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Make a Stink About It!

  • Written by Lulu Vanpik

Have you ever wished that you could complain to someone else other than your friends about the appalling state of public restrooms? Well now you can! Starting in March, the national Ministry of Health has disseminated advertisements for “stink assessor” positions.

The successful candidates will be sent on assignment to inspect notoriously horrendous bathrooms and send reports to participating health offices. Applicants should be younger than 30, have no history of any “nasal disease” (sensitivity? ed), and are to avoid strong foods and drinks before and during the assessment. Teams of there will be sent to sites to inspect different areas; probably a good idea in case the first two faint from physical/mental shock.

New rules, published in early March, specify a permitted fly count per square meter; three flies per square meter in stand-alone restrooms, one fly per square meter in building bathrooms, and as for maggots absolutely zero tolerance. This standard is stricter than local fly per square meter standards in cities such as here in Nanjing where the standard is five flies per square meter. The three flies per limit is in line with the 1970’s/1980’s development scheme known as “little social improvements over time” (小康社会) developed by Deng Xiaoping. Apparently having no flies as a national standard is asking a bit much at the moment. How these flies are counted, by whom, and how these standards were derived still remains more than a bit unclear.

Although clear improvements have been made since the 2008 Olympics, changes are needed. In Beijing’s historical areas, bathrooms are few and far in between leading to over-use and structural damage. Local elderly neighborhoods near Beijing’s historical areas have much to complain about. Not only are the bathrooms left in an unfit state, many are (perhaps somewhat fortunately) far away from residents’ homes, and lack toilets and shower amenities.

Another inherent problem with distant toilets is what is found along the journey; an increasing amount of dog poop. The new found popularity of raising dogs in some of China’s big cities had one anonymous resident complaining; "I hate all the dog poop on the roads nowadays. I don't know why people are allowed to raise dogs in the city, but at the very least they should clean up after them." Another, Miss Fu Goushi said; “I can’t even go for a xxxx without stepping in all the dog xxxx along the way”.

It is not the first time that public facilities have enraged the nation. In an extremely rare moment of bravery and out of desperate constipation, Li Tingting decided to lead an “occupy toilet” movement where she led a group of female college students to occupy men’s public toilets in Guangzhou protesting over unequal waiting times. The 2012 demonstration led to similar movements in both Beijing and Shanghai, as well as an “unplanned” meeting of public officials to discuss the issue.

However, despite public opinion and official moves towards gathering data, Chinese netizens remain highly skeptical. Writer and social critic Li Chengpeng wrote on his Weibo account that if an equal amount of effort were applied to larger issues such as national government corruption, i.e. by only permitting a certain number of corrupt officials per square meter, then “China would be the most powerful nation”.

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