-------- Original Message --------
Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2006 09:30:45 -0400
From: "Han Meng" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: voodoo dolls ban starts craze
Images of the voodoo dolls discussed in the story below can be viewed here
The phenomenon has crossed the Taiwan Strait.
Source: Newsweek--International Edition (5/24/06):
Curse of the Bureaucrats
Voodoo dolls are all the rage in China‹especially now that the government
has banned them.
By Quindlen Krovatin
Special to Newsweek
May 24, 2006 - Not content with jailing subversive reporters and restricting
access to prodemocracy Web sites, the Chinese government has turned its
attentions to a new destabilizing influence: voodoo dolls. Central
government authorities are so bothered by the political implications of the
dolls that they banned them entirely from Beijing's retail stores in April.
The dolls have become increasingly popular among the Middle Kingdom's
misanthropes and trend-conscious teens. Customers purchase a doll (pin
included), attach a piece of paper bearing the name of their enemy to the
doll and then stab away. Voodoo Dolls Online offers a wide range of dolls in
assorted colors. "Do you want to make your enemy feel as if someone is
always stalking him behind his back?" reads the caption next to a doll clad
in black. " 'The Magic Shadow Killer' will thoroughly destroy his spirit."
Another popular item is the "Little Angel," which purportedly brings good
luck and helps its owner find true love.
Authorities at Beijing's Industrial and Commercial Management Department
claim the dolls encourage superstition and "promote feudalism and feudal
beliefs." When officials first cracked down on the import of dolls from
Thailand two months ago, Chinese entrepreneurs filled the growing demand by
making the toys themselves, wrapping colorful yarn around wire skeletons and
adorning each with a crude felt heart. The toys were a marvel of marketing:
told that one doll could not be used to harm multiple enemies, the youths
who bought them kept coming back for new ones as their hit lists grew in
length. Moreover, some stores offered protective dolls that could ward off
attacks from other would-be witch doctors.
But now even these homegrown innovators are under attack. In April, after
receiving complaints from concerned parents, the Beijing Industrial and
Commercial Management Department confiscated all dolls still on sale in the
city and issued strict warnings to toy vendors. "We have been told we will
be fined and even imprisoned if we continue to sell voodoo dolls," says
Huang Xiaoli, a saleswoman in a toy store in the Xidan Mingzhu Market. "The
police are serious," she adds. "This is not like pirated DVDs, where the
authorities say 'Do not sell these,' and then look the other way while
people sell them. Policemen have visited me twice since the ban took effect
in April. They really believe voodoo dolls can hurt children." Five separate
toy merchants from various parts of Beijing confirmed the ban. A Ministry of
Commerce official would not elaborate on its policy toward the dolls‹a
common practice when authorities are asked about politically sensitive
decisions‹but by way of explanation he directed a reporter to a law
prohibiting the sale of items that foster what the government sees as feudal
Voodoo dolls can still be purchased in cities outside of Beijing, such as
Shenzhen and Guangzhou, where central-government policy can be slower to
take hold, but already citizens across the country are calling for the
Communist Party to enforce a nationwide ban. The Guangdong Provincial
Communist Youth League Committee issued a public statement on May 4, the
anniversary of China's liberation from imperial rule, calling for a boycott
of voodoo dolls and labeling those who buy them "a disgrace to socialism for
believing in feudal superstitions."
However, as is the case with all outlawed vices, the sale of voodoo dolls
continues to flourish on the Internet. Web sites hawking the dolls have
proliferated, customers can bid on dolls on auction Web sites such as eBay
and China's Alibaba, and the phenomenon continues unabated in Korea and
Japan, where their sale has never been restricted. Some critics feel that
the government, by expending so much energy on the dolls, is only lending
credence to the traditional Chinese belief in the power of curses and black
magic. "Until a month ago, I was selling 10, maybe 11 voodoo dolls a day,"
says Chen, the owner of a toy store in southwestern Beijing who declined to
give his full name when speaking ill of the government for fear of reprisal.
"I think most of the kids bought them because they were popular, not because
they wanted to hurt each other. The government looks foolish when it acts
scared of some silly toys. These things only have power if you believe in
Since the initial crackdown, there have been no voodoo-doll-related arrests,
although vendors who continue to sell the dolls run the risk of incurring a
hefty fine per voodoo doll in their possession. Whether a nationwide ban
will be instituted remains to be seen. Regardless, the Chinese government is
once more confronting the problems that arise when a market economy and
socialist ideology collide.
with kind regards,
Matthias Arnold (Art-Eastasia list)
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