China Considering Lifetime Ban for Stars Caught for Drugs, "Moral Misdeeds"

Illustration by: Lars Leetaru

A series of recent drug and vice busts have shocked the Chinese entertainment industry.

China’s media watchdog has warned that it may introduce a lifetime ban on "tainted stars" after a host of big names in the entertainment industry were swept up in drug and vice busts.

Since President Xi Jinping's moral crusade against smut and graft began, many leading film and TV companies have pledged not to hire stars involved in prostitution, gambling or drug abuse.

The ban has major implications for the entertainment industry, as not only the stars but also the movies they star in are banned under the campaign by China’s media watchdog, the powerful State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARPPFT).

However, the details of the ban, including the length of time a star would be punished, are unclear at the moment. By formalizing the rules, it should be possible to ban just the star of a film rather than the entire production.

The cast of those so far caught up in the Chinese moral dragnet would make for quite a movie.

Actor Wang Xuebing, who starred in last year's Berlin Golden Bear winner Black Coal, Thin Ice, was arrested in March for suspected drug use in Beijing.

Last year, Chinese director Wang Quan’an, a Golden Bear winner for Tuya's Marriage in 2006, was arrested for paying for sex, while Jaycee Chan, son of the veteran Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan, was busted for smoking marijuana at a foot massage parlor in Beijing last summer and jailed for six months. Chan was arrested with Taiwanese actor Ko Chen-tung, which has delayed indefinitely the release date of the next installment of Ko's highly successful Tiny Times franchise.

Hong Kong actor Roy Cheung and mainland actor Gao Hu have also run afoul of the police, while director Zhang Yuan was held for drug offenses at a Beijing railway station.

You Xiaogang, head of the China Television Drama Production Industry Association, told the China International Film & TV Programs Exhibition that SAPPRFT was considering whether to ban "tainted" actors for life, while suggesting that it might be possible to punish just star and not the entire production.

"I think the tainted stars should be punished and forbidden to act for 10 years or even for a lifetime. In America, if a star has a problem, they will stop using him, but won't prohibit the whole film or drama," said You.

Some Chinese production companies were considering urine tests before allowing actors to take part in movies.

Wang Hui, president of Datang Brilliant Media Corporation, said production firms would be extra careful if the ban was extended, particularly if a star getting into trouble caused a production to be banned.

He said actors would have to sign a clause saying they would bear responsibility if their immoral behavior led to a show being stopped.

"However, it is difficult to implement," said Wang. "How can an actor compensate a film worth tens of millions?"

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan