When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

China's Tattoo Crackdown: Celebrity, Subversion And A Twist Of Patriotism

A new regulation in China is cracking down hard on tattoos. The law is ostensibly about minors, but some argue that it's going too far and actively erasing the glorious Chinese past.

Hong Kong Tattoo Show 2021​

Hong Kong Tattoo Show 2021

Chung Kin Wah

For those who get tattoos to be noticed, the Chinese government has noticed.

In June, China's State Council released new measures targeting the showcasing of tattoos in public media, forbidding publications, films and television programs from encouraging or abetting minors to get tattoos. This new regulation also prohibits any enterprise, organization or individual from providing tattooing services to minors.

The country's Children's Welfare Department later announced that minors cannot be tattooed, even with the consent of their parents. The regulations also state that anyone who gets a tattoo for a minor in violation of the law, or who breaks the law on promoting tattoo awareness, will face prosecution.

The Chinese government had already banned entertainment artists with tattoos from appearing on TV shows back in 2018, describing them as people who were "alienated from the Party and the country."

The national football team was also banned from having tattoos in December 2021. Those who already had tattoos were required to have them removed. In exceptional cases, players must cover their tattoos during training and matches with the consent of the team, as in the case of the China Cup at the end of March 2018, when some national football players had their arms taped and wore long-sleeved jerseys to cover their tattoos.

Previous crackdowns on tattoos

In January 2018, the Director-General of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) issued a directive on the four principles that should govern the invitation of guests to Chinese radio and television, one of which was not to use artists with tattoos for public programs.

Tattoos and piercings are all 'subcultures.'

Following this directive, China’s massive entertainment industry was forced to conduct self-censorship to prevent sudden crackdowns on their shows. In 2018, one of the country's most popular hip-hop singers was withdrawn from a TV competition shortly after releasing a song which included a lyrical reference to tattoos.

And a guest on a family variety show was blurred out because he had a large tattoo on his body. Some online commentators questioned the fact that their favorite TV programs were being obscured, while others said that the Chinese government's repeated restrictions were unnecessary and that censorship was ruining the quality of television. One related example was the Chinese government's restrictions last year that male artists not behave in a "feminine" manner, with one program forced to block out the ears of male artists wearing earrings.

Chinese footballer Zhang Linpeng\u200b has been told to cover his tattoos

Chinese footballer Zhang Linpeng has been told to cover his tattoos


Why subcultures aren't tolerated in China

Many members of the public agreed on regulating tattooing for younger people, but there are also those contesting the ban on tattoos itself, stating that tattooing has always been part of Chinese traditional culture and passed down through history.

As they see it, if tattoos did not allow someone to join the army or become a leader in ancient China, many ancient heroes with patriotic tattoos would have been banned. This is an ironic comment on the Chinese government's intention to erase history and prohibit Chinese people from expressing "patriotic" sentiments through tattoos.

Nevertheless, the mentality behind maintaining this regulation is very clear. As one person commented on social media: "Tattoos and piercings are all 'subcultures', and subcultural behavior often implies a challenge to the dominant culture. For the Chinese Communist Party, which demands unity of thought, there is a reason why subcultures are not tolerated."

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest