Two men cuddle in this screen grab from Chinese same-sex drama "Addicted Heroin"  taken from a video uploaded on the show's official YouTube channel.  It was pulled from Chinese online video streaming websites last week.

Story highlights

TV shows shouldn't include gay relationships, affairs, one-night stands and underage love

Move comes after popular gay online drama was banned

Latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality

Beijing CNN  — 

Chinese censors say television shows shouldn’t include story lines involving gay relationships, plus other topics that “exaggerate the dark side of society,” according to new guidelines.

The eight-page document on “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content” posted on the website of the China Television Drama Production Industry Association, was dated December 31 but was widely reported in Chinese state media this week.

It comes after a popular same-sex drama “Addicted Heroin” was pulled from online video streaming websites last week, unleashing an uproar on social media. The show can now only be viewed on YouTube, which is blocked in China.

As well as homosexuality, the guidelines deemed extramarital affairs, one-night stands and underage love off limits.

“No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviors, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on,” the regulations state.

The document also listed a wide range of topics forbidden on TV, including those that might damage the country’s image, promote lavish lifestyles, undermine national unity and illustrate feudalism and superstitions.

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Morality campaign?

It’s the latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality in China and greater control over public life.

Last year, the country’s censors took 120 songs deemed “harmful” to society offline.

The Shanghai Auto Show banned “car babes” – scantily clad models who in previous years had posed provocatively on car hoods to draw crowds – while a major cosplay convention said it would levy a fine of $800 on women who reveal “more than two centimeters of cleavage.”

And in December 2014, government censors pulled a TV show set in the Tang Dynasty off air for the ample bosoms it featured. It later re-appeared with the cleavage blurred out.

The TV show "The Empress of China" depicted the life of the only woman to rule China. Her reign was during the seventh century Tang dynasty -- when an ample female bosom was the prevailing aesthetic

When the series returned to air, the cleavage was gone. Instead, viewers saw crudely edited scenes where women were only shown in close-up to avoid revealing their chests.

CNN’s calls to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) the country’s top broadcasting and publishing regulator went unanswered.

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Gay community upset

The new policy has angered China’s gay community, which says the guidelines are out of step with a country beginning to accept same-sex relationships.

Chen Qiuyan, a gay activist and college student, told CNN she was “absolutely furious” after reading the new rule. She has sued China’s Ministry of Education over how textbooks portray homosexuality.

Chinese student Chen Qiuyan holds a rainbow flag, protesting in front of an intermediate court in southern China city Guangzhou on July 29, 2015.

“Who are these high-up creeps identifying same-sex (relationships) as abnormal? They have no common sense,” she said.

In 2001, homosexuality was removed from an official list of mental illnesses for clinical treatment in China. This followed a 1997 decision to decriminalize it.

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The gay community has made strides in social acceptance in the past two decades, with young gay and lesbian activists pushing for more rights and recognition. But the stigma remains, with considerable family pressure to carry on the family line.

According to a 2015 survey by U.S. research group Pew, 61% of China’s population said that homosexuality was unacceptable.