A Chinese novelist has been given a 10-year jail sentence for writing gay sex scenes, according to Newsweek. The writer, identified as Liu, was jailed last month for “producing and selling pornographic materials.”
Liu, who is known by her alias Tianyi, published the novel, Occupy, in 2017 and sold about 7,000 copies. “It described a forbidden love affair between a teacher and student which officials said was filled with ‘graphic depictions of male homosexual sex scenes’ suffused with violence,” according to Newsweek. (You can find the extremely tame book cover here.) Occupy reportedly caught authorities’ attention after it took off online.
Of course, porn is illegal in China, but the country is in the midst of a heightened crackdown. “Last week, regulators doubled the reward money given to citizens who report pornographic content to police—$118,000 is now up for grabs,” reports ABC. “In the same week, China’s top cyber authority also wiped almost 10,000 accounts from various social media sites, accusing them of posting vulgar and ‘politically harmful information.’”
The court in this case explained its sentencing decision by citing “a 1998 legal interpretation from China’s supreme court.” That interpretation said “that selling more than 5,000 copies of pornographic books or making more than 10,000 yuan ($1,400) from their sale will be regarded as an ‘especially serious circumstance’”—one carrying a sentence of “imprisonment for not less than 10 years or life.” It isn’t just Liu who has been targeted in this case, either. “Four other people involved in the book’s publication have also been jailed with sentences ranging from 10 months to 10 and a half years along with additional fines,” says Newsweek.
It’s possible in China to commit actual, real-world sexual violence and get away with a much lesser sentence. “For rape convictions... mainland Chinese criminal law assigns jail terms between three and 10 years,” reports Newsweek. But merely writing about a student-teacher love affair can get you a 10-year minimum.