Beijing sets 'two flies only' public toilet guidelines

The BBC's Michael Bristow braves one of Beijing's notorious public toilets

Authorities in the Chinese capital have set new standards for public toilets, including a stipulation that they should contain no more than two flies.

The new rules, published by the commission of city administration, also set standards on odour and cleaning litter bins.

Toilets in places such as tourist spots must comply with the new standards.

But it is not clear whether failing washrooms will be punished and if so, how.

The new rules also cover cleaning, the use of equipment and training for attendants.

At the scene

Beijing public toilets are not known for their welcoming appeal. People often smell them before they see them. I only venture in at the most desperate of times.

And the word cleaning seems misplaced when applied to a public lavatory in Beijing. Dirty grey mops are occasionally dragged across a toilet floor, but not to any great effect. There is seldom toilet paper - or soap to wash your hands.

The best (or worst) that can be said about Beijing public loos is that there are a lot of them about.

There is a serious side to these regulations though. Many people who live in the city's old neighbourhoods still do not have their own toilet - and have no choice but to use public conveniences. For them, these rules might make an unavoidable daily necessity a touch more palatable.

There is an ordinance covering what is referred to as "discarded items" - there should be no more than two in any public convenience.

The new standards also require signs in both Chinese and English to be installed in the toilets.

They regulate advertisements displayed in toilets, saying they must not obstruct functionality and had to be legal, reports the Beijing Times.

Beijing's Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment said in a statement that the regulations aimed to standardise toilet management at places such as parks, railway stations, hospitals and shopping malls.

An unnamed official from the commission told local media that the guidelines on flies were meant for easy monitoring.

However media reports cast doubt over whether the guidelines could be enforced.

A commentary published in the Beijing News said one central Beijing district implemented a similar rule in 2008 when the city hosted the Olympic Games, but sanitation and hygiene still varied from toilet to toilet.

Effort should be invested on educating the public to use public toilets in a better manner, said the commentary.

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