence, incite criminal behaviour and endanger social ethics.”

As well as being barred from broadcast or download online, culture minister Liu Qiang said the blacklisted tunes would also be wiped from the nation’s karaoke systems and forbidden from public performances.

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others