The public security department in Jiangxi province amended a recent announcement that banned all mahjong parlors after public criticism of the department's one-size-fits-all approach.
On Sunday, the public security bureau of Yushan county announced plans to close all mahjong and chess parlors as well as mahjong rooms in hotels by Oct 22 amid a national campaign against crimes and gangs.
"The public security department will conduct inspections on the implementation of the ban and mete out punishment according to the law," the announcement said.
Moreover, it also banned local officials or Party members from playing mahjong for gambling purposes.
"Participants or anyone who harbors gambling activities will be punished and transferred to the discipline inspection commission," it said.
The ban triggered a public backlash, with many saying the measure could affect residents' normal entertainment activities and legal businesses.
"Not all people play mahjong for gambling," a netizen named Ziran wrote on Weibo in a comment about the announcement. "My grandparents play mahjong as part of their daily entertainment with friends and neighbors. I've also learned from medical reports that encouraging elderly people to play mahjong is a way of preventing Alzheimer's disease."
On Monday morning, the bureau deleted the original announcement and posted a revised version hours later, saying registered mahjong parlors will not be affected by the regulations and that the campaign is aimed at cracking down on illegal gambling.
According to Zhang Xiangyong, a lawyer from Jiangxi Hongzheng Law Firm, a ban on all mahjong and chess parlors would confuse law enforcement, as the distinction between gambling and entertainment remains unclear.
"The one-size-fits-all ban will contribute to the anti-gambling campaign, but government sectors are not granted the right to close legally registered parlors if they are not providing gambling services," he said. "Also, such entertainment involving a small amount of money is legal."
According to Jiangxi's administrative punishment standard, entertainment activities involving gambling of more than 200 yuan ($28) will face punishment.
Although the circular has sparked an intense discussion among the public, the ban is widely supported by netizens as the campaign could help maintain social order and security.
"In my hometown of Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi, some people play mahjong from day to night and disturb others. The ban is an iron fist against unhealthy social trends," a netizen named Yomi commented on Weibo.