Beijing (CNN)A Chinese novelist has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for writing and distributing homoerotic novels, provoking widespread debate online over the severity of her sentence.
The female writer, surnamed Liu, but more commonly known by her internet pseudonym Tianyi, was arrested in 2017 following the success of her novel “Occupy,” according to reports in Chinese state media.
The book was described by police in East China’s Anhui Province as depicting “obscene sexual behavior between males” set to themes of “violence, abuse and humiliation.”
Despite being sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in the city of Wuhu on October 31, Liu’s case was only recently brought to nationwide attention after being shared widely online.
The popularity of homoerotic fiction, dubbed “boys love,” has soared in recent years in China, where a booming cottage industry of self-published authors churn out hundreds of new titles each month.
Such is the success of the genre, that several titles have been adapted into film, including last year’s popular web series “Guardian.” Recently, Chinese internet giant Tencent also looked to capitalize on the trend with the announcement it had acquired two popular titles for adaption online.
Though most titles only hint at homosexual relations and instead feature “bromances” others are more explicit, risking the ire of the country’s censors.
Liu was said to have made more than 150,000 yuan ($21,624) through the sale of Occupy and other explicit novels.
The production and sale of pornography remains strictly prohibited in China. However, the harsh punishment given to Liu has caused outrage among social media users, many of whom have expressed anger at the apparent discrepancy between her sentence and those given to violent criminals, pointing out that under Chinese criminal law, rapists are liable to receive between three to 10 years.