Zhang Linpeng of Guangzhou Evergrande looks on during the AFC Champions League match between the Chinese team and Kashima Antlers at Tianhe Stadium on August 28, 2019 in Guangzhou, China.
Hong Kong CNN  — 

China has banned footballers from getting tattoos and ordered those with existing ones to remove or cover them up to set a “good example for society,” according to a directive issued by the General Administration of Sport of China (GAS).

The directive – titled “Suggestions for strengthening the management of football players” – lays out disciplinary requirements for national team players.

“Athletes of the national team and U23 national team are strictly prohibited from having new tattoos,” read the directive, which was issued Tuesday.

“Those who have tattoos are advised to remove tattoos by themselves. In cases of special circumstances, tattoos must be covered during training and competition after the consent of the team.”

National teams at Under-20 levels are forbidden from recruiting new athletes with tattoos,” according to the directive.

Beijing's midfielder Zhang Xizhe runs with the ball during the AFC Champions League quarterfinals match between Korea's Ulsan Hyundai and China's Beijing FC on December 10, 2020 at the al-Janoub Stadium in the Qatari city of Al Wakrah.

The measures “fully demonstrate the positive spirit of Chinese football players and set a good example for society,” said the GAS statement.

The directive added that national teams should organize activities that “strengthen the patriotic education” of athletes to “enhance the sense of mission, responsibility and honor, and create a national team capable of conquering and fighting well and with excellent style of play.”

This isn’t the first time China has targeted tattoos.

In 2018, China’s media regulator issued an edict saying Chinese television “should not feature actors with tattoos,” during a crackdown on “hip hop culture, sub-culture and immoral culture.”

Images with tattoos were required to be blurred before they could be shown on TV.