Chinese female bodybuilder in feud with internet police over bikini videos

Society & Culture

Lara Zhang, an Australia-based Chinese female bodybuilder, engaged in a social media feud on Monday with China’s cyber police, who accused her of spreading pornography after she posted a bodybuilding video of herself posing in a bikini on Weibo.

The controversial clip was shared by Zhang in July 2018, but the official Weibo account of internet police in Maoming, Guangdong Province, somehow dug it out today and warned Zhang of the legal consequences of posting “obscene” content on the Chinese internet.

“According to the national security laws and cybersecurity regulations, it’s illegal to publish or spread obscene or pornographic information on the internet. Such behavior is subject to investigation by public security departments and will be punished in accordance with relevant laws,” the police commented on the video.

Zhang quickly fired back in defense of her video and women’s bodybuilding, a sport that she has loved and participated in for a long time.

“Please show me the results of your investigation and official documents when you are ready. I’ll fight for my rights and appeal,” Wang wrote (in Chinese) on Weibo, explaining that what she did in the video was just how female contestants pose onstage in figure competitions and that her bikini was a required costume. “The competition I attended was associated with the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness,” she added. “It baffles me why it’s so difficult to promote an athletic sport.”

Zhang later doubled down in another post, which has been liked more than 3,000 times.

She wrote, “I don’t care about how average people see me because everyone views beauty differently. But how could a verified account of the police be so regressive and ignorant? I’m entitled to claim my rights.”

Zhang’s Weibo feed is basically a fitness blog where she keeps track of her bodybuilding progress and shares advice on how to keep fit and healthy.

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The Global Times reports (in Chinese) that the police apologized to Zhang in private today for false accusations.

On Weibo, many internet users noted (in Chinese) that there is a disturbing irony in the internet police targeting an athletic bodybuilding video after their prolonged failure to crack down on real issues on the Chinese internet, such as the proliferation of child porn. Some of them cited a famous quote from the Chinese writer Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅 to illustrate how the police’s imagination took a giant leap when seeing women’s bodies. It reads, “The sight of women’s short sleeves at once make them think of bare arms, of the naked body, the genitals, copulation, promiscuity, and bastards.”