Foshan puts netizens on the scent of worst toilets
Online vigilantes armed with 'human flesh search engines' are setting their sights on Foshan's foulest public toilets at the request of a municipal government keen to rehabilitate its reputation in the eyes of tourists.
After telling a municipal tourism working meeting that filthy toilets were seriously damaging the Guangdong city's image and were one of the main sources of dissatisfaction among holidaymakers, Deputy Mayor Mai Jiehua called on netizens to harness the power of human flesh search engines - online collaborative search tools - to name and shame the city's worst toilets, The Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday.
Mr Mai said a single foul toilet ruined a group of foreign guests' impression of Foshan, despite their being accompanied and entertained by a high-ranking official.
He vowed to improve the hygiene of all public toilets at scenic spots and major hotels this year, asking netizens to name the worst.
A Foshan salesman, answering the call, spent two days taking pictures of 15 public toilets across the city, identifying the worst four based on the number of stains he found during the visit. He posted the results on online forum ttx.cn.
'I judged public toilets according to four criteria: whether there was any excrement or urine around, footprints on the floor or any foul smells. I observed the level of cleanliness inside and asked people living nearby for their opinion,' the report quoted the man as saying.
But some netizens argued that public toilets near their homes were even dirtier.
'Try the public toilets in the suburbs. You'll need to wear a gas mask just to walk in,' one netizen calling himself 'Batistuta' wrote.
But few netizens thought the searches would improve governance in Foshan.
'It's the civil administration department's responsibility to point out dirty public toilets and improve their hygiene,' one netizen wrote. 'Having a deputy mayor and the human flesh search engine deal with the issues means taxpayers' money is being wasted.'
Others suggested the authorities should promote hygienic communal toilets by teaching people to flush toilets and not steal toilet paper.
Foshan's actions contrast with many regional governments that equate the online phenomenon to internet mob rule.
Regulators in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, have approved fines of up to 5,000 yuan (HK$5,700) for anybody who exposes, publishes or spreads unauthorised private information on the Web. Offenders could also face being barred from the internet for six months.