China's New Ban On The Work Of Celebrities With 'Moral Misdeeds'

No air time for Jaycee Chan, detained on drug charges.
No air time for Jaycee Chan, detained on drug charges.
Li Yihe


BEIJING — There has been a recent spate of Chinese celebrities, including Jaycee Chan, son of the Hong Kong martial arts film star Jackie Chan, detained on drug charges. Others in the entertainment business have been accused or frequenting prostitutes.

Last week, China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) issued a formal notice suspending the broadcast of films, television programs, online dramas and clips involving the participation in or performance by these directors, script writers and actors, the ones "with misdeeds."

I personally don't agree with such a decree. Chinese law has long abided by the notion that once citizens have been subject to appropriate criminal or administrative penalties, they are not to be discriminated against in employment, work and life generally.

Not only does China's Prison Law stipulate that "released prisoners shall enjoy equal rights with other citizens," the Narcotics Law also says that those who have successfully undergone drug rehabilitation "are not to be discriminated against in education, employment, social security and other aspects."

It is also worth noting that taking drugs or being implicated in paying for sex are not criminal offenses, but rather violations of administrative regulations. Therefore, the recently exposed celebrities should enjoy equal rights with other citizens.

The careers of these artists are in show business. Banning their artistic works means employment discrimination, and is therefore a violation of the regulations and their spirit.

Model citizens?

People can advocate for public figures to set a moral example, but these figures shouldn't be punished more than the average citizen for their personal moral shortcomings. Because of their fame, the behavior and personal morality of public figures and celebrities arouse more attention and have a bigger impact on society as a whole. We tend to want these people to serve as role models for the rest of us.

This is the public expectation of celebrities. But because of basic human weaknesses, many artists are tempted by drugs and prostitution, just like the population at large. These mistakes belong to the personal moral sphere. If they are to be punished, they should be punished just like everyone else. Drug addicts are to be sent to compulsory rehabilitation while the act of resorting to prostitutes is punished with administrative detention or fines. Banning their artistic work goes beyond the punishment of average citizens.

Besides, personal morals don't necessarily have anything to do with creativity, so there is no foundation for banning people's work just because of their morals.

Wang Quan'an, accused of paying for sex, was awarded the prestigious Golden Bear at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival for his film, expand=1]Tuya's Marriage, and is one of the most prominent Chinese film directors.

In short, a personality such as Wang is a national treasure. We should cherish such artists like we cherish pandas. But because of their personal failings, our state apparatus inflicts treatment that not even criminal offenders should receive once they have served their sentences.

Such an approach turns well-intentioned advice and corrective state action into malicious harm. Reputations are ruined and careers are destroyed, and people risk facing financial hardship as a result.

Not only do such punitive measures violate the letter and the spirit of Chinese law, but they also reveal a more general tendency toward malice and brutality. We risk corrupting the relationship between the state apparatus and the people that undermines social harmony.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!