China's not putting up with any more monkey business, do you hear?
A draft amendment to the country's Civil Aviation Law calls for fines of up to 50,000 yuan (USD $7,535) for passengers who turn on their mobile phones or other electronic devices.
The rules may have softened in the United States, where aircraft tends to be equipped with anti-interference systems, but in China, where incidents of air rage and rude behavior are taking off along with its planes, the government is getting stricter. Among the other formal bans called for in the amendment: sitting in someone else's seat and smoking on aircraft.
Those seem pretty reasonable to us. China has been suffering from an epidemic of airline thuggery lately. In Shenzhen in June, a check-in clerk was savagely beaten by an angry passenger when she refused to print out an itinerary without seeing I.D. The same week, two men beat up cabin crew for being asked to vacate first-class seats even though they had only paid for economy.
The amendment also cracks down on a slew of additional prohibitions that were not yet explicitly banned. Believe it or not, those include breaking into cockpits, opening cabin doors during flight, hijacking planes, taking arms on board, making hoax threats, and taking hostages. All of them have technically not been declared illegal yet on Chinese planes. Goodbye, burning straw and releasing birds near an airport. Farewell, carrying dangerous goods—that'll get you slammed with a USD$150,000 fine.
The last set of civil aviation laws were enacted in 1996, when Chinese citizens were more compliant and well-behaved, and the government hadn't felt the need to explicitly ban them until now, because the threat of being forbidden to travel for two years was deterrent enough. No more. The best way to punish modern Chinese citizens, the government has decided, is now through cash.
Chinese people have until September 6 to complain about the strict new rules, but after that, they could become law.