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China portals boycott porn pics at start of 'Ratty Year'
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Thirteen Chinese on-line portals recently issued a joint statement asking domestic websites to boycott the spread of pornographic photos involving Hong Kong entertainers Edison Chen and some female starlets that has been called by some the "first ratty plague" in the Year of the Rat.

Last month, photos of the Canadian-born Chen caught in sexual acts with various Hong Kong starlets surfaced on the Internet and have spread like wildfire ever since.

"The 'Porno Photo Gate' has been an unprecedented test for Internet ethics, artists' behavior and the bottom line of the law, as well as a challenge to the development and the administration of the Internet culture," said the statement.

It urged netizens and website workers to be self-disciplined and prevent the occurrence and spreading of this kind of event, by pledging not to download, spread and speculate on the photos.

So far, more than 40 domestic websites have supported the statement to show their social responsibilities. Many Chinese netizens have pledged not download or spread the Chen photos.

In related developments, the Beijing Internet News Information Review Council issued a statement on Tuesday demanding Baidu.Com, the Nasdaq-listed on-line search engine, to apologize for spreading the pictures. The website has been criticized for failing to control the spread of the photos in its picture-sharing function.

This year is the Year of the Rat for the traditional Chinese Lunar Calendar, which began on Feb. 7. In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the rat takes the lead in a circle of 12 years named after real or legendary animals, followed by the cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, chicken, dog and pig.

Traditionally, Chinese dislike rat as it is viewed as a dirty and ugly creature that spreads disease and steals food. In the 1950s and 1960s, the rat took the lead among the "Five Pests" that were ordered by the central authorities to be wiped out, together with the swallow, which was later proved to be mostly innocent, the bedbug, mosquito and fly.

In recent years, however, the rat's image has improved in China, thanks to the popular cartoon character Mickey Mouse.

Chen's photos, however, have brought back some bad memories of the rat. The "Porn Photo Gate" scandal, in fact, has marred the whole artists' circle in Hong Kong.
(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2008)

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