Chinese residents could be banned from wearing clothes that ‘hurt the nation’s feelings’

New law would allow police to detain people who dress offensively for up to 15 days and fine them more than £500 as critics express concern

Legal experts have criticised the lack of a clear definition of the law
Legal experts have criticised the lack of a clear definition of the law Credit: Frederic Brown/AFP

China has proposed a draconian new law that would ban dressing in a way that could “hurt the nation’s feelings”.

Police will be able to detain people who wear the “wrong clothes” for up to 15 days and fine them up to 5,025 yuan (£550).

Critics fear the law is too vague and will lead to punishment for those who choose to wear clothes with symbols of other countries, particularly historic rival Japan. Others have raised concerns that increasingly authoritarian China wants to phase out Western dress.

The new proposals suggest citizens can be punished if they “produce, disseminate, publicize, and spread items or speeches that damage the Chinese nation’s spirit and hurt the Chinese nation’s feelings”.

Legal experts have criticised the lack of a clear definition of the law, and are concerned about potential excessive enforcement.

She believes the vague law would violate basic citizens’ rights to choose their own clothing.

Lao Dongyan, a professor of law at China’s top Tsinghua University, published an article calling for the removal of the proposed legislation.

“The regulation could also stimulate the spread of populism and ultra-nationalism, further deteriorating the public opinion environment, and may also intensify oppositional sentiments in some countries,” she added.

Some people in China have previously been temporarily detained for wearing clothing linked too closely to Japan.

The Chinese government has long inserted anti-Japan sentiment in Chinese education, linked to the Japanese invasion 80 years ago. But the sentiment has grown in recent years amid a rise in nationalism under president Xi Jinping.

Last year, a woman was detained for hours after wearing a Japanese kimono and taking photos on a street in Southeastern Suzhou city. At the time, many online users criticised the police for being “over the top”.

A woman wearing clothing from the Tang dynasty was evicted three times by staff of an archaeological Park in Wuhan city of Central Hubei province on Thursday because the staff mistakenly thought the clothing style was from Japan.

Zhao Hong, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, said: “What if the law enforcer, usually a police officer, has a personal interpretation of the hurt and initiates moral judgment of others beyond the scope of the law?”

China observers warn the new law is another example of the Chinese government’s attempt to control its citizens in every aspect of life under Mr Xi’s rule.

Some Chinese citizens have raised concerns that the law is a slippery slope towards banning wearing a Western suit.

“In view of the history of being bullied by the Western powers, can suits and leather shoes be regarded as damaging the spirit and hurting the feelings of the Chinese nation?” one user wrote on Weibo, China’s main social media platform.

Another wrote: “When you are not allowed to wear [certain] clothes today, you may not be allowed to speak tomorrow, and not be allowed to think the day after tomorrow.”