A parody video by Yang Kaili, a 21-year-old social media celebrity from China, has led to her detention. The online star, followed on live-streaming platform Huya by tens of millions of users, sang a part of the national anthem while dancing. As a result, she was detained on October 7 by Shanghai’s Jingan district’s police for “disrespecting” the national anthem. She was released after 5 days in detention.
South China Morning Post quotes the police statement, describing her behaviour as “an insult to the dignity of the national anthem which repelled internet users”. Yang apologised publicly several times for the incidents, calling it “a stupid mistake”:
“I sincerely apologise for singing the national anthem in an unserious manner while broadcasting. What I did has hurt your feelings. I’m sorry. Sorry to the motherland, to the fans, to web users, and to the platform”
“I will deeply reflect and fully accept ideological, political and patriotic education and study hard on the national anthem law and relevant regulations”
According to Freedom House’s Freedom of the Net report for the year 2017, China is marked as ‘Not Free’. In fact, it was declared as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom for the third year in a row.
China is criticised for manipulating social media in order to undermine democracy. Since November 2016, network operators are required by law to register all private data of Chinese users and store it within the country. Social media users were reported to be arrested and sentenced to up to 11 years over publishing content criticizing the government. By legislation introduced in 2017, user-generated news content is limited by licensing demand for publishing any form of digital news and using VPN tools, used by many online users to circumvent state-imposed censorship.