The northern Chinese city of Lanzhou recently announced that its taxi drivers would no longer be permitted to have tattoos, fearing that the ink might make passengers uncomfortable. Many taxi drivers reportedly said that they understood the reasoning behind the regulation, but the internet as a whole thinks the rule is ridiculous.
China’s tattoo stigma is partially rooted in classical beliefs, and partially rooted in a modern history of strict regulations. In feudal China, if you committed a serious enough crime, you would be tattooed and sent into exile, recognizable as a criminal even if you made it back.
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Although the social stigma around tattoos seems to be lifting, Chinese authorities haven’t quite caught up yet. In 2018, regulators banned celebrities with tattoos from appearing on TV. The move was part of an effort to reduce “low taste content,” a move which also targeted hip hop music. In addition, the tattoo industry itself still isn’t legally recognized in the Chinese mainland — there are no official licenses for tattoo shops, making their existence precarious.
Still, it’s clear that many netizens don’t agree with the stigmatization. When news of the tattoo ban appeared on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, users were shocked.
“When I call a car and I see the driver has a big tattoo, I pause and think — you have the freedom to have a tattoo, I have the freedom to take the taxi or not,” one user wrote.
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“The Lanzhou authorities seem out of it,” wrote another. “Can we change them?”
Some felt that other regulations would have been more useful. “Don’t bother with these useless things,” wrote one. “Restrict taxi drivers from smoking!”
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