China detains renowned screenwriter for drug taking

BEIJING (AFP) - Police have detained a famous Chinese screenwriter for taking illegal drugs, in the latest case of a celebrity becoming ensnared in a government crackdown on crime and Internet "rumours".

Police identified the detainee by only his surname, Chen. But other details provided in their Thursday statement - such as a popular comic television series by which he rose to distinction - indicated that the man was Chen Wanning, better known to the public by his pseudonym Ning Caishen.

The 39-year-old screenwriter was detained on Tuesday in an apartment in east Beijing, according to a statement posted by the city's public security authorities on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

A pack of crystal methamphetamine - also known as ice - and drug-related paraphernalia were found in one of Chen's desk drawers, the statement said, adding that the screenwriter admitted that he had started taking drugs in December.

Chen has more than 7.25 million followers on Sina Weibo. While most of his postings have been about the entertainment industry and not politically sensitive, he sometimes expressed liberal opinions on issues such as freedom of speech and gay marriage.

The TV series that spurred his rise to fame was one of China's most-viewed dramas in 2006. It was adapted into a movie in 2011 that served as a scathing satire on corruption, skyrocketing home prices and forced eviction.

Chen is the latest celebrity to fall in a government crackdown on Internet rumours, pornography and now drugs.

Film director Zhang Yuan - whose works include an award-winning documentary depicting the heavy security in Tiananmen Square five years after the 1989 pro-democracy student protests - was also detained earlier this month over drug-taking accusations.

At the start of the campaign last year, officials told Internet celebrities with millions of followers to "promote virtue" and "uphold law" online.

The campaign, which analysts say is intended to assert greater control over social media and rein in criticism, has seen influential critics of Beijing paraded on state television and hundreds of Chinese bloggers and journalists arrested in recent months.

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