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News From The Wire.















Date Posted: 10:34 17/02/2004

'Building a toilet is harder than building Shenzhou 5' always gets to the real issues.

LIKE MOST long-serving foreigners in China, Running Dog has grown accustomed to the putrid, stinking hell of Chinese public lavatories. Today, however, has decided to rub our nose in them. The quality of Chinese toilets is among the lowest in the world, says the leading Internet portal in a coruscating expose.

Sohu lays on the statistics with a thick trowel. 660,000 people suffer from dysentry every year, and another 190,000 catch viral hepatitis A. There are also 500 million annual cases of the ascariasis intestinal worm, 836 million cases of simple diarrhoea, and 870,000 are infected with the schistosome worm.

Foreigners, says the report, are aghast at the free-flowing sewage and shocked by the plagues of maggots. With no partitions to separate them from the old timer squatting over a shallow latrine with his trousers around his ankles, blithely reading his newspaper, the said foreigners are further mortified, Sohu says. A spurious quote from an unnamed 'international personage' encapsulates our opinion: 'Chinese people are particular only about imports [food] and don't care about the exports [shit]'.

The clarion call was made at the First Toilet Summit, where the Chinese delegation is reported to have said, 'Countries that don't pay attention to toilet hygiene don't have culture, don't have a future.'

A study by the government in 1993 revealed that the coverage of hygienic toilets in China reached only 7.5% of the whole country. Only 13.5% of human waste was treated. 120 million peasants didn't even have a toilet. As a result, the authorities decided to launch the toilet revolution.

The Sohu article has generated something of a debate on the Sohu bulletin board, with many respondents harking back to the old 'quality of the population' question. 'Come to Hohhot!' says one. 'People just shit and piss on the street! People piss on the railings of the city government building!' Another implausible participant tells us that he is himself a peasant. 'Who cares about us? Who comes to the countryside to build toilets for us?'

Does all this mean that the average Chinese has no culture, as some respondents fear? While not entirely addressing the question, Running Dog is pleased to say that art exists everywhere, even in a Chinese latrine.

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