Bad taste: LeEco’s Go Princess Go, other streaming hits by China’s Tencent, iQiyi shut down for vulgarity, violence and ‘superstitious’ content

Just as Chinese web dramas begin to make their mark, Beijing starts clamping down on those ‘disruptive to Chinese cultural tradition’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 January, 2016, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 9:19am

Chinese censors have again clamped down on popular internet content on the mainland, with the removal this week of local entertainment portal LeEco’s self-produced Go Princess Go, iQIYI’s The Lost Tomb and at least three other online streaming shows for being vulgar, violent or superstitious.

LeEco confirmed on Thursday that it had stopped streaming the romantic-comedy drama at the request of the “relevant (government) department”, but said that viewers outside the mainland can still watch it.

LeEco said through a statement on its social media account that the show is being modified and “will be back in near future”.

READ MORE: China’s LeEco to enter Indian market with flagship Le Max and Le 1s smartphones through online retail partner Flipkart

It added that it will establish a 7 billion yuan (US$1.06 billion) fund to support home-made content production.

The company was known as Letv until it rebranded earlier this month to better represent its broader portfolio that now includes online video, smartphones and electric cars. The new name reflects its interconnected “ecosystem”, it said.

At least until it was taken down, Go Princess Go has ranked as one of the most popular shows in China in recent weeks. The series, which was produced only for web broadcasting, was released on LeEco’s website in the middle of last month and had already racked up a cumulative 2.69 billion views by the time it got the chop on Wednesday.

It revolves around the - often hilarious - exploits of modern-day womaniser Zhang Peng as he travels back in time and winds up trapped in the body of the Crown Princess of the time, thus giving him access to a harem of desirable ladies.

Based on an online novel, the show has courted controversy in China for the sexual nature of some of its scenes and the lack of what would be considered proper and accurate historical references.

Meanwhile, iQIYI’s The Lost Tomb starring top Chinese actors Li Yifeng and Tang Yan follows the adventures of a young archaeologist as he explores ancient Chinese tombs and encounters ghosts and ghouls. It garnered 2.8 billion views since it was released last June, the company said.

Other recently removed shows include: iQIYI’s Evil Minds, which was released last May and racked up half a billion views; and Tencent’s Darker and Blind Spot, which are both related to crime and supernatural phenomena.

Online shows cannot include content that “are superstitious”, “disruptive to Chinese cultural tradition,” or “forbidden by related laws and regulations”, according to strict guidelines set out by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) in 2009.

READ MORE: China’s Letv inks deals with TCL Multimedia and Digital Domain in Hong Kong to shore up hardware and content portfolios

“We have strengthened the measures to govern online content in response to President Xi Jinping’s call to ‘make the the internet space clear and bright’,” said SAPPRFT director Cai Fuchao at the 3rd China Internet Audio-Visual Conference in December.

This is not entirely a new trend: The government limits the number of imported shows that can be on shown on streaming websites by imposing strict quotas. This is equivalent to roughly one-third of all the domestic shows released the previous year.

Such tight controls have spurred many video websites to ramp up their homemade content.

iQIYI said in October that it plans to spend half of its 2016 budget to produce new shows.