Some might say the provincial Chinese lawmaker lives the dream, issuing regulatory law pursuant to a higher ideal.
But this month, officials in Shenzhen drew ridicule from users of China’s Weibo social networks for threatening to fine anyone making a mess of public toilets. The government would fine anyone caught urinating outside of the toilet bowl, although the regulation fails to specify a metric for measuring the violation — including a minimum quantity of urine spilled outside the bowl.
“Such uncouth use of a public toilet will be fined [$163.43] by authorities” beginning in September, an official told reporters.
Understandably, Chinese social media users questioned how the government would enforce such a law, raising speculation of a crack cadre of Chinese cops patrolling public facilities throughout the province. “A number of new civil servant positions will be created,” wrote one user. “There will be a supervisor behind every urinating person to see whether the pee is straight.”
Another joked about the economic stimulus that such toilet inspectors would bring to the area. “Very good measures… I expect they can create 20 jobs on average for every public toilet.”
Reporters with South China Morning Post were not able to get immediate comment from provincial officials responsible for the regulatory language, as the Beijing Times questioned the use of law in place of social mores. “The law should maintain the most basic restraint about the people’s private life,” Shu Li, a legal worker, wrote in the paper.
“It’s better to have no rule than a rule that cannot be implemented," another commentator, online, wrote.
To be fair, however, the South China Morning Post acknowledges the government’s honest effort to address the country’s sanitation habits, which range by some estimates from despicable to dire. China’s health ministry in February released a draft version of similar regulation, intended to better maintain public bathrooms in greater Beijing — with particular focus on restrooms at public transportation locations.
Unlike Shenzhen’s new law, those regulations did specify a metric for assessing the cleanliness of a public restroom: no more than one fly per square meter permitted within a building housing a public toilet. That standard, however, was relaxed for free-standing restroom facilities to allow three flies per square meter.
Interestingly, the regulation first proposed in February included a provision some Americans might refer to as “progressive.” For any public facility used by equal numbers of men and women, there must be twice as many toilets available to women — although with the same number of flies. Below is a video from the Water Channel describing China's challenge with sanitation, as well as problems faced by neighboring India, Palestine, Peru, Uganda, South Africa, and Sweden: