Not long ago in China, citizens who wore wide-legged pants or had an odd haircut (read: long hair for men) were closely monitored by the police force. It was the early 1980s, and the People’s Republic had left the dark decade of the Cultural Revolution behind. During the reign of Mao Zedong, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution began in 1966, when young people dressed “Mao style” and held the “Little Red Book” with the thoughts of the communist leader. Those who paid the price were academics, intellectuals, officials and highest-level party representatives accused of creating a bourgeois, Western regime.
The Cultural Revolution, which ended with Mao’s death in 1976, gave way to a period of economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping: Within four decades, China quickly moved from being considered one of the world’s poorest and most isolated economies. A single “superpower” capable of competing with the United States in a variety of sectors. Jeans, T-shirts and high-heeled shoes began appearing in Chinese stores as symbols of economic growth and openness to the Western world. And if in the early 80s clothing was considered “strange” and was not allowed in government offices, over time it became a means of demonstrating one’s individuality. In short, normal clothes at a time when the Chinese Communist Party was more open and tolerant. But now something is about to change. The Chinese government wants to enact a law that could lead to fines and even imprisonment for people who “wear clothing or display symbols that offend the spirit and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”
Protect the feelings of the Chinese people
Let’s take a step back. Last September 5, the National People’s Congress, China’s highest legislative body, proposed amending the 2005 law that provides for special penalties for those who disrupt public order and peace. The proposed amendment (which will be put to a public vote by September 30) calls for a ban on clothing or speech that “harms the spirit of the Chinese nation” or “hurts the feelings of the Chinese nation.”
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Violating this new provision may result in detention for up to 15 days or a fine of up to 5 thousand yuan (about 640 euros). The same sanctions could also be applied to those who disseminate articles or speeches equally damaging to national sentiments, including “insulting, slandering or attacking the names of local heroes and martyrs” and committing acts of vandalism against their memorial statues.
Heated discussion on social networks
What does it mean to hurt China’s feelings? Many Chinese ask themselves exactly this question because it is not clear what determines the violation of the rule. For this reason, the proposed changes to the law have been criticized as being too vague, as they could easily become a tool to legitimize abuses by officials.
According to intellectuals, lawyers, influencers and ordinary citizens, if the (very vague) amendments are approved, the police force could make a personal comment on the damage done to the Chinese nation. This would lead to violations of human rights permitted by law – it is feared.
Discussions online and on social media, particularly on the Weibo platform (the Chinese equivalent of public security authorities). “Who decides what the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation are?” Question on Weibo Tong Zhiwei, a law professor in Shanghai. Lao Dongyan, a professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University School of Law in Beijing, wrote that the law risks fueling ultra-nationalist sentiments, further isolating China internationally and damaging relations between police and citizens.
One user suggested (ironically) going back to wearing Mao clothes instead. Others expressed on social networks what would happen to someone who was “caught” eating Japanese food, watching anime, or learning Japanese. In fact, at this time, anti-Japanese sentiments have increased in the Communist Party and the Beijing government after the Tokyo government’s decision to release water used to cool the reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
Xi’s impact on Chinese society
This is another tightening of the rules under Xi Jinping. Since taking over the head of the Communist Party 10 years ago, the Chinese president has implemented measures that have set Chinese society back decades, thus negating the progress made during the reform period launched after Mao’s death.
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Extensive use of artificial intelligence, technological surveillance for facial recognition, censorship of social networks and web content, bans on television programs referencing the LGBTQ community and tattoos: these are just some of the measures the Chinese leader has implemented to assert greater control. on the population and, as a result, extinguishing protests against the Beijing government. An oppression justified by the interest of defending Chinese moral and family values against the perversion of Western culture. But now Xi is considering a further, more repressive measure that will further increase the distance between the people and the Party.
Trending video where the police kidnapped a man who was broadcasting live in a skirt in Shenzhen: “A man who wears a skirt in public, do you think he has positive energy?” Comments praised the police for maintaining public order and good morals and defending against “excessive freedom” and “perversion” pic.twitter.com/FF8PX1KZYZ
— Darius Longarino 龙大瑞 (@DariusLongarino) September 6, 2023
Source: Today IT
Karen Clayton is a seasoned journalist and author at The Nation Update, with a focus on world news and current events. She has a background in international relations, which gives her a deep understanding of the political, economic and social factors that shape the global landscape. She writes about a wide range of topics, including conflicts, political upheavals, and economic trends, as well as humanitarian crisis and human rights issues.