The Chinese Communist Party (CPC) is stepping up its efforts to censor pop-culture content that it deems threatening to the regime, with a new initiative to ban an unspecified number of songs from being played at karaoke bars throughout the country.
The blacklist playlist will come into effect on Oct. 1, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement. Karaoke bar owners are being told to review their catalogues of songs and flag anything that might run afoul of the new rules.
China says it will ban songs that it deems a threat to national unity, security, sovereignty, territorial integrity, honour, state religious policies or the national interest. It will also allegedly target songs that incite ethnic hatred and discrimination.
Those criteria have been invoked to ban a wide range of content in China, from mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to news about the CPC’s persecution of Uyghurs, the ethnic Muslim minority that has been forced into internment camps in the western state of Xinjiang.
China has also banned images of Winnie the Pooh, the honey-loving Disney character, after the bear was used to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
China uses national security laws to censor political criticism and police free speech in the country, both in public and on the internet. The CPC effectively extended these powers into Hong Kong last year by passing a national security law that deemed many acts of speech to be dangerous. The law has since been used to censor a wide range of content, including films made in Hong Kong.
China has not indicated which tracks will be banned under its karaoke crackdown, but it would not be surprising to see some Hong Kong protest songs included on that list, including Umbrella Revolution and Do You Hear the People Sing?, a song from the musical Les Miserables. Both songs have been used during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in recent years.
China’s ministry of culture and tourism says it will encourage karaoke venues to provide “healthy and uplifting” music for patrons at the roughly 50,000 entertainment venues across the country.
The ministry previously blacklisted 120 songs in 2015 for promoting “obscenity, violence, crime” or harming “social morality.”
The list included such “severely problematic” songs as Beijing Hooligans, Suicide Diary and Don’t Want to Go to School, the state-controlled Global Times said. China also banned artists that it deemed to be a threat, including Taiwanese rapper MC Hotdog.
— With files from Reuters