China’s Ministry of Culture has punished a live-streaming platform for allowing a performer to broadcast a video that was purportedly filmed live from the Empress Dowager Cixi’s bedroom in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

On May 2, the 22-year-old performer, whose screen name is Chaxianzi Zhouyuzhou, broadcast live from the Palace Museum in the afternoon, telling viewers she would hide there until it closed. That night, she conducted a live broadcast from the “empress dowager’s bedroom,” only to reveal later that it was filmed at a studio.

The Huajiao website shut down the live broadcast about a minute after it started, according to CCTV. It quickly issued a statement acknowledging the incident and stated that it took down the video after discovering that its content may have violated rules.

Photo: Weibo/Screenshot.

The Ministry of Culture said on Wednesday that it handed Huajiao “administrative penalties” for “providing fake live-streams that spread rumours and disrupted order in society.”

It did not specify what the penalties were.

Huajiao’s punishment came as part of a recent nationwide inspection of 50 major live-streaming platforms. The ministry shut down ten online platforms and around 30,000 livestreaming accounts, in an inspection which aimed to weed out content that is “vulgar, obscene, violent, superstitious, concerns gambling, or harms the psychological health of underage people.”

The performer posted an apology soon afterwards and also apologised in a live video, saying it was only meant to be a prank.

Chaxianzi Zhouyuzhou’s apology. Photo: Screenshot.

She was also detained by police for five days for disrupting social order. Two men who helped her were detained for 10 days and fined 500 and 200 RMB. The Palace Museum condemned her stunt, accusing the 22-year-old of damaging its reputation and saying that others may imitate her actions.

Chinese authorities have been cracking down on live-streaming platforms, issuing new regulations on the live streaming industry at the end of last year which required such platforms to obtain licenses from the government and required online streamers to register accounts with their real names.

Violations of the new rules can cause the site to be shut down or the streamer to be banned.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.