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6 arrested in China after dressing room sex video goes viral

6 arrested in China after dressing room sex video goes viral
A woman poses for a photo outside the Uniqlo flagship store where a steamy video was purportedly taken. (Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)

It's been the buzz of the Chinese Internet for days: a viral video of a young couple having sex in the dressing room of a Uniqlo clothing store in Beijing's Sanlitun neighborhood. Shared millions of times over, the footage has prompted hordes of selfie-taking gawkers to descend on the shop and set state-run media outlets to tsk-tsking about the impropriety of it all.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's Internet watchdog, reprimanded two of the nation's main web portals, Sina and Tencent, for failing to stop the spread of the video, and police said they were investigating. On Sunday, Beijing police said they had  arrested the couple in the video and four others.

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According to Beijing TV, the police investigation is focused on two questions: first, who posted the video and second, whether the tape was a publicity stunt intended to drum up business. A brief police statement said one 19-year-old man surnamed Sun was charged with disseminating obscene material, while three others were being detained, along with the couple. Police indicated the video dated from April.

Pornography is illegal in China and porn websites are blocked; red banners in cities across the country urge people to stay away from smut. Until 1997, extramarital sex could result in criminal charges, but legal reforms and other factors have led to increasingly liberal sexual attitudes.

"Since the advent of the Internet, people can more easily find sexual partners. So it's gradually more open," Li Yinhe, a well-known Chinese sex researcher, said at a recent forum. "Fifteen percent of people had premarital sex in 1989. In 2013, this number was 71%. This is quite a revolution."

According to the official New China News Agency, China's criminal law stipulates that those convicted of disseminating obscene books, films, pictures and video clips could face jail terms of up to two years, while making obscene products to earn profit can carry a term of up to life in prison.

Uniqlo, a fast-fashion clothing chain based in Japan that is similar to the Gap, has denied any involvement in the creation or dissemination of the video and last week posted a statement on its website urging customers to "abide by social moral standards, maintain social justice, and use the fitting rooms properly."

In the video, the man is wearing a T-shirt and jeans and the woman is naked except for jeans and panties around her calves. Both participants' faces are clearly visible, raising questions about whether the video was distributed with their knowledge or consent. Near the end of the video, a woman's voice is heard over an intercom saying, "Welcome to the Uniqlo store in Sanlitun."

Chinese authorities said that the video had "violated core socialist values." In a commentary published by the state-run tabloid Global Times, writer Shan Renping lamented that "on the present-day Internet, there are many phenomenon that are moving further away from our noble traditions."

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China

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