Depictions of homosexuality, extramarital affairs, underage love and the supernatural are no longer allowed in television dramas under new regulations in mainland China.

The television content production regulations were compiled by the China Television Drama Production Industry Association and the China Alliance of Radio, Film and Television last year. The document, dated December 31, 2015, was recently released on the internet and widely circulated, generating a heated discussion among netizens.

The TV regulations released online recently.

The regulations were also brought up by Li Jingsheng, chief of the television department within China’s State Administration of Press and Publication, Radio, Film and Television not long ago during a discussion about the production of television dramas, BBC Chinese reported. Last week, Li said that the department will strengthen supervision over online drama series at the same time as a popular web series on gay love, Addiction, was taken offline.

The regulations went into the specifics of the content that is to be banned. For example, “witchcraft and other instances of feudal, supernatural beliefs” and “reincarnation” will not be permitted. “Scenes which expose the methods adopted by detectives and show in detail how they crack cases, thereby assisting criminals in coming up with counter-moves” are also to be forbidden.

With regards to sexual content, “abnormal sexual relationships or behaviour” such as homosexuality are forbidden under the sixth article. Television dramas must also not have content “showing or promoting an unhealthy state of marriage,” such as extramarital affairs or one-night stands.

The regulations also warned against exposing underage viewers to content which “could have a harmful effect on them,” such as “underage love,” smoking and binge drinking, and getting into fights. Clothing that is overly unusual or extravagant will be prohibited as well.

Addiction, a gay love web drama series. Photo: Apple Daily.

Production companies have also been asked to actively promote content approved under the regulations, while writers of television shows and directors are encouraged to focus on themes that were close to reality and which reflect social progress. The shows should also “promote the excellent traditional culture of China,” “spread positive energy” and “contribute to the achievement of the Chinese Dream.”

Many netizens have expressed discontent towards the new regulations. One said, “What year are we living in, how are we still openly discriminating against homosexuality?” Another said, “beastiality [wasn’t mentioned], is it allowed?”

A third said, referring to the four great classical works in Chinese literature, “We can’t watch Journey to the West because there’s gods and demons fighting each other, we can’t watch Outlaws of the Marsh because it’s too bloody, we can’t watch Dream of the Red Chamber because there’s underage love, and we can’t watch Romance of the Three Kingdoms because there’s scenes of people committing crimes.”


Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.