Legal experts are concerned with a newly proposed law banning speech and dressing “detrimental to the spirit of Chinese people. If found guilty of violating the law people could face a fine or imprisonment if the bill becomes law.
To avoid excessive enforcement, social media users and legal professionals have asked for more clarification as the proposal does not yet spell out what constitutes a violation. China recently proposed sweeping changes to its public security legislation, the first in decades.
The clothing law elicited an immediate public outcry, with many online denouncing it as excessive and ludicrous.
People who wear or force others to wear attire and symbols that “undermine the spirit or hurt the feelings of the Chinese nation” might face up to 15 days in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 yuan ($680; £550).
Those who write or disseminate such writings or speeches may face the same penalties.
The proposed law revisions also prohibit “insulting, slandering, or otherwise infringing upon the names of local heroes and martyrs” as well as damage of their memorial statues.
People questioned how law enforcement could decide when the nation’s “feelings” are “hurt” unilaterally.
“Will wearing a suit and tie suffice?” Marxism emerged in the West. “Does its presence in China also count as hurting national feelings?” asked one user on the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo.
Legal experts in the country have also critiqued the law’s ambiguous wording, claiming that it is vulnerable to abuse.
According to Zhao Hong, a legal expert at the Chinese University of Political Science and legal, the lack of clarification could result in a violation of personal rights.
“What if the law enforcer, usually a police officer, has a personal interpretation of the hurt and initiates moral judgement of others beyond the scope of the law,” she said in a Wednesday piece.
She referenced a case last year that made news in China, in which a kimono-clad woman was jailed in the city of Suzhou and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” because she wore the Japanese clothing. The act prompted widespread criticism on Chinese social media.
Other instances of a crackdown have occurred. In March of this year, police caught a lady at a night market wearing a facsimile of a Japanese military uniform. People wearing rainbow pattern apparel were also denied access to a concert by Taiwanese artist Chang Hui-mei in Beijing earlier this month.
“To wear a kimono is to offend the Chinese nation, and to eat Japanese food is to jeopardise its spirit?” When did the ancient Chinese nation’s feelings and spirit become so frail?” Wang Wusi, a popular social commentator on the internet, wrote about it.
The draught law is just one example of how, since taking office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has pushed to redefine what it means to be a model Chinese citizen.
His Chinese Communist Party issued “morality guidelines” in 2019, with demands such as being polite, travelling with a lesser carbon impact, and having “faith” in Mr Xi and the party.