A Chinese woman and writer with the pen name of Tianyi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for producing and selling pornographic materials. Tianyi’s novel, Occupy, was self-published in 2017. The book is about a homosexual relationship between a teacher and student.
Tianyi, whose full name is unknown according to Western sources, but Wu Hu News states her name is Liu Mou. According to Wu Hu, Liu used social media platform Weibo to promote the book and then, with the help of several accomplices—named as He Mou and Yang Mou—to publish and distribute physical copies of the novel. Tianyi sold over 7,000 copies of Occupy and earned more than 150,000 yuan, the equivalent of almost $22,000.
The harsh prison sentence of the author has led to a huge outcry in China. Creating, distributing, and selling pornography is a crime in China and penalties can be extreme. Sentences can range from “a few years to life.” The outcry on Chinese social media has users pointing out that the harshness of the sentence surpasses sentences handed down to violent offenders. The South China Morning Post lists two examples that critics are citing in response to the 10 and a half year sentence.
In the first case, a man was given a five-year prison sentence for kidnapping and raping a four-year-old girl. The sentence was later adjusted to 8 years after public outcry. The second example is a 6 1/2 year sentence for a man who beat his wife to death in 2009.
The sentence was derived from guidelines dating back to 1998, which calls for a sentence of not less than ten years for anyone found guilty of selling more than 5,000 copies of a pornographic book or making more than 10,000 yuan from the sale of a pornographic book.
Occupy is part of the boys’ love genre, which focuses on homoerotic relationships between two males, often in forbidden relationships, with one character pursuing another. The boys’ love genre has its roots in yaoi, which originated in Japan. Boys’ love is a genre growing in popularity and many of its fans are young women.
Liu’s pen name of Tainyi is likely a reference to Tianyi Ge, China’s oldest existing library. China’s indie publishing and fan fiction scene is large and vibrant, with many authors forced to work underground, distributing works under pen names online and through illicit physical channels. In 2017 police arrested five suspects for selling “bad content.” The author of the works was given a five-year sentence. In 2014 a wave of arrests were made, targetting Chinese women writing boys’ love slash fanfiction.