China (MNN) — A new proposed law in China would ban clothing that “hurts the nation’s feelings”. This has led many to express concerns about free speech, including religious speech.

Kurt Rovenstine with Bibles for China says, “It does reflect China’s desire – the party’s desire – to maintain harmony. [They’re saying] ‘We don’t want anybody stirring the pot. We don’t want anybody making waves. We want to be at peace and harmony with one another.’ They legislate that morality, which is very foreign to us here [in the West].”

The proposed law allows officials to detain those in violation for up to fifteen days with fines up to 5,000 yuan ($681).

The law forbids, “the wearing in public places … of clothing and symbols that damage the spirit of the Chinese nation, or that hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” The vague language does not provide concrete examples of what clothing might violate the law.

Additional wording in the proposed law bans “producing, disseminating or publicizing” products, articles or speech that are deemed damaging to China’s spirit.

Rovenstine notes, “What concerns me is how that will be potentially detrimental if everything moves forward to ministry. If we can ban it on a shirt, then we can ban it in a book and we can ban it from a pulpit, or in a conversation on the street. So [with] the sharing of the Gospel, I think there’s some potential there for that to be just yet another challenge for the church in China that already has a number of restrictions against it.”

Who Decides?

In addition to the concerning lack of clarity, there is no language indicating who will decide what is problematic. It’s possible that individual officers may interpret the proposed law differently. How will one know if any particular item will be considered offensive on a given day?

(Photo courtesy of Pedro Serapio from Pixabay)

Rovenstine notes that variety in legal interpretation is already widespread in China.

“One of the things I’ve noticed in China is that laws like this are interpreted in a wide variety of ways all over China. So in one province, there’s one level of freedom or restriction and then another. It’s very, very different because they’re interpreting the law as they see fit.”

Implications for the Church

Giving local officials undefined power to detain people could prove troublesome to the spread of the Gospel.

Pray that this proposed law would not be passed and the Gospel would continue to advance in China despite opposition.


Photo courtesy of Orna on Pixabay.