BEIJING (AP) — China’s Interior Ministry announced yesterday that it would ban the burqa from being worn in public. The new law, which will be imposed next month, would forcefully put an end to the wearing of modesty-protecting garments for women in public. The new regulations also stipulate fines for wearing certain types of culturally-related clothing.
State-controlled media stated that the ban was necessary in order to maintain security. The Chinese regime is known for keeping widespread surveillance on ordinary civilians, especially ethnic minorities, to prevent possible anti-government activity. Last month an ethnic Tibetan, who was caught stealing on a convenience store’s camera was ordered to pay a fine, even though a number of dissidents criticized the video footage as “unfair evidence”.
The new law is expected to target ethnic minorities, such as the Uyghurs as well as the growing number of African immigrants, both of which already experience widespread discrimination in the racist Chinese society. While many ethnic minorities experience also prejudice if they wear ethnic clothing, but the new law is expected to add to already-existing prejudices.
“The burqa is like a security shield for me,” said one African woman who recently joined her husband and two children in Guangzhou. “In a hostile society, it gives me the confidence I need. People always stare at me when I go by because I am African. The burqa at least helps me emotionally,” she said. Another Ngubago Okulenagu, who has become an advocate for African immigrants working in China called the ban “simply unfair,” and pointed out the failure of the Chinese government’s ability to accommodate new members of society.
Several dissidents and activist rights groups have criticized China’s new law, which has been described as discriminatory. Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, and the International Woman’s Rights Group have all condemned the restrictions. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, responding to the new crackdown also said, “Abridging people’s right to wear cultural symbols violates fundamental human rights,” and urged the Chinese government to reconsider.