On a roll: campaign to clean up China’s toilets gathers pace

The publication of a list of leaders and laggards in the ‘toilet revolution’ is the latest step in a two-year plan to change the nation’s loos from ramshackle to respectable

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 1:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 11:20pm

China’s campaign to clean up its notoriously filthy and smelly public toilets has moved to the next level with the tourism authorities publishing the first-ever list of leaders and laggards in the government’s two-year “toilet revolution”.

The nation will build or renovate 71,000 toilets by the end of this year, the National Tourism Administration said in a report after a meeting late last week on progress in the campaign, but its list of sites failing to make the grade shows there is still work to do.

The China Xixia Dinosaur Park in Henan province and the Qinghai Lake scene area in the northwest were given “severe warnings” for “seriously lagging behind” in restroom conditions, the report said.

Ten other scenic areas classified by the government as 4A sites – the second-highest rating for tourist attractions – were named and shamed for failing to properly manage toilets. The sites included the Five Springs Park in Gansu province, the Sanshui hot spring resort in Foshan, Guangdong province and the Deyu ecological park in Jiangxi province.

Visitors complained about restrooms characterised by open pits or communal trenches without privacy or toilet paper, or even “ramshackle shelters surrounded by bunches of cornstalk”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“At tourist sites, visitors were angered by insufficient toilets, unhygienic conditions, and a lack of sanitation workers”, the Xinhua report said.

China had initially aimed to build 33,000 restrooms and renovate 24,000 more under the plan, which began in 2015. The central government has already committed over 1 billion yuan and local governments had pitched in 20 billion more.

While the campaign is not yet flush with success, a survey cited by the administration found visitors’ satisfaction with restroom quality had risen from 70 per cent in 2015 to over 80 per cent. Respondents pointed to increased toilet numbers, improved hygiene, and greater convenience.

The tourism administration noted last year it would also take aim at users of toilets who behaved badly. Popular attractions such as Beijing’s Temple of Heaven saw acts of toilet paper thefts earlier this year, requiring the installation of facial recognition technology to act as a deterrent.

The administration chairman, Li Jinzao, has emphasised the importance of tourism development, although he had warned in April that the country was still far behind international standards in toilet hygiene.