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.
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.