Sex in the news
The Ministry of Culture has banned four online games, citing 'large quantities of obscene, pornographic, illegal content which breaks the laws of the country and harms the psychological health of young people'.
Such bans are not uncommon: last May, the censors pulled Hearts of Iron, a Swedish game set in the second world war, for 'distorting history and damaging China's sovereignty and territorial integrity'. Similar reasoning was behind the December ban on Football Manager 2005, which was said to have represented Taiwan, Hong Kong-Macau and Tibet as independent countries.
No doubt, those who want to get hold of these games will still be able to do so. There are many ways that the internet-savvy player can track them down. Images from two of the latest - Sexy Beach and Sniff Work - have appeared online, no doubt further whetting the appetites of those wishing to download them. They show a range of Japanese anime women in a variety of poses and states of undress.
But by using the same government logic, potential harm is also being done to 'the psychological health of young people' on another website, which is far easier to access, and in no way risks the censors' wrath. I am talking about the site of the official news agency, Xinhua. Not satisfied with simply reporting the news, Xinhua's English website, chinaview.cn, has been sprucing up its content with images that might not be out of place on a banned internet game.
At the bottom of each news story, there are usually three photos, each an appetiser to take the reader further into Xinhua's world. You might find: 'Fashion model Gisele Bundchen's alluring poses' or, in classic paparazzi style, 'US star Mischa Barton, Brandon Davis enjoy a holiday in California.'
Then there are the photo spreads taken from 'lads'' magazines like FHM, with titles such as: 'Sexy Olympic special salutes female athletes.' These and other spreads - including 'Naked Appeal' (featuring 'a naked Imogen Bailey' holding Reggie the rabbit in an anti-fur photo shoot) - when compared to the images of the censored video games seem to be at least in the same league.
Xinhua's Chinese site (xinhuanet.com) does not have the 'convenience' of the English site: you have to do more than just call up a news story on the latest situation in Iraq to find 'Angelina Jolie voted sexiest woman' or to access 10 pages of Britney Spears' photos.
Perhaps if Sexy Beach featured animated versions of the stars that Xinhua knows and loves, it would have passed the ministry's censors unscathed.