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Has the devil got hold of their hearts?

Updated: 2016-04-21 08:14
By Huang Xiangyang (China Daily)

Although the public uproar that followed forced Zhou to apologize and quit from PPTV, a video-streaming network, many Shanghai soccer fans supported his parochial outburst by chanting "thank you, Zhou Liang" during a match the next day.

No part of the world is free of nitwits, chauvinists and losers who harbor hatred for people from a different background, because the devil of regionalism and selfishness has got the better of their hearts. And that is precisely why a law has to come into play to prevent pathological hatred from spiraling out of control.

Many developed countries have laws against hate speech, criminalizing speech that is deemed insulting to a race, ethnic group, religion or nationality. In the United Kingdom, for example, a person who uses "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior" to stir up racial hatred is deemed guilty of committing an offense.

Yet surprisingly, there is no law in place in China that sees hate speech and regional hatred as offensive, even though regional discrimination has spread to such an extent in China that it has started affecting the livelihoods of certain groups.

Some companies have reportedly stated in their recruitment advertisements that they will not hire people from Henan, a province that is often the target of regional discrimination because of its huge population and underdeveloped economy.

Victims of regional discrimination have found it hard to safeguard their rights and interests for lack of relevant laws. In 2005, a lawyer from Henan filed a lawsuit-considered the first of its kind in China-against a police station in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province, for a banner it had put up on the streets singling out Henan people as possible members of a blackmailing gang. The court verdict was a slap on the wrist of the Shenzhen police, as it told the police station to apologize for its unbecoming action.

Regional discrimination in China is still considered only a public nuisance, and debates in the media on how to deal with it are still confined to the moral sphere. This has failed to stop the spread of hatred. Surf the internet, and you will find regional slurs, some of which can be termed "psychological terrorism".

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says, "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination ... shall be prohibited by law". Advocacy of regional discrimination is the same when it comes to the mental trauma it causes.

It is deplorable that regional discrimination has spread unchecked in our society. And it is a shame that we don't even have a legal weapon to fight it.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. huangxiangyang@chinadaily.com.cn

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