Authorities in China have jailed a woman for live-streaming a video of herself singing the national anthem in a manner considered disrespectful by the authorities.
Yang Kaili, an independent video creator with more than two million followers from Shanghai, was handed a five-day administrative sentence after streaming the performance on the video-sharing platform Huya.
Yang performed the "March of the Volunteers" clad in reindeer antlers and waving her arms like a conductor, as well as imitating the orchestral introduction to the piece.
Her light-hearted performance soon ran afoul of an Oct. 1, 2017 National Anthem Law banning any form of "insult" to the anthem or to other symbols of the state and the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
"Boom-de-boom-de-boom-de-boom! Rise up all ye who don't want to be slaves!" Yang sings in the video. "Hallo comrades, and good evening!"
Yang was reported by Huya users and sentenced to five days' administrative detention on Oct. 7 under the anthem law, which provides for jail terms of up to 15 days handed down by police without trial to anyone "insulting" the national anthem.
"[Yang] distorted the content of the national anthem and pulled faces during the performance, using it as an opening number for her online music concert," the Jiangsu provincial police department said in a statement via its official account on the Sina Weibo social media platform.
Under the National Anthem Law, anyone found "deliberately distorting or falsifying the lyrics or music" of the national anthem can be summarily detained for up to 15 days with no trial.
"More serious incidents" are subject to further police investigation.
In statements issued on Oct. 9 and 10, Yang said she felt ashamed of her behavior after seeing negative comments online, and apologized to her fans and to the government for not treating the anthem solemnly enough.
Shanghai police meanwhile warned that live streaming on social media platforms is still subject to Chinese law, and vowed to pursue offenders "resolutely."
Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily called in editorials over the weekend for more restraint among online content producers, and for more people to report any "undesirable" online content.
An activist who gave only a nickname Xiao Biao said Yang's actions should fall within the definition of freedom of expression.
"I think it's ridiculous that the authorities actually detained her; it's suppression of online freedom of speech," Xiao Biao said.
"It will also have a chilling effect on the diversity of user-produced content and sow fear among the general public," he said.
'Red lines' always changing
Beijing-based artist Wang Peng said the authorities' "red lines" appear to be constantly changing, leaving people unsure of how to protect themselves.
"Sometimes they shut down or delete stuff which is totally inoffensive," Wang said. "I think on the one hand it's the internet police, and on the other hand it's [social media platform] WeChat, which engages in self-censorship."
"Any sensitive keywords or any sensitive events that are happening that the authorities believe can be linked to something else are shut down," Wang said. "You never know when you're going to cross a red line."
Last month, police in the southwestern province of Sichuan handed down a 10-day administrative jail term to a woman from the provincial capital Chengdu, after she changed the words of the national anthem as part of a campaign to protect her rights.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Han Qing and Jia Ao for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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