Chinese comedian Li Haoshi, also known as House, was recently investigated by the Beijing Cultural Market Comprehensive Law Enforcement Corps. The conclusion of this investigation resulted in Xiaoguo Culture, the talk show company Li Haoshi is affiliated with, being punished with “a warning, confiscation of illegal income of 1,325,381.6 yuan ($189,134.87 USD), and a fine of 13,353,816 yuan ($1,905,618.92 USD). All performances of the companies involved in Beijing will be suspended indefinitely.”
While performing in Beijing at the Xiaoguo talk show, Li Haoshi made a play on Xi Jinping’s words saying that two wild dogs chasing a squirrel reminded him of eight words, “作风优良 能打胜仗”, which roughly translates to “a good style of work can win battles.” While the joke was met with laughter in the moment, some members of the audience and many online took offense to it, subsequently leading Beijing Cultural Market Comprehensive Law Enforcement Corps to open an investigation after receiving multiple complaints about his act.
“We will never allow any company or individual to wantonly slander the glorious image of the People’s Army on the stage of the capital”Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism
The Beijing Cultural Market Comprehensive Law Enforcement Corps is also involved in a number of other activities, including the prosecution of a company providing video game services to minors after the “gaming curfew”, epidemic prevention and control, and “anti-pornography and anti-illegal activities.” The Beijing Cultural Market Comprehensive Law Enforcement Corps is, as the name suggests, the law enforcement corps of the Beijing Bureau of Culture and Tourism.
The Beijing Bureau of Culture and Tourism and its law enforcement corps are important groups to follow because they set the precedent for how the rest of China handles similar cases. For example, they were the first to investigate and prosecute a company for violating the “newly” revised Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors. According to their press release, by doing this they were “providing experience and case support for the investigation and handling of similar cases in the field of cultural law enforcement across the country.”
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism was the result of a merger between the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and the Beijing Municipal Tourism Development Commission in November 2018. It’s respective law enforcement corps was founded in October 2020, which reports not only to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism, but also to the Beijing Municipal Party Committee Propaganda Department.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism is responsible for many things one would expect: promoting the healthy growth of culture, regulating tourism and protecting tourists, implementation of national laws on culture and tourism, drafting of local laws on culture and tourism, and the supervision and inspection of those laws. Notably, one of their responsibilities is to “guide artistic creation and production, support representative and exemplary literary and artistic works that embody socialist core values.” The final statutory duty listed on the official website of the Bureau is “complete other tasks assigned by the Municipal Party Committee and the Municipal Government.”
According to the government information disclosure section of the Bureau’s website, there are 15 leaders of the organization, with their roles ranging from Director of the Bureau to second-class inspector.
The Director, Yang Shuo, has been a member of communist party since 1992. He has been at multiple party organizations as a deputy-level position or higher since 2002, meaning he has vast experience as a party member and leader. The common theme in his previous employment is working in radio and TV government organizations. Before being posted as the Director of the Bureau, he was the Director of the Beijing Radio and Television Bureau. He is also a Party Secretary* currently.
Cao Pengcheng is the second person listed on the Bureau’s leadership list, suggesting he is second in the order of importance, and also the leader or “Chief Captain” of the Beijing Cultural Market Comprehensive Law Enforcement Corps. He has been in charge since the Corps’ inception in 2020. Like Yang Shuo, Cao Pengcheng has extensive experience in the Communist Party, having joined in 1991. He has been at a deputy-level position or higher since 2008.
A common theme among the Bureau leadership is having a graduate degree; however, there does not appear to be a pattern the focus of the graduate degree. The majority had previous experience in the communications industry, whether it be printing, radio, TV, or publishing. Multiple members also had prior military experience. Out of the 15 in leadership positions at the Bureau, there is one female.
The policy of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism is important to monitor as they have a history of setting the standard for the rest of the country; their actions give insight to how the Chinese government reacts to and regulates cultural change.
Studying this organization and how they operate also provides an understanding of the similarly structured organizations in other cities. Shanghai, the most populous city in China, has its own Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism. Many other cities also have a similar form of this organization, with slightly varying names such as “Chengdu Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Film and Tourism.”
Beijing’s decision to use Chinese comedian Li Haoshi as an example by placing such a heavy fine on his business sends a clear and direct message to the entire entertainment industry: the repercussions for testing the boundaries when speaking about the Chinese government are serious.