Home Business China can ban clothes that hurt people’s feelings. People are outraged.

China can ban clothes that hurt people’s feelings. People are outraged.

China can ban clothes that hurt people’s feelings.  People are outraged.

In the 1980s, people in China could get in trouble with the government for their fashion choices.

Flared pants and jeans were considered “strange outfits.” Some government buildings prohibited access to men with long hair and women wearing makeup and jewelry. Patrols organized by factories and schools cut bell-bottoms and long hair with scissors.

These were the early days of China’s reform and opening-up era. The Communist Party was slowly loosening its strict control over society and the public was pushing the limits of self-expression and individualism. The battle over the height of women’s heels and the length of men’s hair embodied the struggle.

Now the government is proposing amendments to a law that could result in arrests and fines for “wearing clothing or carrying symbols in public that are harmful to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” What could be interpreted as a crime was not specified.

The plan has been widely criticized, with Chinese jurists, journalists and businessmen voicing concerns over the past week. If it comes into force, they argue, it could give authorities the power to police anything they don’t like. It would also be a big step backwards in the public’s relationship with the government.

“In Chinese history, times when a lot of attention was paid to clothing and hairstyles often corresponded to ‘bad times in history,’” someone using the name Zhang Sanfeng wrote on the social media platform WeChat. . “The introduction of the amendments did not come out of nowhere. “It is a response to some strange feelings that are emerging in our society.” The article had wide circulation before being removed by censors.

Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the government has been obsessed with control: how people think, what they say online and now, what they wear.

China has built a surveillance state with modern technologies, widely censoring the media and social networks, even banning the display of tattoos and men with earrings on phone and television screens. The ideological straitjacket is closing on the private sphere. Personal decisions, such as what to wear, are increasingly subject to scrutiny by police or overzealous pedestrians.

In July, an older man on a bus scolded a young woman on her way to a cosplay expo, where people dress up as characters from movies, books, TV shows and video games, for wearing a costume that could be considered Japanese-style. . Last month, a mall security guard turned away a man dressed as a samurai. Last year, police in the eastern city of Suzhou temporarily detained a woman for wearing a kimono.

These episodes were related to anti-Japanese sentiment instigated by the Chinese government. But the confrontations go further.

Last month in Beijing, security guards cracking down on gay pride expressions prevented people dressed in rainbow-themed clothing from entering a concert by Taiwanese singer Zhang Huimei, better known as A-Mei. Also in August, people filed complaints about a concert by Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai because her fans were flashing rainbow lights and some of the male fans were wearing what were described as “extravagant” women’s clothing. Last week, Shenzhen police scolded a man who was livestreaming in a miniskirt. “A man who wears a skirt in public, do you think you are positive energy?” -the police yelled at the man.

If the proposed amendments, which are open to public comment until September 30, are approved by the national legislature, such incidents could result in fines of up to $680 and up to 15 days in police custody.

The law could place China among the most socially conservative countries.

“The moral police are about to come to light,” a lawyer named Guo Hui wrote on Weibo. “Do you think you can still make fun of Iran and Afghanistan?” Last week, people posted photos of Iranian and Afghan women wearing miniskirts and other Western-style clothing in the 1970s, before their countries were taken over by autocratic religious rulers.

Many people are concerned that the proposal does not specify what would constitute a crime. The language he uses (clothing or symbols that are “detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese nation and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”) follows the expressions that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and official media use to express their discontent towards countries and western peoples. Nobody knows exactly what they mean.

I asked Ernie, the AI ​​chatbot recently launched by Baidu, China’s largest online search company, to define “hurting the feelings of Chinese people.” Ernie said he didn’t know the answer and urged me to move on to other topics.

Without a clear definition, the application of the law would be subject to the interpretation of each official.

“If officials can arbitrarily expand interpretations and applications of the law based on personal preferences and ideological beliefs,” “we may not be far from the concept of ‘if you want to accuse someone, you can always find a pretext,'” Zhao Hong said. . , wrote a professor at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, in an article published on the news site The Paper.

He cited online comments from people concerned that if wearing a kimono could be interpreted as harming the national spirit, then what about eating Japanese food, watching anime or studying the Japanese language? Others noted that the ban could extend to wearing a suit and tie, or xizhuang in Chinese, which means Western clothing.

It’s hard not to think about the time before the 1980s, when the Chinese used ration coupons to buy clothes, mostly in blue and gray. Fashion played an important role in the liberalization of the Chinese economy.

In 1979, when French designer Pierre Cardin held the first fashion show in China after the Cultural Revolution, the contrast between the haute couture models and the audience wearing mostly dark-colored Mao suits reflected a jarring divide. There was a prosperous and vibrant developed world, and an impoverished and oppressive China.

China had to change. First I had to allow people to wear whatever they wanted.

“The length of hair, the size of pants and the morality of thoughts are not necessarily related,” wrote an official magazine a few months after the parade.

Still, for much of the 1980s, fashion was a battleground for power struggles between reformist and conservative leaders.

In 1983, the general secretary of the reform party, Hu Yaobang, had to urge his colleagues not to “interfere in people’s choice of clothing and to avoid using the term ‘strange clothes’. “

The Western-style fad probably didn’t take hold until 1987, when new party chief Zhao Ziyang, dressed in a blue-striped double-breasted suit, captivated the international press by chatting and answering dozens of unfiltered questions. He showed the label of a Chinese brand inside his suit to reporters skeptical about his local origins, according to a Times dispatch from Beijing.

Both leaders were subsequently purged, but just as they imagined, the closets of the Chinese people became fuller and more colorful. China became the world’s leading fashion manufacturer and is now a major market for luxury goods.

For many Chinese, it is obvious that the proposed law, if implemented, could erode the personal space they have reclaimed in recent decades.

The legislation is so unpopular that even some official media outlets write about the protest.

Hu Xijin, former editor of the official tabloid The Global Times, urged clarification of the proposal. Many Chinese, he wrote, are worried about doing or saying the wrong things. The law should give people certainty and a sense of security, he wrote.

“China’s development and prosperity,” he wrote, “require an inclusive and relaxing social environment.”


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