China's media regulator has banned the country's top hip-hop artists from appearing on television, saying the music genre represents "non-mainstream culture" that is "decadent."
A directive from the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) published as "special content" on the entertainment pages of news portal Sina.com calls on state broadcasters to avoid hiring any performers who embody "hip-hop culture" or other sub-cultures.
Performers with tattoos are also a no-no, along with anyone representing the emo-esque 'sang' culture popular with Chinese millennials, according to SAPPRFT spokesman Gao Changli.
Those who have low levels of taste, morality or who are "vulgar and obscene" should also be avoided at all costs, Gao said.
Above all, talent must show clear loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, he said.
"Never use performers who aren't psychologically and morally aligned with the party," Gao was quoted as saying.
Performers embroiled in scandals, smears or who have problematic morality and integrity must also never be booked, he said.
Political journalist Gao Yu said the move seems similar in tone to the "anti spiritual pollution" censorship campaigns of the 1980s, when rock'n'roll stars like Cui Jian were the target.
If both the hip-hop spirit and the unique expression are considered opposite to the "core values of socialism," and then come up with a "no-hip-hop in China," then it is a reduction of cultural ugly and farce, , "Clear mental pollution" mistakes.
"If they are trying to make out that the spirit of hip-hop as a unique form of expression run counter to the 'core values of socialism' ... then that would be an ugly and farcical reduction of culture," Gao told RFA.
"It is similar to the mistakes of anti spiritual pollution campaign and 'smash the four olds'," she said in a reference to political campaigns that smashed anything reminiscent of traditional Chinese culture during the Mao-era Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
'No basis in law or aesthetics'
Wu Fan, editor in chief of the U.S.-based Chinese-language magazine Chinese Affairs, said there was no basis in law or aesthetics for the move.
"What benchmark are they supposed to use for this phrase 'morally and psychologically aligned with the party'?" Wu said. "It's very hard to come up with definitions for such things, so it will be left to the organizations, or their immediate superiors, to make a subjective decision."
Wu said the Chinese government appears to be moving to control anything that is widely popular among ordinary people.
"My feeling is that they are going back to the Cultural Revolution era, or the period just before it," he said. "Back then, they had 'clean-up' campaigns too, and you couldn't sing or perform anything that wasn't in accordance with Mao Zedong Thought."
"Eventually, the entire cultural and arts sector was whittled down to eight revolutionary model operas and nothing else," he said. "Is that the direction we are heading in right now?"
The directive comes as Chinese hip-hop artists Wang Hao, known as "PG One" and Zhou Yan, known as "GAI" were sanctioned in recent weeks.
GAI has been cut from hit Hunan TV talent show "The Singer," while rapper Vava was cut from the "Happy Camp," produced by the same station.
The Global Times newspaper commented that the prospects for hip-hop in China now look gloomy.
It has also said that hip-hop - which it called a "tool for people to vent their anger, misery, complaints" was unsuited to China, and couldn't thrive there.
The official assault on hip-hop began under President Xi Jinping in 2015, when the culture ministry banned 120 songs - mostly rap - for "promoting obscenity, violence, crime or threatening public morality."
The president's brand of political ideology, known as "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" was enshrined in the party constitution at the 19th party congress last October, and now looks set to be inscribed in the national constitution in March.
Since then, higher education institutions have scrambled to show their loyalty to the country's new "core leader," by setting up research institutions devoted to the study of Xi Jinping Thought.
Reported by Lin Ping and Xiao An for RFA's Mandarin Service Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.