Representatives from across the province recently wrapped up an annual planning session in Kunming. Nearly 600 delegates attended the Yunnan Provincial People's Congress, where they discussed budget allocations and growth strategies for the coming year.
Of the dozens of speeches and campaigns proposed during the meetings, one has stood out from the rest in terms of media coverage. Zhang Zejun (张泽军), mayor of Lijiang, has made national news for announcing a crackdown on vulgar or otherwise "sexy ads" encouraging people to visit the old towns of Dayan (大研) and Shuhe (束河).
Zhang was quoted as saying that many old town establishments under his jurisdiction — especially bars and guesthouses — actively promote themselves by posting print and video advertisements hinting at illicit sex. "Publicity stunts containing sexual innuendo run against Lijiang's traditional culture and must be ended," the mayor said in a speech given January 29.
Suspected businesses in Shuhe and Lijiang, according to Zhang, will be investigated through spot checks running now until the end of June. Oddly, such work will reportedly be carried out by a team of 70 firefighters. Those establishments found to repeatedly utilize ads deemed inappropriate or crass may face closure by authorities.
Although never using the word 'prostitution', Zhang did say he does not want Lijiang to become know as China's "capital of romantic affairs". He went on to say he is specifically worried about the preservation of Naxi culture and concerned by how some tourists have come to view the idea of Mosuo 'walking marriages' (走婚). Although the Mosuo and Naxi are culturally distinct, they are nonetheless grouped together by Chinese scholars.
Lijiang's mayor himself is Naxi, and has recently instituted incentive programs and subsidies promoting more Naxi to move back to old town areas and establish homes. Before transforming into the tourist hotspot it is today, Lijiang was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site partly because of its unique cultural traditions little known to the outside world.
However, before the old town of Dayan was included in the reputable list, a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake decimated the city in 1996. Rebuilding efforts tended to focus on constructing a town with an ethnic facade that was more commercial in nature than it ever had been before — largely at the urging of locals themselves. It now appears that some aspects of that materialistic bent, for the mayor at least, have been pushed too far.
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