Wed, Mar 13, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chinese censors dim the lights on `Meteor Garden'

AP , BEIJING

A Taiwanese soap opera that is a hit throughout East Asia has been banned by China as a threat to young minds.

Chinese parents had complained about Meteor Garden, (流星花園), a romance set in an affluent high school in Taiwan, according to state media.

The series had begun to air on some Chinese television stations last month, but was banned March 8 by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

"This soap opera has had a negative effect on society and especially misled young people," a spokeswoman for the agency said yesterday. She refused to give her name or any other details of the reason for the ban.

Meteor Garden centers on the romance between a poor girl and a member of a gang of spoiled rich kids at an elite high school in Taipei. Gang members wear expensive designer clothing and pick on fellow students with impunity.

The newspaper Beijing Youth Daily (北京青年日報) said the drama gave young viewers "unrealistic ideas about relations between people and society."

State media didn't give specifics about Chinese complaints. But newspapers in Taiwan have said Chinese parents objected to the drama's depiction of school violence and indulgence with brand-name goods and other extravagances.

The ban highlights the conflict between China's growing appetite for imported pop culture and the government's insistence on managing what its people see and hear.

Meteor Garden has been an international success in East Asia, drawing large audiences in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan. The series is based on a Japanese comic book of the same name.

Tsai Chih-ping (柴智屏), producer of Meteor Garden, was quoted by local media as saying it is about young people growing up by learning from their mistakes.

"Many youngsters have gone through the same experience. We are most surprised by the ban," she was quoted as saying.

The series is still available in China on pirated video discs.

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