China has urged local authorities to carry out a "thorough inspection" from kindergartens to high schools to root out commercials and business activities on campuses, according to a circular released by the Ministry of Education on Friday.
The move followed public outcry last month over commercials printed on the red scarves worn by third-graders in Danyanglu Primary School in Heze, Shandong province, which the circular said has led to "serious consequences".
The red scarves bearing commercials of a local real estate project were given to the students in a road safety promotion on the afternoon of Sept 25, and the school had said they did not notice an advertisement was printed on them.
Lyu Yongmei, the headmaster, received a serious warning from the Party committee of the city's Economic Development Zone on Saturday.
A red scarf is a neckerchief worn by the Chinese Young Pioneers. It represents a corner of the red flag and symbolizes the revolutionary tradition.
The ministry has pledged zero tolerance for using the red scarf in trademarks, commercials and business activities, the circular said.
County-level education bureaus and above should censor on-campus activities, including the content, plan and organizers, and unapproved activities are prohibited from entering schools, it said.
For approved activities, authorities should designate a monitor who oversees the whole process and reports any commercial attempts.
The circular stressed that such activities should be nonprofit, and shouldn't disrupt teaching activities or add a burden to teachers and students.
The ministry also pledged severe punishment for misconduct.
In August, Shanghai Zhenhai Industrial Limited Co, a company that sells male sex products, invited Sola Aoi, a Japanese singer and former adult movie actress, to a benefit activity in Yunnan province, to raise money for impoverished schoolchildren. The actress wore a red scarf during the activity.
The Chinese Young Pioneers National Working Commission strongly condemned the company for using the red scarf for marketing purposes.
Commercial use of red scarves has been banned in a code of practice released by the commission last year.
Founded in 1949 and led by the CPC, the Chinese Young Pioneers is a national organization for Chinese children aged 6 to 14, most of whom are primary or secondary school students.
Zhang Jing, a professor at China Women's University, said such incidents are quite misleading for primary and secondary school students over the proper use of red scarves.
"Educators should stick to the nonprofit principle when carrying out activities on campus and make sure they do not violate existing rules," she said.
The professor noted that local authorities should provide schools with enough funding, which helps to prevent commercializing such activities. She also suggested that the production of items including national flags, emblems and red scarves be allowed only in designated factories.