Plenty of jobs have a dress code in regard to visible tattoos. Hand and face tattoos aren't called "job stoppers" because it's a clever name, it's because there can be very real implications for people sporting such visible ink. Here in the United States, more often than not people are told that they need to simply cover their tattoos at work. The government in the Chinese city of Lanzhou took things to a next level—ordering taxi drivers to remove their tattoos.
Transportation officials from the city in northwestern China issued the order in August under the guise that passengers, particularly women and children, would be uncomfortable riding with a tattooed driver, according to The New York Times.
The order stated that “drivers who already have tattoos should remove them through surgical procedures to the greatest extent possible.” This means hours of painful and very expensive laser removal, a process that can often leave the skin scarred.
Unsurprisingly, many drivers were upset by the order. One driver made reference to the stereotype linking tattoos with criminality while posting to a government forum. “When applying for our driver permit, we submit documents showing that we have no criminal records,” wrote the anonymous driver, according to The New York Times. “Our tattoos don’t turn us into bad guys and criminals.”
Tattoos are still quite taboo among the older generations in China, with many still associating tattoos with the criminal underworld. Attitudes toward tattoos have shifted in recent years, particularly as China opened up in the years running up to and following the 2008 Beijing Olympics. People with visible tattoos aren't common in China, but there are far more people showing ink than there used to be.
However, recently the pendulum appears to be swinging back towards a more conservative stance regarding tattoos. Recently some players on the Chinese National Soccer Team were told they needed to wear long sleeves to cover their tattoos despite the oppressive heat during the Asia Cup tournament taking place in the United Arab Emirates. Chinese television has also censored tattoos during broadcasts.
While they aren't illegal anymore, tattooing falls into a grey area in Chinese law. Tattoo parlors aren't licensed by the government, but they aren't specifically forbidden either. This puts tattoo artists in the precarious position of constantly looking over their shoulders in fear that the government is going to change their position and shut everything down.
Where many places are becoming more open to tattoos—Japan formally legalized tattooing just last week—this draconian order in Lanzhou moves things in the opposite direction. Let's hope that it's not a sign of things to come.