The high-profile detentions of two celebrities on suspected drug offenses has highlighted the increasingly hard line taken by President Xi Jinping's administration towards the entertainment industry, analysts said Tuesday.
The drug busts targeting Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan's son, Jaycee Chan, and Taiwan actor Kai Ko were trending with some 70 million views on China's equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo, official media reported.
Actor Jaycee Chan, 32, was detained at his home in Beijing's Dongcheng district on Monday for allowing others to smoke marijuana on the premises, city police tweeted on Monday.
Chan, who is currently being held under criminal detention, was also allegedly found with more than 100 grams of marijuana in his possession, the tweet said.
On Aug. 12, Kai Ko was also arrested for allegedly taking drugs in Dongcheng district and handed a 14-day administrative detention. Two other suspects, including a suspected dealer, are also being held.
But industry insiders said the detentions are merely the latest in a string of police operations targeting China's entertainment industry, members of which are increasingly being asked to sign non-drug-use pledges in order to secure work.
"[This pledge] ... directly stops people from working [if they don't sign it]," up-and-coming film director Fan Popo told RFA on Tuesday. "It's a severe form of discrimination."
"I think that this recent campaign against people in the entertainment industry is a form of point-scoring, for the eyes of the government," he said.
"Recently, a friend of mine was picked up by the police out of the blue and taken to a police station, where he was questioned about drug use," he said. "Actually, he never did drugs."
"It's the same tactics they were using to target sex workers in [the southern city of] Dongguan recently, and things have recently got much more lax there lately."
He said many people in China have still had little experience of "softer" drugs like marijuana.
"Obviously, the question of drug use is a very complicated one, but someone's public image shouldn't be doomed just because they become tainted with drugs," Fan said.
Beijing authorities have detained more than 7,000 people in the campaign, a 72 percent increase on the same period last year, official media reported.
The campaign has netted popular movie actor Zhang Mo and singer Li Daimo, sentenced to a nine-month jail-term for hosting a crystal meth party.
The "Beijing Municipal Entertainment Industry Drug-Free Pledge" was signed earlier this month by dozens of agencies in the entertainment industry, who pledged not to hire performers who use drugs.
In 2009, Jackie Chan was named an anti-drugs ambassador by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Tang Jitian said the "pledge" is based in current anti-drug legislation and administrative guidelines.
But he said it amounted to a "concession" of a person's human rights.
"If those signing it want to hand over their human rights, then they can do that," Tang said.
"But it becomes a lot more doubtful when that boundary is overstepped, and other people's rights and interests are involved."
Tang said powerful vested interests mean that any genuine progress on drugs looks doubtful.
"There are many complicated social issues, such as how to break the chains of interest," Tang said.
"Just going after individual cases is unlikely to be more than a short-term method of control," he said. "It won't solve the problem in the long run."
Reported by Tang Qiwei for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.