In a move that has sparked mockery and widespread criticism, residents in China’s most-crowded city will now be slapped with fines if they fail to relieve themselves directly into urinals in public bathrooms there.
Men in Shenzhen in southern China will be fined 100 yuan or around $16 if they are caught with bad aim. The new law doesn’t define how much bodily fluid landing outside of the urinal will warrant the charge, nor does it specify who will be assigned the pleasant task of monitoring toilet users. A commentary in the Beijing Youth Daily published on Tuesday noted, “We can’t have chengguan [the controversial civilian force that enforces municipal laws] spending all day in the toilet, right?” It also posed the disturbing possibility of surveillance cameras installed inside public restrooms.
The commentary goes on to observe that while the law has good intentions in improving toilet hygiene in the city of more than 15 million residents, the stipulations are so unclear that well-intentioned citizens may be wrongfully punished. For example, what if the culprit is an elderly man who is unfit to aim properly?
Users on Weibo (China’s Twitter-like social media service) jumped on the news as the latest fodder for ridicule, with one posting: “Don’t be angry if you don’t understand the new law, just use your free time to practice your aim.” Another proffered: “I suggest we put pictures of the officials who came up with this law on the urinals, then we’ll have no problem with aim.” Some were more diplomatic: “If there is uncivilized behavior in public toilets, then we should use education to develop good habits. How is charging fines going to get to the root of the problem?”
The new public toilet law will also penalize male or female citizens who smoke or spit inside a public toilet, as well as if they vandalize any of the facilities. China’s notoriously filthy toilets have proved troublesome for municipal authorities. In 2012, the Beijing government made a laudable guideline of allowing up to two flies only inside its toilets, which it hoped would reduce the amount of waste lingering inside the public facility.