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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Chinese police to get power to punish citizens for wearing clothing or symbols they don’t like

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(TibetanReview.net, Sep09’23) – China is to give more power and opportunity for corruption to its police forces by empowering them go after citizens for “hurting the feelings of the Chinese nation” under a proposed legal amendment that has triggered a backlash amid widespread concerns of abuse. Those convicted could be punished by up to two weeks in detention without trial, reported the scmp.com Sep 9.

The amendment clause stipulates six acts that could attract up to 15 days in detention; these include “wearing or forcing another person to wear clothing or symbols that are harmful to the spirit … or the feelings of the Chinese nation in a public place”.

Given the current President Xi Jinping-initiated move to Sinicize all aspects of life in Tibet and other ethnic minority areas of the People’s Republic of China, one big question is whether the new law can be used to target the traditional costumes and other adornments and activities of these targeted groups as well. This is especially because the law does not define the activities it seeks to punish or what constitutes the “spirit of the Chinese nation”, leaving the decision on these matters to the whim of the police personnel.

The draft amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law was submitted to China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), and released for public comment Sep 1, attracting more than 70,000 comments in a week, the report said.

The amendment clause is said to stipulate six acts that could attract up to 15 days in detention, including “wearing or forcing another person to wear clothing or symbols that are harmful to the spirit … or the feelings of the Chinese nation in a public place”.

“Producing, disseminating, propagating or spreading articles or remarks” regarded as harmful would also be liable for punishment under the proposed amendment to the 2006 law that targets minor offences and is generally enforced by grass roots police.

Violations of the law in question are not considered crimes and offenders are therefore not taken through the courts. Rather, they can face fines and up to 15 days in detention, as well as a record on their resumes which may affect education and job prospects.

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The report cited lawyers and experts as arguing that the proposed Article 34 would give grass roots police – who operate at the county level – unevenly large powers which could be abused. They have also expressed concern that it could add more oxygen to extreme nationalism.

Wei Rujiu, a criminal lawyer based in Beijing, has said the new article is too vague because of a lack of consensus about what constitutes the “spirit of the Chinese nation”.

Likewise, University of Hong Kong law and sociology professor Liu Sida has described the legislation as vague, saying it could have consequences unintended by lawmakers. “It’s severe that when a police officer at the grass roots level says you hurt the feelings of the Chinese nation, you lose your freedom for 15 days.”

Also, Lao Dongyan, a professor of criminal law at Tsinghua University, has said the proposed amendment “will create new space for corruption and may also intensify the conflict between the police and the public, posing new risks to social stability”.

Lao has also said the law could boost extreme nationalism and may also create extra antagonism with some countries, leading to more diplomatic problems, referring to people having been punished in the past for wearing the Japanese Kimono.

A woman wearing a kimono on a Japanese-style shopping street in eastern China was taken to a police station in August last year and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a crime punishable by up to five years in jail, the report noted.

Incidentally this undefined crime is one of the favourite charges under which China punishes dissidents. “Wearing clothing or symbols that are harmful to the spirit or the feelings of the Chinese nation in a public place” now could be a ground for punishing them temporarily.


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