China makes show of knockoff fight
Pirated DVDs, books destroyed publicly
BEIJING – Soft piano music piped in through loudspeakers and colorful banners greeted guests Friday as they filed into the courtyard of an industrial park in eastern Beijing where thousands of DVDs and books were piled high.
It gave a festive atmosphere to an event that was a public execution of sorts, organized by the National Office of Eliminating Pornography and Illegal Publications. To show that China is complying with international laws protecting intellectual property, officials held public ceremonies here and in 30 other locations around China to destroy contraband.
As the music switched from jazz to a marching anthem, officials filed onto a red-carpeted stage. In front of them were the condemned: thousands of pirated DVDs, most of them Hollywood fare, with “Raging Bull,” “Kill Bill,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Jaws” visible on top. Riot police in helmets stood guard.
After a few speeches, the officials donned white rubber gloves and protective goggles and took their place behind machines resembling wood chippers. The police handed them bins filled with DVDs that the officials fed a few at a time into the machines, which with a terrific noise spit out slivers of polycarbonate plastic.
“This event is aimed at educating ordinary people and teaching to respect other people’s ideas and work,” said Yan Xiaohong, the deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, chatting with reporters afterward. The agency said more than 26 million illegal items would be destroyed around China, about 1.2 million in Beijing alone.
At the other end of the courtyard, a row of open-backed trucks displayed bundles of books tied up with ropes: dictionaries, cookbooks, a Chinese-translation of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” some pulp novels and sex education textbooks for teenage girls.
“That’s pornography. Look at the photographs,” exclaimed Wei Shuting, a middle-aged woman in a trench coat, flipping through the pages of one of the books.
China has been gradually cracking down on counterfeit goods and pirated videos, music and books, after years of accusations, primarily from the United States, that it was violating trade agreements by failing to protect intellectual property.
Across town from where the pirated discs were being destroyed, the owner of a popular DVD shop had the latest releases on his shelves for less than $2 each, seemingly undisturbed by the latest campaign. But the owner said that police raids were more common than in the past and that pirated DVDs were frequently confiscated.
“I’d say that three-quarters of the DVD shops in Beijing have closed,” said the owner, who gave his name only as Wang. “It’s only a matter of time for us as well.”