China launches internet ‘purification’ campaign for Lunar New Year

China has launched a month-long campaign to clean up online content during next week’s Lunar New Year festival, as part of its latest push to reshape behavior on the internet.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet regulator, has ordered officials to sweep up “illegal content and information” and target celebrity fan groups, online abuse, the cult of money, influential kids and the home pages of media sites.

The campaign will apply the tradition of cleaning up before the New Year, China’s most important holiday, to the internet, envisioning a “purification” of the online world.

The edict is the latest step in Beijing’s crackdown on the entertainment industry as authorities purge content deemed immoral, unpatriotic and non-traditional from online culture.

President Xi Jinping has sparked a broader effort to reshape Chinese social mores and culture, diminishing materialism and Western influence in favor of a more nationalistic and local approach.

Xi’s government has launched a ‘common prosperity’ campaign to push for a greater distribution of wealth, prompting an increase in charitable donations from tech tycoons, as well as intensified tax investigations and sanctions against wealthy individuals.

Authorities have even demanded that TV shows and movies include the nationality of celebrities in the credits to name and shame those who have renounced Chinese citizenship.

Censors have also stepped up their weeding out of content deemed not aligned with Communist Party priorities.

The targets included effeminate young men, a Chinese actor who visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where the remains of Japanese soldiers are buried, and an actress who caused scandal in part for using a surrogate to give birth a baby in the United States.

Many celebrities have found themselves blacklisted from television and online media, and China’s cyberspace regulator is eager to prevent disgraced public figures from returning to the spotlight.

China must “strictly prevent stars and artists who are law-breaking and immoral from using evening shows or live broadcasts to stage comebacks” during the holiday season, the regulator warned in a message on WeChat which announced the campaign.

The CAC has warned that minors vying to become online influencers must be stopped from doing so, reminding censors that budding stars weren’t allowed to appear in live streams with ‘their voices or their flesh’ .

The regulator also demanded that censors weed out flashy displays of wealth, materialism and superstition.

Xi’s ideological campaign has been far-reaching, attracting the Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog as well as numerous state organizations.

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