Online criticism sinks plan for 'City of Bathing'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 January, 2009, 12:00am

Authorities in the eastern province of Anhui scrapped a plan to turn an industrial city into the nation's groundbreaking 'City of Bathing', after scores of fierce online attacks were posted, mainland media said.

Despite stressing the prosperity and long tradition of Maanshan's bathing industry, a spokesman for the city tried to distance it from the idea, Xinhuanet.com reported.

The spokesman said on Tuesday that neither the city's Communist Party committee nor its government had ever formally endorsed any plan to turn the city into a bathing centre, the report said.

The high-profile clarification came after a startling quantity of adverse online responses targeting the repositioning of the province's most affluent city, which boasts a per capita yearly income of nearly 30,000 yuan (HK$34,100).

The city's tourist department came up with the proposal to dub Maanshan 'the City of Bathing'.

The plan was disclosed on the website of the municipal government last week to gauge public opinion, anhuinews.com reported.

Asked about the reasons for boosting the bathing industry even though no hot spring had ever been found in the city, a tourism official said 'the bathing industry has thrived here for years for its relatively higher ranking, better services, healthier and more decent reputation, and more reasonable charges'.

However, netizens expressed the opposite view on bulletin boards.

Some of the internet surfers said Maanshan might soon turn out to be the 'Capital of Desires' rather than the 'City of Bathing', as the pronunciations of 'desire' and 'bathing' are the same in Chinese.

Others complained that the plan simply made them feel ashamed to live in such a city.

On the mainland, bathhouses, or massage parlours, with their services usually provided by young women, have long been linked to indecent activity, such as prostitution.

Some online postings bluntly stated: 'Please don't let my husband know the news [about the City of Bathing]' and 'the yardstick of whether some place is a good bathhouse merely depends on the quality of girls there'.

Another website poster wrote: 'The Capital of Venereal Disease will surely be the next stage of the city's development.'