China’s top law-making body will consider this week a popular proposition to ban actors who have used drugs from entertainment industry for life at its annual weeklong meeting, which kicked off Friday.
The National People’s Congress, the country’s rubber stamp parliament, counts some 3,000 professionals from across the country as delegates, including directors Jia Zhangke, Feng Xiaogang and Chen Kaige, as well as Jackie Chan and Yao Ming. It meets every year in Beijing.
While many proposals that end up going nowhere are bandied about ahead of the meeting by delegates with almost no pull, this one from lawyer Zhu Lieyu, who heads the Guangdong Guoding Law Firm, merits attention for having sparked a whirlwind of online commentary and an outpouring of popular support in the lead-up to the event.
The topic rose to become the number one hot search item on Weibo this week, while the hashtag “#Representative Proposes That Celebs Should Be Banned for Life for a Single Instance of Drug Use” has been viewed a whopping 930 million times and sparked 51,000 comments as of Friday afternoon, essentially all positive.
Zhu proposed the idea that “one instance of drug use means you’re banned for life” be written into law in order to regulate the “chaos of drug-related behavior among celebrities” and to “purify” the entertainment industry’s atmosphere, according to the local outlet China Newsweek.
“Actors inherently have a higher level of education, and they are idolized by young people. The bad impact of them using drugs is more severe, so the punishment for them using drugs should be harsher,” he said.
He brushed off criticism from any actors protesting that it was unfair to single out their profession for such harsh punishment, saying there are norms each industry should follow, such as, “people with infectious disease shouldn’t become chefs, and those with a history of sexual harassment should be banned from kindergarten or elementary school.”
“Every industry should have its restrictions so it doesn’t hinder people from facing this principle before the law,” he said.
Nearly a million people liked China Newsweek’s Weibo post with his statement, which has elicited more than 23,000 reposts and 22,000 comments. The most popular comment, with 147,000 likes, was a statement of agreement that “drug-using artists should never have a comeback.”
“And also those who misbehaved via tax fraud or evasion!” chimed in another user below, a clear jab at fallen starlet Fan Bingbing, one of China’s top celebrities who disappeared from the public eye after being found guilty of tax fraud in 2018, who has not made a proper comeback since. Many other commenters spoke of concern that celebs who are bad role models would lead China’s youth astray.
China is home to a reported 2.15 million drug users as of the end of 2019, according to Zhu’s proposal. The country does not distinguish between marijuana use and other harder substances in its legal or penal system. Beijing metes out harsh punishment for drug smuggling or trafficking, including the death penalty for those possessing more than 50 grams of an illegal substance. It has also previously complained that the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. and Canada has led to greater amounts of the drug in the country, despite admitting there are very few users in the country.
China has since 2013 been the main source of the fentanyl that inundates the U.S.
For many Chinese citizens, their main encounter with drugs has been through popular drug-busting TV programs and films.
“I’ve seen too many police documentaries about police anti-drug activities, and hate drug addicts to my bones,” one Weibo user wrote in response to the proposal. “Drug-taking artists don’t deserve to ever appear in front of the camera again!” Countless posts wrote that not passing such a law would “let down the heroes on the front line of the war against drugs.”
The delegate’s anti-drug proposal is in line with new celebrity “morality guidelines” issued in mid-February by the government-backed China Association of Performing Arts, which came into effect in a trial phase on March 1. The regulations also sought to force artists to “self-regulate” their own bad behavior, including drug use, as well as to “ardently love the motherland,” or face up to a lifetime ban from the biz. The body has set up a committee to determine who has violated its rules and which artists have been sufficiently contrite to merit a comeback.
The proposed law also accords with the ruling Communist Party’s emphasis on the idea that art should first and foremost play a strong role in shaping Chinese citizens’ ideology.