Outcry as Chinese erotic writer jailed for more than 10 years over gay sex scenes in novel

Kagthmandu (Pahichan) November 19 – The writer, surnamed Liu but better known by her internet alias Tianyi, was handed a 10-and-a-half year jail term for “producing and selling pornographic materials” last month, according to a television report on Friday.

The book that landed her into trouble was a 2017 novel named Occupy, which sold 7,000 copies through the internet.

The novel, about a forbidden love affair between a teacher and a student, was said to be filled with “graphic depictions of male homosexual sex scenes” tinged with violence, according to a television station in Anhui.

Pornography is illegal in China, but the hefty sentence given to Liu has ignited an uproar on social media.

According to the country’s criminal law, sentences for producing and disseminating obscene material for profit can vary wildly from a few years to life depending on the perceived severity of the offence.

The heavy sentence imposed in this case ignited an uproar. Outraged social media users were quick to point out that many serious crimes, including rape, violence and manslaughter, carried a lower sentence.

Under mainland China’s criminal law, many rapists are only liable to serve a jail term of between three to 10 years.

One case cited by critics was that of an official in Yunnan province who was sentenced to five years in prison for abducting and raping a four-year-old girl. Following a public outcry the sentence was increased to eight years.

Another was a man who was sentenced to 6½ years in jail for beating his wife to death in Beijing in 2009.

The legal basis of Liu’s sentence is a judicial interpretation issued by China’s supreme court.

According to the statement, selling more than 5,000 copies of pornographic books or making more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,400) from their sale is regarded as an “especially serious circumstance”, which carries a sentence of “imprisonment for not less than 10 years or life”.

Not only did Liu sell more than 5,000 copies, she also made a profit of 150,000 yuan by doing so.

However, the judicial interpretation was issued in 1998, and critics argue it is outdated.

“It might have been difficult to sell 5,000 copies in 1998 – there was no internet back then. But now it is almost effortless,” said one of the most liked comments on Weibo.

Deng Xueping, a Shanghai-based lawyer at Capital Equity Legal Group, said the judicial interpretation was in need of revision.

“It’s out of touch with all the changes that have taken place in society,” he said.

He also argued that the penalties in the law code were due for revision, saying there were sentencing guidelines for more than 400 offences but it was questionable whether these had been reasonably set.

A former state prosecutor who has handled hundreds of cases ranging from corruption to fraud, Deng said he thought Liu’s sentence was too heavy.

“The social harm of pornographic books might not be as grave as the legislators had thought initially. Nowadays, pornography is ubiquitous,” he said, adding that there was no reason to treat it like “flash floods” or “savage beasts” that could corrupt an innocent mind.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Outcry as writer of gay porn gets 10 yearS in prison