The company that produced “morality-neglecting” emojis of World War II-era sex slaves has been ordered to cut its internet connection and turn off its computers for two months, Shanghai police announced Sunday.
The series of emojis outraged net users earlier this month because they combined images of women who had been forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army with glib text overlays. The stickers were based on images from “Twenty-Two,” a recent documentary on the last living “comfort women,” and were quickly taken offline by Qzone, a Tencent-owned social media platform, following the controversy.
According to police, the company responsible — Shanghai Siyanhui Technology Co. Ltd. — had considered profit but not morality or “the nation’s feelings” when it “illegally produced” the emojis. The images had a bad impact on how society views the suffering of these women, the statement said, and police ordered a two-month reorganization for which the company would have to “stop its internet connection and turn off its computers,” as well as pay a fine of 15,000 yuan ($2,260).
The Shanghai police referred to a 1997 set of internet security measures from the Ministry of Public Security. The same punishment is also included in local laws: In 2013, authorities in Liaoning province, northeastern China, punished someone who spread rumors online in this fashion, and earlier this year authorities in Chongqing, a city in southwestern China, said they would use the measure to punish companies and individuals who had been caught illegally accessing blocked websites.
Siyanhui Technology on Thursday released a lengthy apology in which it said the mistake had been made by a young editor who lacked “awareness of history and politics.” Since Sunday, the company’s website has only displayed screenshots of the company’s apology and punishment document.
The company has been producing emojis for Qzone and other social media platforms since 2013. Recent products include emojis based on the hit anti-corruption TV series “In the Name of People” and the patriotic action blockbuster “Wolf Warrior 2.”
In its apology, Siyanhui promised that after the reorganization period it would provide services with more positive energy. On Monday, the company’s emojis were still available for download on WeChat, a chat app that is also owned by Tencent.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: A promotional poster for the documentary ‘Twenty-Two’ shows three surviving ‘comfort women’ from the Japanese invasion of China during World War II. From the film’s Weibo account)