The order got here in August as transport officers in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, rolled out a marketing campaign to spruce up the picture of native cab drivers. Ostensibly, the no-tattoo rule was meant to maintain some passengers from feeling uncomfortable.
It additionally coincided with nationwide efforts to dampen the rising reputation of tattoos amongst youthful generations, who’re more and more embracing the once-stigmatised physique artwork.
However one driver in Lanzhou needed to maintain the ink and took to an internet authorities discussion board to ship a well mannered, however pointed, rebuttal to the town’s order.
“When making use of for our driver allow, we submit paperwork exhibiting that we now have no prison data,” wrote the driving force, who was not recognized within the put up and couldn’t be reached for remark. “Our tattoos don’t flip us into dangerous guys and criminals.”
The motive force famous that eradicating tattoos was painful and costly, requiring repeat visits to wash traces of everlasting ink from the pores and skin by means of laser know-how. The method may also go away scars and pale patches of color.
The federal government’s order was merely discriminatory, the driving force mentioned.
However in a public response in September, Lanzhou’s transport committee didn’t budge. With out providing proof, it mentioned that “massive tattoos on drivers could trigger misery to passengers who’re girls and kids”.
The committee additionally insisted that “drivers who have already got tattoos ought to take away them by means of surgical procedures to the best extent doable”.
It was unclear how the tattoo elimination can be enforced or who would pay for it. When reached by phone on Tuesday, representatives of the Lanzhou authorities declined to remark.
The committee’s response to the driving force was broadly reported throughout China, reviving an age-old debate in a rustic the place tattoos are being more and more embraced by youthful Chinese language however are nonetheless shunned by those that think about them a mark of criminality.
Tattoo tradition started to flourish in China because the nation opened as much as the west forward of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Western influences and popular culture resonated with Chinese language audiences. Extra entertainers and athletes started displaying tattoos in televised appearances, together with Lin Dan, a badminton Olympic champion who bared his ink-stained arms throughout competitions.
Tattoo parlours, colleges and conventions multiplied. Some tattoo artists, comparable to Chen Jie and Joey Pang, pioneered a mode that evokes Chinese language ink work with watercolour-like strokes. Others have been influenced by a fragile new model of South Korean mini-tattoos, distinguished by pinprick-thin outlines and pastel colors.
In Japan, the place tattoos have lengthy been related to organised crime syndicates just like the yakuza, laws on tattooing have progressively loosened. Many bathhouses and scorching springs nonetheless bar tattooed guests in an try and exclude gang members. However in a boon for tattoo parlours and practitioners, the nation dominated final week that tattooing didn’t require a medical license.
In China, the rising acceptance of tattoos has been resisted by conservative gatekeepers. Tv censors blurred pictures of tattoos, in addition to cleavage and males’s earrings, in 2017 and in 2019. And Chinese language sports activities officers ordered soccer gamers with tattooed arms to put on lengthy sleeves in the course of the Asian Cup within the United Arab Emirates final 12 months.
Lanzhou’s directive could also be among the many harshest for taxi drivers.
Changchun, a Chinese language metropolis within the northeastern province of Jilin, not too long ago issued its personal ban on tattoos for cabdrivers — however merely instructed them to cowl them up, to not take away them. (It additionally instructed drivers to not smoke, to maintain their autos clear and to activate the air con whereas ferrying passengers.)
The motive force in Lanzhou who went public with discontent mentioned that Changchun’s method was preferable and instructed that the native authorities modify its directive.
“I perceive that our leaders need to current our business in a extra constructive gentle,” the driving force wrote. “The aim of telling us to take away our tattoos is in order that our passengers don’t see them. Overlaying them up achieves the identical consequence.”
After the pushback, Lanzhou’s transportation committee mentioned that drivers might cover massive tattoos on their arms and necks however instructed that it could be a brief answer.
“Those that are unable to take away them fully in the interim ought to cowl them up,” the committee mentioned in its reply to the driving force.
Different on-line response to the episode has been combined. In a casual ballot on social media asking 3,000 girls whether or not they would journey with taxi drivers sporting tattoos, 850 mentioned they might, and 1,000 mentioned they might not.
A male web person mentioned on Weibo, a Chinese language microblogging platform, that though he revered the artwork of tattooing, he would turn into nervous if a tattooed driver took a flip down a abandoned street.
Some mentioned the Lanzhou rule merely mirrored outdated stereotypes about tattoos. A 29-year-old web person in Wuhan, Diane Yang, wrote on Weibo: “If the higher-ups don’t just like the look of tattoos, please don’t use girls as an excuse. Tattoos shouldn’t be thought of the manifestations of ailing intentions.”
“It’s very regular,” Li Mingjun, a 21-year-old scholar in Beijing, mentioned in an interview about physique ink. “You may’t cease somebody from making a dwelling simply due to a private choice.”
She mentioned she needed a tattoo for herself.