(CNN) — China’s legislature has proposed changes to a law that, if passed, would allow authorities to fine and detain people who wear clothing that “hurts the feelings of the nation,” raising new concerns about freedom of expression in the country.
The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, which unveiled the proposal on its website in early September 2023, seeks to ban clothing and symbols deemed “harmful to the spirit of the Chinese nation” (a phrase often used to denote patriotism). from him).
The wording of the amendment bill is reminiscent of the language Beijing uses to limit freedom of expression in the country or to counter perceived insults by foreign countries and companies.
It comes after a series of crackdowns on personal style in recent years, including streaming regulations aimed at keeping out artists who have “Feminine stylesPrograms and ongoing campaign on tattoos.
If passed, the revised law would make it illegal to “wear or force others to wear” offensive items in public, although the draft document does not specify what types of clothing could be banned. Violators may face up to 15 days in prison and fines of 5,000 yuan (US$681).
The amendment bill also targets expression and prohibits “the production, publication, dissemination and dissemination of articles or comments” deemed harmful to the “spirit” of China.
The rules are proposed amendments to the country’s Public Security Department Penal Code, which came into force in 2006. The current measures already give police the power to detain suspects for a wide range of crimes for weeks, from sabotage to crimes against public order.
The Chinese legislature stated that it will seek public opinion on the proposal throughout next September.
Online, users of some Chinese social networks expressed their concern and called on others to oppose the project. Many jurists also questioned the implied volatility of the proposed amendment and the absence of specific guidelines.
“Who will assert the Chinese nation spirit and by what measures?” constitutional studies professor Tong Qiu of the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai wrote on China’s X-like Weibo platform.
He warned, “If the Permanent Committee approves this article in accordance with the current draft, it will inevitably lead to law enforcement and judicial authorities arresting and convicting people based on the will of their leaders, causing endless harm.”
Meanwhile, Lao Dongyan, a professor of criminal law at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said the law could constitute a violation of people’s rights.
“The state authority directly interferes in the field of citizens’ daily clothing, which is clearly exaggerated,” he wrote on Weibo.
Lau also expressed concern that the amendment may fuel extreme nationalism and “may intensify hostility with some countries, putting (our country) in a negative diplomatic position.”
Brush with growing nationalism
The proposed amendment comes at a time when clothing choices have become increasingly political in China today, especially when it comes to Japanese clothing.
he The growing Hanfu movementwhich sees people wearing the type of traditional clothing worn in pre-Qing Dynasty China, is widely seen as a reflection of growing nationalism among the country’s youth.
Meanwhile, traditional Japanese clothing, such as the kimono, has come under heavy criticism as anti-Japanese nationalist sentiment rises.
Last August, a Chinese anime fan She said she was arrested By the police after taking pictures of her wearing a kimono (traditional Japanese clothing) in the eastern city of Suzhou.
The woman, whose cosplay look was inspired by the Japanese manga series “Summer Time Rendering,” was the subject of widespread discussion on Chinese social media, with some users arguing that her outfit was unpatriotic.
a A similar incident occurred in 2019The photo, in which university security guards were filmed attacking a man wearing a kimono, sparked a heated debate online in China about how easily anti-Japanese sentiment is stoked in the country.
In the wake of the draft amendment this month, one Weibo user asked whether cosplayers or Japanese restaurant employees wearing kimonos could violate the proposed rules.
“The law should at least specify which symbols will be banned and which will be permitted,” he wrote.
In a post on Chinese messaging platform WeChat, another social media user asked if suits would be allowed, which he described as an embodiment of “Western capitalism.” “Why don’t we wear Chinese jacket suits or Hanfu?” Requested.
CNN’s Nektar Gan contributed reporting.
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