(New York, NY) — A new set of regulations released by the government-affiliated China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) aim to restrict artistic freedom in service of the government’s political agenda, PEN America said today, decrying the new rules as an unwarranted intervention into the artistic space and an extension of the government’s efforts to control artistic narratives within the country.

In February, CAPA—a government-backed membership organization for the performing arts sector—issued a series of rules of conduct aimed at regulating performance artists’ work and livelihood. These rules reportedly went into effect at the beginning of March. 

Under these new rules of conduct, artists have ten affirmative requirements for their conduct, along with 15 “prohibited acts.” Under the affirmative requirements, artists are required to demonstrate “love for the party and its principles,” and commit to serving “the people and socialism.” The rules also include 15 different categories of prohibited content, including prohibitions against “endangering national unity,” “harming national honor and interests,” and “undermining ethnic unity.” Such phrases are commonly invoked by the government against dissidents or other critics, including to support criminal charges against them.

Artists found to violate these broad, vaguely-worded regulations may receive an industry ban lasting anywhere from five years to life. These new regulations appear to apply to the entire performance art community of China, including actors, dancers, musicians, singers, and comedians. 

“These new regulations represent a disturbing new formalization of the government’s efforts to control the production of art within the country, and to force artists to serve as a mouthpiece for the party’s political agenda,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “This restrictive attitude is anathema to the very definition of art and creativity, and to the realization of artistic freedom. It is particularly disappointing to see the China Association of Performing Arts, an organization claiming to represent the voices of artists throughout China, participate in this shrinking of the space for artistic freedom in the country.”

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection, a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. ARC recently released A Safety Guide for Artists, which offers practical tools to help artists navigate risks and features an interview with Chinese documentary filmmaker Nanfu Wang, who has faced censorship, harassment, and other risks as a result of her work. whose work is consistently banned, false narratives about her are spread online, and she and her crew face continued risks from authorities whenever they film in China. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, please contact ARC.