Police in the resort city of Sanya on Hainan island have stepped up their efforts to crack down on nude sunbathing and swimming on the public beaches after the leader of the province waded into the campaign.
The communist party chief of Hainan province condemned nude sunbathing as “un-Chinese, anti-tradition and uncivilised” after it was banned on one of the province’s beaches last week.
“No normal person would swim or sunbathe naked in public,” Luo Baoming said on Sunday at the second meeting of the Hainan People’s Congress.
“This kind of behaviour is not consistent with China’s cultural traditions.”
Offenders could be detained for between five and 10 days, depending on the seriousness of the offence, Xinhua reported on Sunday, quoting Sanya police. Local police have started patrolling the beaches round-the-clock, with the assistance of loudspeakers to dissuade nudists and surveillance cameras to record evidence for potential detention, according to the report.
Luo said nudism corrupted public morals and Chinese culture, and that the province wouldn’t allow this “uncivilised” behaviour. He said authorities should advise against nudism and those who did not listen should be removed from the area.
Xinhua, citing Hainan authorities, said people who refused to be dissuaded despite the police patrols, loudspeakers and cameras would receive “education through detention”.
Nudism was banned on Dadonghai beach near Sanya last week after tourists and local residents complained about the amount of flesh on display during the Lunar New Year holiday. Urban management officers and police handed out notices and put up signs warning nudists of possible detention.
Nudists started appearing on Sanya’s beaches in 2002, and around 400 to 500 usually middle-aged men, who believe the sun’s rays heal skin diseases such as psoriasis, can be seen on a hot day.
Xinhua quoted a man surnamed Wang as saying that the men were not at the beach to expose themselves but to treat their skin diseases through sunbathing.
He also said a portion of them also swim in the nude to “enjoy the feeling of returning back to nature”.
Images of the nudists have attracted a lot of media attention and comments from the Chinese blogosphere.
Luo noted: “One website had more than 170,000 hits in half a day.”
One Weibo user wrote, “Nudity isn’t appropriate in China. Most Chinese people are conservative.”
Others dismissed all the nudists as foreigners or worried about the harmful effects they had on women and children while others argued that they only occupied a short stretch of the beach.
One wrote, “All beaches in China should open nude swimming and sunbathing areas and catch up with the rest of the world.”
Additional reporting by Reuters