China to clean up karaoke parlors

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BEIJING -- A government campaign targeting China's karaoke parlors will try to stamp out the selling of sex and drugs and the use of unlicensed music, the Ministry of Culture said.

The "Sunshine Project," which began Monday, comes as the Chinese capital prepares to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors for the Beijing Olympics this summer. Chinese leaders, who see the games as a chance to show off a modern, thriving country, have taken great pains to ensure that the event is flawless.

The ministry said on its Web site Tuesday that the initiative would run through 2010 and target the 200,000 "entertainment enterprises" in China, though it mentioned only karaoke parlors specifically.

Karaoke is extremely popular among Chinese, who sing in parlors ranging from glittering multistory complexes to roadside mom-and-pop operations. In the past, most played unlicensed versions of songs but that has been on the wane in recent years as Beijing has increasingly cracked down on the practice.

China is a leading source of pirated copies of music, movies and other goods. While entertainment enterprises boost consumer spending and provide jobs and tax revenue, "some are unlicensed and in some, illegal activities such as sex, gambling and drugs are taking place," the Ministry of Culture said in an apparent reference to the many massage parlors that double as brothels.

Protection of intellectual property rights was also lacking, it added. The ministry did not give details on how the campaign would be carried out, but said it would strengthen supervision of the industry and give "sunshine" certifications to businesses that followed regulations, provided good service and used only licensed products.

The campaign will be carried out by several government departments, including the Public Security Bureau and the Ministry of Health. It follows a call by the ruling Communist Party for citizens to help build a "harmonious society."
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