China is reportedly mulling introducing a law that would enable authorities to fine and detain people who wear clothes that "hurt the nation’s feelings."
As per the proposal mooted by the People’s Congress’ Standing Committee, a ban could be introduced on garments and symbols considered "detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese nation." This comes amid criticism regarding China's eroding human rights and freedom of expression.
The new suggestions are included as potential amendments to the country’s Public Security Administration Punishment Law, which came into force in 2006. The original law already gives police the power to detain suspects for weeks over crimes, from vandalism to public order offences.
The country had recently cracked down on tattooing and body art by introducing a new-age restriction law, which came into effect last June.
As per the proposal that appeared on its website earlier this month, the law could make it illegal to "wear or force others to wear" offending items in public places. Violations would ensue detention of up to 15 days and fines of 5,000 yuan ($681). Besides clothing, the law could also target speech and would prohibit producing, disseminating, publicising, and disseminating articles or remarks thought to damage China’s spirit.
However, the draft document did not specify what type of garments might be outlawed. The fate of the proposal will be clear by September as China's legislature will decide on it, after gathering public feedback.
But, the public has already voiced their protest against the proposal on social media, with many questioning the yardstick to measure the "spirit of the nation."
"Who will confirm the spirit of the Chinese nation, and by what procedures?" constitutional studies professor Tong Zhiwei, from East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, wrote on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.
"If (the Standing Committee) passes this article according to the current draft, it will inevitably lead to law enforcement and the judiciary arresting and convicting people based on their leaders’ will, which will cause endless harm," he warned.
Another legal expert said the law could be "an infringement of people’s rights" and could even affect the country's "passive position diplomatically" as it could fuel extreme nationalism.