Flushed with pride at toilet topic

THE inside workings of Hongkong's public toilets will be revealed to an international audience in Japan later this year.

Urban Council chairman Dr Ronald Leung Ding-bong has been invited to present the ins, outs and U-bends of the territory's conveniences to the International Toilet Symposium to be held in Kobe in June.

Delegates from as far away as France will be closeted away for a 45-minute discourse by Dr Leung on the changes Hongkong is making to the standards of its public toilets.

The intimacies of the smallest room may not seem a suitable subject for a five-day seminar, but after five years campaigning for lusher latrines, Dr Leung dismisses such delicate sentiments.

''Everyone uses toilets so it is important they are as clean and hygienic as they can be,'' he said yesterday.

''People are very concerned about toilets. The Urban Council did a survey and found that hygiene and toilets were the things people were most concerned about. They should be as good as possible.'' Japanese and Hongkong experts know each other's facilities well, having made several visits in recent years.

In 1991, volunteers from the Japan Toilet Association, organisers of the Kobe conference, sought relief in 10 of the territory's toilets, while an Urban Council mission to Japan last year took in the Good Toilet Expo in Edogawa as well as individual privies.

Dr Leung is still trying to pull the chain on public toilets that do not come up to scratch.

''We have more than 300 toilets and we are dealing with them on a priority basis,'' he revealed.

''But we can only do about 10 or 12 each year - it costs a bit less than $1 million for each toilet [block] there are many things we have to spend money on.'' There are some toilets where Dr Leung can sit pretty. ''I'm happy with the one under the flyover near Canal Road. It was terrible but it's so much better now,'' he said.

There are still some dilemmas to be faced, such as how to solve the perennial paper problem. Dr Leung is in favour of attendants selling toilet paper rather than having vending machines, but that may yet be some time away.

The Hongkong toilet-goer may have to wait a while for the loos of the future. Dr Leung is trying to flush out the architects who designed the winner of last year's competition run by the Urban Council and the Hongkong Institute of Architects.

The winning design is to be used in new conveniences in Victoria Park and The Peak and as a basis for future remodelling of other public toilets.