China is considering a legal amendment to punish individuals for “hurting the feelings of the Chinese nation” with up to two weeks of detention without trial.
The proposed changes to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law have been criticised for being too vague and potentially fostering abuse and extreme nationalism.
“A detailed report chronicling the modifications and any revised drafts will eventually be presented for review to the Standing Committee, adhering to the established legal channels,” an NPC spokesperson said on Monday.
The draft amendment outlines six actions – including wearing clothing or symbols deemed harmful to the “spirit or feelings of the Chinese nation” – that could be punished. Offences under this law are not treated as crimes, but violations can still result in detention or fines and affect education and employment opportunities.
The amendment, which has drawn more than 70,000 public comments in a week, has sparked concerns from experts and lawyers about escalating tensions between the public and the police, potentially increasing corruption and nurturing diplomatic problems.
Critics argue that the legislation gives undue power to grass roots police, and may potentially stifle personal freedoms based on the subjective judgment of these officers. The contentious amendment is the most significant alteration to the law since a minor change in 2012, with other proposals that include stipulations on exam cheating and minor misbehaviours.
It said it welcomed the active engagement of the public, affirming that all feedback would be meticulously examined to refine, and possibly enhance, the law.
“We sincerely welcome public opinions on the draft law through normal channels. Those opinions are concrete manifestations of the masses’ concern and orderly participation in the national legislative work, which is of significant importance,” the NPC said.
“The Legal Affairs organs of the NPC Standing Committee will carefully sort out and study all kinds of opinions raised by the social public and relevant parties on the solicited draft law, including opinions and suggestions on the provisions that have attracted attention, proposing proper handling,” the spokesperson said.
In coming weeks, there is expected to be much discussion around the desire to protect individual liberties and the government’s will to defend national sentiment.