So Sensitive

Other than during his stint in the Marine Corps and his time in college and law school, my dad lived in Kimberly. After my great-grandfather emigrated to the Village, he was a third-generation lifelong resident.

That is until he started having health problems. While my folks’ had a beautiful house, there were 15 stairs between their living and sleeping quarters. So, at the age of 80, he moved to our cross-town rival: Kaukauna.

While he joked about living behind enemy lines, he practiced law in Kaukauna for over 35 years, so it quickly felt like home. And having everything on one level was perfect. But that didn’t stop him from wearing his Kimberly gear every chance he got.

Thankfully, Kaukauna didn’t have a law like the one being proposed in China.

Since he came into power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has sought to mold his constituents into model Chinese citizens. In 2019, his Chinese Communist Party issued “morality guidelines” which include directives like being polite, traveling with a lower carbon footprint, and having “faith” in the president and the party.

His latest measure, however, would make it illegal for residents to wear or force others to wear clothing and symbols that “undermine the spirit or hurt the feelings of the Chinese nation.” Violators could be jailed for up to 15 days and fined up to 5,000 yuan (roughly $680). The proposal has been met with criticism because it does not define what constitutes a violation. As a result, citizens fear excessive and potentially unwarranted enforcement.

In addition to objectionable dress, a similar measure has been proposed outlawing the creation or dissemination of articles or speech that is “detrimental to the spirit of Chinese people.” The proposal also forbids “insulting, slandering or otherwise infringing upon the names of local heroes and martyrs” as well as vandalism of their memorial statues. Offenders of this policy would face the same consequences as violating the dress code.

Chinese residents have gone online to voice their concerns, which are mainly that law enforcement officers could unilaterally determine when the nation’s “feelings” are “hurt” and abuse the law.

Legal experts cites several recent incidents in China that justify their fear of excessive enforcement of such a law. The first involved a kimono-clad woman who was detained in the city of Suzhou and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” because she had worn the Japanese garment.

In March of this year, police detained a woman donning a replica of a Japanese military uniform at a night market. This summer, people who wore rainbow print clothing were denied entry to a concert by Taiwanese singer Chang ui-mei in Beijing. All these incidents drew headlines and sparked outrage across Chinese social media.

“To wear a kimono is to hurt the feelings of the Chinese nation, to eat Japanese food is to jeopardize its spirit?” wrote one popular social commentator online, who writes under the pen name Wang Wusi. “When did the feelings and spirit of the time-tested Chinese nation become so fragile?”

It will be interesting to see if the measure is adopted. It seems strange that a government can selectively dictate what its citizens can and cannot wear. That being said, I would not be opposed to Wisconsin passing a law banning people from wearing Chicago Bears paraphernalia.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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