The authorities have called for a nationwide crackdown on strip shows, which are particularly popular in rural areas, state media reported yesterday. The ban, declared on Saturday, ordered culture and public security agencies at all levels to 'strike hard' to stamp out lewd and debauched strip shows and advertisements for them, the China Youth Daily said yesterday. The national bulletin, issued jointly by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Public Security, follows a recent spate of arrests involving travelling strip-show syndicates which have been surfacing across the country. According to the report, authorities recently arrested 221 people involved in staging strip shows in rural towns in Shanxi, Hebei, and Zhejiang provinces. The strip-show syndicates organised young women to perform in local dance halls, cinemas and other public performance venues. Beijing blames this rise of stripping syndicates on lax enforcement and local government corruption. Ministry of Culture officials said local governments and party organisations had neglected to crack down on the strip shows because they often worked with the syndicates. The report said many government officials had been removed from their posts and were under investigation. All forms of prostitution and pornography are deemed 'unhealthy' by Beijing and are prohibited. But prostitution is widespread, with activities such as publishing pornographic magazines, videos and Internet Web sites flourishing despite the decree.