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China contemplates legislation against clothing offending national sentiments


Beijing: Recently proposed revisions to legislation in China have raised concerns over their vague terminology, potentially leading to the prohibition of clothing perceived as "hurting the feelings" or being "harmful to the spirit of the Chinese people".

The law further stipulates that both speech and clothing falling under these categories could incur fines or even imprisonment. However, the specific types of clothing that might be affected by these new regulations remain undefined.

One resident of Beijing, a 23-year-old named He, expressed apprehension regarding the legislation, emphasising that determining the authority to make such judgments requires careful consideration. She pointed out that offences addressed by this law are not as straightforward as more traditional crimes like robbery, reported AFP.

Numerous legal scholars in China echoed similar concerns about the proposed revisions, which were made available for public consultation earlier this month. This consultation period will conclude on September 30.

Critics argue that these proposals may result in overly vague standards of punishment, potentially leading to an arbitrary expansion of the scope of administrative penalties. Lao Dongyan, a scholar at Tsinghua University, emphasised this point on the social media platform Weibo.

Chinese authorities currently employ the broad charge of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" to reprimand individuals wearing clothing or displaying banners with politically sensitive messages. These new changes could grant authorities even greater power to crack down on attire perceived as detrimental to public morality.

The revisions are largely seen as a response to incidents involving individuals wearing Japanese clothing at historically significant sites or on memorial days. A woman faced severe criticism in 2021 for wearing a kimono on December 13, the national remembrance day for victims of Japanese war crimes in 1937. Similarly, a woman was detained during a photoshoot in Suzhou last year while wearing a kimono.

While many believe in individual freedom of expression, they also acknowledge the need to consider special circumstances. For instance, if someone intentionally wears a particular costume in front of a specific statue on a designated day, such behaviour is perceived as purposeful and deserving of punishment.

Jeremy Daum, a senior research fellow at Yale's Paul Tsai China Center, anticipates that the revisions will likely be amended to focus the law more specifically on incidents involving heroes, martyrs, and party history, given the substantial public response.

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