Why Brands Need to Pay Attention to China’s Proposed Ban on ‘Offensive Attire’

China has proposed a law that would ban clothing that “hurts the feelings of the Chinese nation.” Should brands start treading lightly?

What Happened: In China, clothing that is considered “offensive” may soon incur charges, if not detainment, for their wearers.

Last week, a deadline passed for the public to submit their opinion on a proposed law change that would ban clothing that “harms the spirit of the Chinese nation, or hurts the feelings of the Chinese nation.”

Under the new amendment, which is part of China’s Public Security Administration Punishment Law, violators could be detained for up to 15 days and fined 5,000 RMB ($681).

While the proposed amendment, dubbed Article 34, doesn’t define what type of clothing would break the law, recent incidents spring to mind.

In 2022, a Chinese anime fan was detained for donning a kimono; that same year, Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning caused an uproar with runway outfits that were called out for resembling Japanese soldiers’ uniforms during World War II  — Japanese military uniforms have been outlawed in China. And finally, in early October, a group of tourists in Wuhan were expelled from a park because their hanfu, or traditional Chinese attire, were mistaken for kimonos.

Chinese netizens have raised concerns that the suggested amendment would hand too much power to police, and could be unfairly applied due to its vague language. “What if you wore white clothes with red polka dots, and someone insists you are wearing the Japanese flag all over your body and is offended?” wrote Weibo user Chatting about spring 301 (聊赠一枝春301).

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