China Puts the Squeeze on Celebrities With Blacklist Governing Morals

China's internet regulator announced on Tuesday a new blacklist mechanism targeting celebrities who promote "distorted values" by dressing funny or inducing idolization.

The latest crackdown follows a months-long purge since the summer to cure what a government newspaper called "the troubled parts of the entertainment industry."

A new "negative list" announced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) will further tighten regulations on online content in order to create a "positive and healthy" internet environment, the agency said. Both celebrities and their fans could face indefinite bans if they fall within Beijing's definition of toxic celebrity culture.

The blacklist will target celebrities who flaunt wealth or encourage fans and livestream viewers to offer financial support for their performances. Viral singers and others fan favorites could also face the chop if they are found to be promoting irregular aesthetics or if they embroil themselves in scandals that negatively impact society.

According to Communist Party-run newspaper the Global Times, "content that induces fans to blindly idolize celebrities or that hypes the comeback of entertainers who have illegal and unethical records" all fall within the new category of illicit online information.

CAC's negative list will crack down on "chaotic" fan club culture, including the spreading of rumors and so-called "star-chasing"—a term that describes diehard fans—both of which it considers to be contrary to normal social behavior and values. Top-down regulation will begin by mandating online streaming platforms to establish authorized agents to manage large fan groups and related advertisements.

"Platforms should put celebrity-related accounts under hierarchical management, and monitor and establish warning mechanisms for accounts with a certain amount of followers," a Global Times report said on Tuesday. "Accounts that publish biased or confusing information that provokes confrontations and manipulates public opinions should be punished accordingly."

Celebrities and their fans, therefore, must abide by both legal and moral obligations, as defined by Chinese regulators, the state-owned tabloid said, suggesting the CAC blacklist could also be used to root out celebrities whose political views don't align with Beijing's own.

China's months-long celebrity crackdown began after the arrest of Canadian-Chinese pop star Kris Wu in July. Beijing police detained him on sexual assault charges in a #MeToo scandal that drew opposition from his zealous fans.

The regulatory drive led popular platforms such as Douyin—the original Chinese version of TikTok—and Kwai to implement in September moral guidelines to stamp out "vulgar" online performances. The new rules also sought an end to livestreamers who had made millions on product affiliations or by marketing their own branded goods.

Also on Tuesday, the China Association of Performing Arts released its ninth list of celebrities—totaling 88 people—who are to be blacklisted for ethics violations. Pop singer Wu is also on the list, which currently comprises 446 people designated persona non grata in China's vast entertainment industry.

China Cracks Down On Wrong Celebrity Types
The Chinese flag is seen on a skyscraper in Shanghai at dusk on August 31, 2021, part of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images