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What is revealing anyway? (Picture: SCMP/Nora Tam)

Five things live streamers in China cannot do

Revealing clothes? Sexy whispering? Seductive banana eating? Yup, all banned

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Live streamers in China now have a dress code. Although the dress code is quite vague (as any parent knows, “revealing” can be a flexible concept), this is the first time that China's multi-billion dollar live streaming industry is facing more systematic regulations.

And as the country tightens the screws on popular entertainment, there are likely more rules to come. Here are some of the things live streamers in China have to avoid.

1) No naughty clothes

No revealing, transparent or tight clothes, nothing flesh-colored, no sexy underwear -- and definitely no sexy uniforms. Live streamers have to be careful about how they pick their wardrobe, according to new standards adopted by two Chinese administrative units (so far). But this rule only concerns women, of course – men are still free to dress up as hot nurses.
What is revealing anyway? (Picture: SCMP/Nora Tam)

The new rules also stipulate that broadcasters should not wear clothes containing text or information prohibited by national laws and regulations. What does that mean? Well, we're guessing t-shirts with “Free Tibet” are a no-go.

2) No whispering

Some people like to get their kicks aurally instead of visually. Autonomous sensory meridian response ( ASMR) can be described as a feeling of mild euphoria and tingling skin caused by certain sounds – and there’s a whole subset of live streamers dedicated to creating those sounds. Some tap on the microphone or use different objects to bring relaxation to their listeners. And some whisper.
Live streaming is not just about the visual. (Picture: Weibo/Xuanzi Giant 2 Rabbit)

For Chinese regulators, this whispering turned out a little too risque. This is why the local antipornography office forced a number of platforms to remove a great bulk of ASMR content even though the content creators claim there is nothing sexual about it. In this case, censors might have taken comments from Chinese internet users describing ASMR as “in-skull orgasm” too literally.

This is just one of a number of ways censors have been fighting against pornographic content. Several years ago, China also banned seductively eating bananas.

China’s anti-porn office cracks down on videos of women whispering into microphones

 3) No bad renditions of the national anthem

A young live streamer’s performance, in which she warbles the Chinese anthem while wearing a pair of reindeer antlers, only lasted seconds. But it was enough to brandish her as a public enemy.

Antlers and anthems don’t mix. (Picture: Weibo)

Streaming celebrity Yang Kaili -- known as Lige -- reportedly had 2 million fans, but that following wasn’t enough for her platform of choice Huya, which dumped her like a pile of bricks. This was despite her promise to watch patriotic documentaries and undertake “education on political ideologies”.

Yang isn’t the only one. One Kuaishou live-streamer was jailed for 15 days after he “disrespected” the national anthem. And these live streamers are considered lucky -- disrespecting the national anthem in China can get you jailed for 3 years.

Internet star banned from streaming after singing national anthem

4) No history jokes

Jokes about the Holocaust are bound to cause controversy. ( Larry David found that out the hard way.) In China, controversy about historical events can get just as contentious.
Laughing at anything dubbed a “massacre” seems a bad idea to us, but we’re also not fabulously rich streaming celebrities. (Picture: 创事记)

Chen Yifer was a streaming darling before someone dug out a 2-year-old video of her making fun of the Japanese invasion of China and mentioning the Nanjing Massacre. This got her banned from streaming platform Douyu (along with plenty of backlash online).

Douyu, for its part, said it will uphold “patriotic education” by taking its live streaming hosts on regular visits to history museums and revolutionary landmarks to make sure that they “understand and remember history.” And if you think this only happens in live streaming, China's popular rage comics account got banned after making fun of a communist martyr.

Chinese streamers to be sent on patriotic tours after star mocked the Nanking Massacre

5) No teenage moms

Streaming site Kuaishou, popular among China's poor and rural, landed in trouble after a peculiar trend started to appear on its platform: Teenage moms. Mothers young as 14 started sharing their lives on Kuaishou. One of the most popular young moms, 19-year-old Yang Qingning, racked up 45 million followers.

Streaming site Kuaishou is known for women eating lightbulbs and Jackass-style stunts… and teenage moms. (Image: Weibo)
After receiving criticism from the Chinese government, the platform rushed to apologize, saying that videos by teen moms and teen-moms-to-be could “negatively impact society.” And while many accused Kuaishou of normalizing or even glorifying teenage pregnancy, other online commentators pointed out that poor rural girls rarely have access to information about reproductive health.

Why do people in China spend so much on live streamers?

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.