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Warning: Making online jokes about Chinese police may land you in detention

Police in Quanyang, Shanxi Province have detained a woman for sharing a video poking fun at urban management officers riding motorcycles. The footage was “ill-spirited,” police said, because it was paired with an orchestral song called “Devils enter the village” (鬼子进村 guǐzi jìn cūn) as background music, which “tainted the image of law enforcement officers” in the city and “caused massive negative impacts on society.”

According to a police notice (in Chinese), the clip was first posted on the short-form video-sharing app TikTok — called Dǒuyīn 抖音 in China — on December 13 and quickly went viral on the platform. The wide circulation of the video soon caught the attention of the local police, who verified the woman’s identity and arrested her on December 17.

The announcement notes that the woman expressed penitence after the arrest, saying that she created the video “for fun” and “out of boredom.” While she denied insulting the city’s urban management office on purpose, local police decided to punish her with a 5-day detention in accordance with the country’s laws on public security.

The music that landed the woman in trouble is originally from the classic Chinese movie Guerilla in the Plain 平原游击队, which tells the story about how a guerrilla group in China successfully defeats a Japanese invasion army during the War of Resistance. In the movie, the song was used to accompany a scene where a troop of Japanese soldiers walk into a village with weapons on their shoulders.

“Devils” (鬼子 guǐzi) in the track’s title refers to Japanese soldiers. Broadly, in Chinese culture, the word is often used as an defamatory term for Japanese people.

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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

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