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 recognition 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 a web-based authorities discussion board to ship a well mannered, however pointed, rebuttal to town’s order.
“When making use of for our driver allow, we submit paperwork displaying that we’ve no legal data,” wrote the motive force, who was not recognized within the publish and couldn’t be reached for remark. “Our tattoos don’t flip us into dangerous guys and criminals.”
The driving 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 depart scars and light patches of color.
The federal government’s order was merely discriminatory, the motive force stated.
However in a public response in September, Lanzhou’s transport committee didn’t budge. With out providing proof, it stated that “giant 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 potential”.
It was unclear how the tattoo removing could 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 motive 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 contemplate 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, equivalent to Chen Jie and Joey Pang, pioneered a method that evokes Chinese language ink work with watercolour-like strokes. Others had 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 regularly loosened. Many bathhouses and sizzling 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 photos 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 throughout the Asian Cup within the United Arab Emirates final 12 months.
Lanzhou’s directive could also be among the many cruelest for taxi drivers.
Changchun, a Chinese language metropolis within the northeastern province of Jilin, lately issued its personal ban on tattoos for cabdrivers — however merely informed them to cowl them up, to not take away them. (It additionally informed drivers to not smoke, to maintain their automobiles clear and to activate the air con whereas ferrying passengers.)
The driving force in Lanzhou who went public with discontent stated that Changchun’s strategy was preferable and prompt that the native authorities modify its directive.
“I perceive that our leaders wish to current our business in a extra constructive gentle,” the motive 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 stated that drivers might disguise giant tattoos on their arms and necks however prompt that it could be a short lived answer.
“Those that are unable to take away them utterly in the meanwhile ought to cowl them up,” the committee stated in its reply to the motive force.
Different on-line response to the episode has been combined. In an off-the-cuff ballot on social media asking 3,000 girls whether or not they would trip with taxi drivers sporting tattoos, 850 stated they might, and 1,000 stated they might not.
A male web person stated 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 stated 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 unwell intentions.”
“It’s very regular,” Li Mingjun, a 21-year-old pupil in Beijing, stated in an interview about physique ink. “You possibly can’t cease somebody from making a dwelling simply due to a private desire.”
She stated she needed a tattoo for herself.