Deal with Two Flies Max under Beijing’s New Public Toilet
Call it a “two-fly zone”: Many Beijing residents are sniggering at a new city rule that sets a limit of two flies per public toilet.
“Yesterday, there was only one fly seen at a public toilet inside a Chaoyang district supermarket,” the state-run Global Times newspaper reported, in a story headlined “Staff unsure how to enforce public toilet ‘two fly’ rule.” The newspaper quoted a cleaning lady, Xu Xiutang, as chuckling over the new requirement. No one had informed her about it, nor had she been allotted more fly swatters or sprays, she told the newspaper.
“That’ll take a lot of work to narrow it down to two flies for many public toilets in the park or at some tourist sites,” Ms. Xu was quoted as saying. “They are actually putting a number on this? Are they going to come down to the toilets and count?”
Posts on the topic on Chinese microblogging sites numbered over half a million by Thursday morning. Heavy with irony, some pointed out that other cities, such as Nanchang in the south, had already passed similar rules but that those cities, being less important than the capital, permitted three flies. (Nanchang really does have a three-fly limit, according to this Chinese-language report.)
The regulations announced early this week by the Beijing Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment and dubbed “Beijing city standards for the major profession of public toilet management and service regulations,” can be seen (in Chinese) here .
This is not China’s first foray into fly management. Nationwide rules issued in 1998 were more generous, permitting up to five flies depending on the grade of the toilet, the state-run Beijing Daily reports.
The new regulations also state that a public toilet may contain only two discarded items at a time, and that neither may remain for longer than half an hour. The regulations also get tough on smells, laying down standards for ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, two sewer gases.
But it’s the fly issue that has captured the imaginations of many Beijingers and others around China who have been posting online, in some cases from a fly’s point of view.
On Sina’s Weibo, or microblog, site, a person with the handle Wo bu shi luobo described this imaginary scene at a public toilet: “Management guy sees two flies flying in, hangs a very small sign on the door of the toilet: ‘Occupied.’”
Alluding to the regulations’ stated goal of providing cleaner toilets as evidence of a “civilized” capital, Wang dao you xing wrote, wryly: “How do you judge how cultured a city is? Just count the flies in a public toilet.”
Others applauded the hygiene regulations but questioned the wisdom of such precise requirements. “Saying only two flies per toilet gave people a fright, how are they going to enforce it?” asked Xinhua shiping. Others saw the heavy hand of a nanny state. “Really want to laugh,” wrote @Tsuki-Ben. “Using ‘socialist people management’ on flies… Severely control the reproductive system of flies, flies that don’t meet the quota should be resolutely attacked and killed,” he wrote, aping the language of officialdom.
An unidentified official quoted in The Beijing Daily defended the rule, saying noting the number of flies was a “visual, convenient and common” way to judge a toilet’s overall hygiene condition.
China has long tried to improve the notoriously poor conditions in its public toilets, especially those in big cities and tourist areas. Facilities have improved in many cities, but many netizens feel there’s still a long way to go: in one school, “the smell in the toilet is so poisonous you can’t even open your eyes,” said Er shao qiu tuo tuan.
China’s public toilets were last in the news in February, when a group of young women staged “Occupy Men’s Toilets” protests in Guangzhou and Beijing to demand more women’s facilities. Unlike Hong Kong or Taiwan, which offer more women’s toilets than men’s, China’s national standards call for a one-to-one ratio, which often means that women, who take longer to use them, wind up waiting in line, Sharon reported.