More and more of China’s most beloved institutions, the karaoke parlours, are playing their part in the government crackdown on vulgarity and dissent as they are monitored by direct links that allow the government to spot illegal music and pornographic videos.
Nearly 180 karaoke places in the city of Chongqing have installed the “National Karaoke Content Management System,” or “The Black Box” as it is more popularly known, which monitors the playlist remotely and automatically calls the police if a warbler selects a vulgar tune or a banned song.
The system is up and running in hundreds of karaoke bars in other cities too. It is being provided for free by the government, although some critics have accused the government of trying to profit from the system by running advertising for state interests such as local lotteries.
The songs and music videos on playlists in KTVs, as karaoke bars are known in China, are usually downloaded from online sources, which makes them hard to monitor, despite the Great Firewall of China which blocks access to banned sites. Many webizens can find ways around the net nannies’ methods of blocking sites.
The banned songs contain obscenities or rallying calls for independence in Xinjiang or Tibet.
At least 10 songs containing what authorities consider vulgar words, including “Nightmare,” “Even the Pig Smiles” and “Conquer the World” have been deleted in raids so far.
According to the Chongqing Evening News, a music video of “Conquer the World” praised a disguised Chinese cadre who wanted to take French women to Japan to film adult videos and urinate outside the entrance of the White House.
Karaoke is a hugely popular pastime in China. The system is also aimed at stopping piracy, as it logs unlicensed imports of music.
As part of an ongoing campaign against smut, the culture ministry is monitoring 81,000 Internet cafes to weed out “lewd, pornographic and violent content,” and it blocked access to banned websites more than 87 million times in 2009.