When visitor numbers slumped and the Hong Kong Tourist Association canvassed opinion on alternative ways to market the SAR, it was widely agreed that one of the great unsung attractions was the countryside. Telling the world about the SAR's mountain scenery, its huge acreage of country parks and its isolated beaches would bring in another type of tourist, it was felt. At the very least, it would let visitors know that there is more here than the postcards ever show, and perhaps persuade them to spend more than the average three nights' stay. But to truly impress outsiders - and develop a reputation for ecological tourism - Hong Kong has to do something far more difficult than changing the perception of visitors. It has to change the attitudes of its own people. Because one of the things this community is notorious for is making a rubbish tip of its own home. The newly launched 'Clean Country Parks' campaign will go a little way along the road to changing behaviour. But not nearly far enough. So long as the official approach is centred on reminding the public to keep parks clean, rather than hitting them with a stiff fine when they are caught, litter louts will go on filling barbecue sites with detritus and throwing their empties down whatever hillside they happen to be passing at the time. National Day newspaper pictures showed volunteers abseiling off rocks to pick up garbage that had been thrown into places walkers could not reach. Let us hope the images will not reinforce the entrenched belief among picnickers that while people are prepared to clean up after them, they will not stoop to do anything so intelligent as placing their rubbish in the bins provided. Or even to take barbecue forks home to reuse them as they would have done before affluence made this a throwaway society. The only guaranteed way to get everyone to keep the countryside clean is to reinforce reminders with a sharp and painful jab in the wallet. If gentle urging did the trick, fine. It does not. Anyone who doubts that has only to take a trip to any barbecue site on a Monday morning. They will find them knee-deep in plastic bags, foam containers, papers, bottles and tin forks. At each corner of the picnic areas there will also be rubbish bins, some of which are empty. New three-in-one recycling bins may encourage people to act responsibly, and extra teams of inspectors out to catch litter louts will have more of a deterrent effect. But it is time for a firmer approach. Instead of expecting taxpayers to foot a hefty clean-up bill that amounted to $4.3 million last financial year, the authorities should make the exercise self-financing. People flock to country parks in their tens of thousands every weekend. The mess they leave behind is a disgrace to a civilised community. Yet last year only 560 people were fined for dropping litter, with a mere $100,000 levied. An average fine amounts to around $500. Stick another zero on that amount and the message might begin to sink in. Make offenders spend months of community service cleaning up after fellow litterbugs and it almost certainly starts to penetrate. As for the taxpaying public, the extra revenue would be a nice little bonus.