More censorship in China: the regime is considering banning clothing that “hurts the feelings” of the nation

Customers at a clothing store in Beijing (Reuters) (TINGSHU WANG/)

The clothing that “hurts the feelings” of the nation is close to be banned in Chinaaccording to a recent draft revision of the legislation, whose vagueness raises concerns about the wide margin of interpretation and application.

The bill establishes that both the expressions and the clothes that are considered “harmful to the spirit of the Chinese people” or that “hurt the feelings” of the nation will be punished with fines or even prison sentences.

But it stops short of specifically defining what types of clothing will be prohibited by the new rules.

“Determining who has the authority to decide and how to judge may require more time, and we need to establish mature judgment criteria before presenting such proposals,” he told the AFP a 23-year-old citizen named He.

He is concerned that the crimes covered by the law “are not as clear-cut as crimes like robbery, in which right and wrong are definitive.”

Several Chinese jurists opposed for similar reasons to the reviews, which were put out to public consultation earlier this month.

The consultation period ends on September 30.

According to Lao Dongyan of Tsinghua University, the proposals would result in “an overly vague standard of punishment, which would easily lead to an arbitrary expansion of the scope of administrative punishment.”

The bill does not specify what clothing could be targeted for punishment (Reuters)
The bill does not specify what clothing could be targeted for punishment (Reuters) (TINGSHU WANG/)

In China, police already routinely use the general charge of “provoking quarrels and trouble” to punish people who carry clothing or banners with messages considered politically sensitive.

But the changes could give authorities more power to crack down on any clothing that is considered harmful to public morality.

Earlier this month, videos on social media showed a man from the southern city of Shenzhen being questioned by police for live broadcasting how he was wearing a skirtwhich triggered a debate on freedom of individual expression. Many online commentators agreed with the local police’s decision to intervene, with one stating that the man’s behavior was “offensive to common morality.”

Historical reasons

Like most of the people he talked to AFP on the streets of Beijing, He interpreted the reviews primarily as a reaction to incidents with people wearing Japanese clothing at historically significant places or on memorial days.

In 2021, the tabloid Global Timesbacked by the state, said a woman was “severely criticized and educated” after she wore a kimono in public on December 13national day of remembrance for the victims of the Japanese war crimes of 1937.

And last year, a woman said that police arrested her during a photo shoot while wearing a kimono in the eastern city of Suzhou.

“Dressing is everyone’s choice and freedom, but there are also special (circumstances),” He said. “If someone makes an insulting move in front of a certain statue on a certain day and is wearing a special outfit, that behavior is 100 percent on purpose and should be punished.”

(Reuters) (TINGSHU WANG/)

Gu, a 35-year-old man, told AFP he was open to holding people legally accountable for dressing offensively on special occasions. “There are indeed some historical reasons, and I think the emotions of the local people should be taken into account,” Gu said. “But in most cases, for example, if someone just goes to a shopping street (wearing a kimono), I think there is no need to pursue any action.”

Psychological damage

Others, like Yang Shuo, a 25-year-old programmer, were less forgiving.

“If a person puts on a kimono in… the Memorial Hall for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese Invaders, I think it would cause significant psychological harm to the Chinese people,” Yang said. “I think they should be punished”.

Jeremy Daum, a senior fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center, told AFP he thought the reviews themselves would be modified to focus the law more on such incidents.

It is quite certain that the language will be greatly modified: it will probably become more specific to address the heroes, the martyrs, the history of the party…

(With information from AFP)