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Chinese public angry about censored cleavage

Chinese censors have angered the public again with another case of censoring media content. Popular TV show "Empress of China" was recently edited to remove shots of female characters in mildly revealing dresses.

Cleavage is dangerous and vulgar
"Empress of China," a show about Wu Zeitan, renowned ruler from the Tang Dynasty, was quickly taken off the air after its debut on a satellite station last month. The show, which portrays the life of the famous empress who came to power at the end of the 7th century, was taken off the air for "technical reasons," reported Business Insider.

One week after the show was pulled, it was released again with edited shots of the female characters. Women from the period depicted in the show were known to wear slightly revealing dresses, which did not sit well with the censors who decided to crop out any glimpses of cleavage from the screen. The Chinese public was angered by the censorship move, arguing that this time censors had gone too far and were tampering with the county's fashion history, noted Business Insider.

A newspaper close to the ruling Communist Party advocated in an editorial piece that while censorship is driven by moral concerns, the reaction of the public should be taken into account.

"While it is powerful, censorship lacks authority," The Global Times said, according to the news source. "In this sense, when using censorship, more considerations should be given to public opinion to garner support and avoid similar incidents."

The rules on censorship in China are unclear
In China, the rules that govern censorship are unclear. Raymond Zhou, a film critic and pop culture commentator for the state-run China Daily newspaper, commented that the depictions of the female characters in "Empress of China" were not historically inaccurate, reported The LA Times. Zhou also referenced paintings from the time period depicted in the show as indications that Chinese ladies in fact used to wear revealing dresses.

One rumor that surfaced, Zhou mentioned, was that old government officials saw the program and filed a complaint, which ultimately led to censorship. While it is difficult to verify rumors, the film critic called attention to the fact that Peking opera versions of the Empress Wu story featured more modest costumes. Peking opera actors often wear clothing that covers more skin than what was historically common.

"Generations of Chinese were exposed to this and believe this is the way Chinese in the Tang Dynasty wore their clothes," Zhou said, according to the LA Times. "But this is not true."

Selective Censorship explained
The LA Times reported that "Empress of China" may have caught the attention of regulators because it was featured on Hunan TV – a popular network that has angered government watchdogs before. Other similar TV shows running on state broadcasted stations were noted for slipping through the censorship cracks.

"Hunan TV has such a big audience, so it became an issue," Zhou said. "If this series was shown on any other channel, it wouldn't have become a problem because only a fraction of the audience would have seen it."

It is worthy to mention that President Xi Jinping recently launched a vocal campaign to cleanse media of improper elements – perhaps the cleavage was one of those elements.  Also last month the film "Gone with the Bullets" was abruptly delayed from release due to last minute demands by censors.

Business Insider reported that an online survey released by microblogging service Sina Weibo, found that approximately 95 percent of respondents disapproved of the "Empress of China" censorship.

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