No Fly Zone

Beijing Public Toilets According to a recent disposition coming from the Image Office of Beijing, public washrooms in the chinese capital cannot contain more than two flies in their interior. The reason, explains Xie Guomin, is that “they can be seen, they bother and can transmit illnesses”.  The fist critics have already been rising, tough, especially thorough social networks and media: while hygiene in the toilets might be improving, the workers that are responsible of repairing and cleansing, make the most despicable job for a minimum wage and all along exposed to gas pollution.

The new standards issued by the Beijing Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment,  are an attempt to set new standards for public toilets in China, such as odor and cleaning litter bins. The new standards also cover training for attendants on cleaning and on how to properly use the equipment. The rules are to be applied mainly in toilets located in tourists spots such as parks, railway stations, hospitals and shopping malls. To help the tourists, the regulation also requires every toilet to have signs in both Chinese and English installed.

However, what many say is that China should put its efforts and investments on educating the public on how to use the public toilets rather than put it on improving those toilets.

Nevertheless, these new standards have been a doubted and thought to be ‘ridiculous’ in terms of the enforcement of the guidelines. Xie Guomin, the official in charge of the new iniciative, responded to these critics the following: “We will not actually count fly numbers. The regulation is specific and quantified, but the inspection methodology will be flexible”. Above all, again, the overall aim to achieve by these implementations is to educate the public on proper use of restrooms.

More critiques have also been forwarded concerning the new health reforms in general: employees and citizens complain that there are bigger issues that “a couple of flies in a washroom”. Among those issues some can be named like the employees’ underpayment, or the worrying low-hygiene conditions they have to work in.

Weibo (the chinese version of Twitter) has been pullulating lately with the indignation of beijing citizens, that rise in defense of the operators of the hygiene department, whose health and pay conditions are in a concerning situation.

In addition, the World Health Organization estimates that 10.000 chinese have no access to toilets. A 2010 report estimated that 45 percent lacked access to improved toilet facilities.  For citizens with this shocking lack of basic sanitary facilities, there are many problems – obvious ones being exposure to diseases. Contrastingly, Chinas overall sanitation has improved drastically in the past 20 years, and continuous to improve.  Further, even though for westerners such conditions of public toilets in Beijing seem worrying and unacceptable for basic health issues, chinese employees have compared this to the labour of farming, and even though it seems to be a disheartening daily job for them they believe it is necessity in order to obtain a stable income.

This can be considered an analogy of the changes that are taking place in modern China due to the unavoidable international pressure towards the bad image that often reaches the western world’s shores hidden beyond the economic growth, an image lacking of respect towards the environment, human rights and the welfare state. Or is this just a new custom in which the real China pretends to disguise itself to sell a better image to the international media? Is it possible for a government like the Chinese to adapt itself to the western values and life styles? In any case, its undeniable truth that the pressure is having some effects on the Asian country, which is a sign of future change.


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