'Unhealthy' images led to drama's edits

BEIJING - After much brouhaha over the censoring of the cleavage of female characters in a Chinese television period drama, the country's TV regulator explained that the show was edited because of its "unhealthy images".

The series stars actress Fan Bingbing as Tang Dynasty ruler Wu Zetian, China's only known female empress.

"We received many complaints from viewers after the TV series began airing, saying there were some unhealthy images for minors, among other problems," said Tian Jin, deputy director of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television at a press conference yesterday.

The administration investigated the TV drama and found that there were problems related to a lack of editing, Mr Tian said.

Punishment was given in accordance with the law, and the broadcaster and producer were ordered to re-edit the drama before bringing it back to TV.

The drama The Empress Of China, also known as Saga Of Wu Zetian, began broadcasting on Dec 21, but was pulled off the air a week later by commercial satellite station Hunan TV for "technical reasons".

Many speculated the suspension was punishment by the country's TV regulators for the programme's revealing costumes, which featured low-cut necklines and prominent breasts.

The drama returned on New Year's Day without the actresses' cleavage, showing only close-ups of the characters' faces.

Chinese Internet users responded by complaining about the censorship on microblogging service Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter. Several said they would not be able to see the hundreds of costume changes by Fan, who plays Wu.

An online survey released by Sina Weibo recently found that nearly 95 per cent of respondents disapproved of the censorship.

"This drama shows not only the beauty of the human body, but also the beauty of Tang dynasty style. Now you are showing only the characters' heads?" wrote one netizen.

The officials said the re-edited version has been well received by viewers, though there has been some discussion online.

"Our artistic works, films and TV dramas should all promote China's core values, and pass on positive energy and good and true ideas," he said.