In February I wrote about a teacher in Xinjiang who lost his bonus because he did not shave his beard off. Now beard control seems to have spread also to other areas. Yesterday a Yunnan friend (Han Chinese) with a nice goatee (山羊胡) told me that when he recently went to renew his ID card (身份证) he was told by the police that ”only special religious communities can take photos with beards” (留胡子拍照的只有特殊宗教群体)?! This was only mentioned in speaking, no written regulations were shown. Actually, the specification for photos used in second generation Chinese ID cards says nothing of beards.
My friend has grown his beard for some years and did not want to shave it off, and decided to take a photo without shaving. When bringing it back to the police station the staff told him that ”if the higher level leaders will approve then we will let it be, and if not you must come back and take another” (如果上级领导认可就算了，如果不认可要回来重拍).
Not everyone is as courageous as my friend, and Chinese web sites gives ample evidence that similar things happen around China. One may think that it is merely a matter of overzealous local police wanting young men to look proper with crew cut (平头) and without beard, but the comment to my friend says something else. Why mention ”special religious communities” at all? That comment is also in conflict with the incident with the Xinjiang teacher. He was a Uyghur Muslim, but could not keep his beard. Things are definitely getting worse when they want to control how people look and if they shave.