Yang Kaili, a young internet star in China, was detained for five days for singing the country’s national anthem in a non-serious manner during a livestream. On October 7, clad in a fuzzy antler headband, Yang waved her hands around as she sang the national anthem for about 10 seconds.
“The national anthem is an embodiment and symbol of our country, and all citizens and organisations should respect and defend the honour of the anthem,” Shanghai police said in a social media announcement, The Washington Post reported.
“Live-streaming webcast is not lawless territory and users should obey the law and uphold moral standards. The police will resolutely crack down on such behaviours that challenge the legal bottom line or public order and good social morals, in order to purify the Internet’s public sphere.”
Yang broadcast the short rendition of “March of the Volunteers” on Huya, a massive livestreaming platform. Yang’s internet celebrity first took hold on TikTok where she reportedly had over 44 million followers. She then ditched the lipsyncing app for Huya, where she also reportedly had over two million followers. Her Huya channel was banned following the national anthem incident.
“I sincerely apologise for the fact that I did not sing the national anthem in the live broadcast in a serious manner,” Yang wrote on her Weibo account, The New York Times reported. “My behaviour deeply hurt everyone’s feelings. Sorry. Sorry to the motherland, sorry to my fans, sorry to everyone online, sorry to the platform.”
She also reportedly declared that she’d stop livestreaming work in order to focus on improving herself, studying laws related to the one she violated, and even watching national propaganda.
China enacted and amended the China’s National Anthem Law last year, which allows for imprisonment for up to three years for “deliberately distorting the lyrics or music of the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China, singing the national anthem in a distorted or derogatory fashion, or insulting the national anthem in other ways”.
The law doesn’t explicitly state which actions (or headwear) violate the law, but Yang’s detainment and the subsequent statement from police indicate that both internet celebrities and livestreaming platforms are not immune to being policed for seemingly wholesome, albeit silly, content. It also signals the government’s push for steadfast patriotic allegiance — or else.