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Date Posted: 21:33 25/10/2004

China cracks down on football hooligans

But there is more to the new law than football.

DURING THE Asia Cup finals held in China a couple of months ago, the Japanese squad was, predictably, submitted to a torrent of abuse, their anthem booed and their coach besieged by livid local fans weened for decades on anti-Japanese rhetoric. The final between China and Japan did not quite reach the frenzy of violence and hooliganism that many apocalyptics had anticipated, but the situation was fraught, and as the local Beijing youth made the most of their displeasure, Japanese fans were sealed in the Workers' Stadium for two hours before being released.

Following the growing incidence of violence in China's soccer grounds, China is about to 'strike hard' against football hooliganism. Anyone disrupting a game can be banned from the country's stadia for a year, according to the new draft public order statute currently under consideration. Troublemakers can be detained from one to five days, and will be fined between 50 RMB and 200 RMB for their crimes. Offenses listed in the new draft law include setting off fireworks or firecrackers, displaying insulting slogans, mobbing the referee or the players, throwing things on the pitch, and 'other activities disturbing the order of the match'.

But the new draft law is more than just against football supporters: new fines are in place to prevent people from - among other things - failing to register when staying in hotels.

There are 113 new clauses to the public order statutes which are aimed at 'increasing the range of behaviour circumscribed by law and also the range of punishments and the amount of fines', according to Inspection Daily. It increases the number of crimes, as well as the types of behaviour that should be regulated by the police, the report says. Effectively, some of the lacunae in the criminal code are being filled in.

And so, the new clauses include ones dealing with people who dispute the laws, rulings, decisions and orders of the government during 'states of emergency'; people who gather around, and refuse to leave, government organizations (which presumably means those petitioning the government, or the unpaid migrant workers protesting outside the offices of their bosses); 'hooligan or beggar behaviour' which 'disturbs the social order' or 'infringes upon personal rights'; behaviour that 'disrupts the social order during large-scale activities', behaviour that uses violence or threats or other measures to force people into labour, behaviour that encites people to sleep with prostitutes, and, not least, the raising of animals in such a way that disrupts 'normal life'.

Some might welcome the fact that such 'disruptions to the social order' as aggressive begging and hooking on the streets are now subject to the rule of law, rather than just the random nightstick. Police brutality is, of course, not entirely unheard of in the People's Republic.

Front page image taken from EastSouthWestNorth

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