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2020-03-30 12:49:57

China’s anti-porn office is investigating nearly half a dozen domestic websites that were found to be selling and distributing sexually explicit photos and videos, especially those involving minors.

In an announcement Saturday, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications said it is cracking down on individuals producing and selling pornographic materials, including child pornography. The move comes after domestic media outlet The Beijing News exposed five websites — all currently offline — offering pornographic material that exploited children in a way similar to a case in South Korea.

The crackdown in China comes days after police in South Korea presented a suspect for prosecution for allegedly blackmailing dozens of young women, including minors, into performing sex acts, the recordings of which were later sold on encrypted messaging app Telegram. The South Korean digital sex crimes case is referred to as the “Nth room case,” after the name of the illicit chat room.

According to The Beijing News, the Chinese versions of the Nth room collectively had up to 8 million registered users and sold sexually explicit images and videos of minors. Customers paid anywhere from 30 yuan to 3,000 yuan ($4 to $420) to access such materials online.

Though porn is illegal in China, websites offering sexually explicit content often find loopholes for viewers willing to pay for it. Many sites have been accused of uploading photos and videos obtained without the consent of the individuals involved.

On Thursday, a high schooler wrote on microblogging platform Weibo that a male student had paired selfies of 20 female schoolmates, plus their personal information, with photos of naked people and posted them on a porn site. A day later, a student at the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in central China said that there were illicit videos of female schoolmates — the video’s title included the school’s name — on Pornhub, the world’s largest porn site.

Last week, Pornhub banned users from searching keywords that included “rape,” “gang rape,” and “drug-facilitated rape” in Chinese just four hours after an online petition demanded that the website abolish practices promoting sexual violence. According to Pornhub’s regulations, terms such as “rape,” “drug,” and “kid sex” are restricted from appearing in video titles, though the ban doesn’t apply to languages other than English.

“Rapists are rapists, no matter which language they use or which country they belong to,” said Weibo user Cannotanswer, who started the online petition.

Women’s rights movements in other countries, especially neighboring South Korea and Japan, have recently found wide resonance in China. Several high-profile cases — such as the spycam porn protests in South Korea involving singer Goo Hara, who was blackmailed over a sex tape, and the lawsuit Japanese journalist Shiori Ito won against a fellow journalist who raped her — have stirred discussions in China and emboldended more women to share their experiences.

Ren Fei, a senior editor at Beijing-based Xiron Books, which has published Chinese translations of several foreign books on feminism, told Sixth Tone that some of the books have become bestsellers in recent years. For example, the Chinese version of South Korean novel “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982,” which deals with the everyday sexism women experience, had 220,000 copies circulating within five months of publication.

According to Ren, news reports about women’s safety issues, marital rights, and the stigmatization of sexual assault survivors have helped Chinese women realize the gravity of the issues they face and seek to claim their rights.

“Feminist movements in South Korea and Japan stirring ripples in China mirrors the fact that Chinese women feel a sense of crisis,” Ren said. “It’s difficult for Chinese women to fight for their rights the same way as in these countries. Therefore, when we are talking about women’s rights in South Korea and Japan, we are actually advocating rights for ourselves.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Photodisc/VCG)