Sexy China TV drama busted, returns to air more sedate

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A Chinese television drama that was pulled off the air after the female characters appeared on screen showing cleavage has returned to the screen, though this time showing only the actresses' heads, state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday.

The drama, "The Empress of China" also known as the "Saga of Wu Zetian", was removed by commercial satellite station Hunan TV for "technical reasons" in late December, Xinhua said. "Many viewers speculated the suspension was a punishment given by the country's television regulators for the much-discussed revealing costumes of female characters on the show, which stirred online debate in which the female characters were dubbed 'squeezed breasts'," Xinhua said.

The move comes as the government, which is usually wary about political and sexual content, intensifies a crackdown on freedom of expression, both online and in traditional media.

Chinese Internet users responded by complaining about the censorship on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. Several complained that they would not be able to see the hundreds of costume changes by Fan Bingbing, one of China's most popular actresses, who plays the Empress Wu.

Others questioned whether the low necklines had to be banned on television. "Can revealing cleavage really be considered pornographic?" wrote a microblogger. "Isn't this feudalism?" Wu, the only recorded empress of China, ruled the country in the seventh century.

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