Still, some Communist Party officials have publicly fretted that Beijing may not measure up. One delegate at the country's annual political meetings in March recommended heavy fines and a public education campaign to curb spitting, cutting ahead in line, smoking and foul language.
"They are stubborn diseases that stain the image of the capital city," Zi Huayun, the delegate, told the country's English-language newspaper, China Daily.
In fact, Beijing had already announced that people caught spitting in public before the Olympics could face fines up to 50 yuan, or about $6.50, hardly small change in China. Wang, the anti-spitting activist, said the Olympic spirit inspired him to begin his campaign. "I felt I must do something to contribute," he said.
He chose a very dirty task. Public spitting is a frequent practice in Beijing and even more common elsewhere in China. (The sinus-clearing, phlegmy pre-spit hawking sound is so common that one foreigner wryly dubbed it "the national anthem of China.") Health officials, worried about communicable disease, have long tried to curb public spitting, with limited success, given that many people do not consider it unacceptable behavior.
"I spent six months trying to figure out how to stop people from spitting," Wang said. "I first wanted to wipe their spit up myself, but just how much could I wipe? So I decided the best way was to ask the spitting person to stop." [...]
His campaign has since gained momentum. He has attracted hundreds of volunteers for his group, known as the Green Woodpecker Project. They carry tissues, which they offer to people as an alternative to spitting on the ground, and try to convince the offender, usually male, to change his ways. Wang himself carries a small camcorder and posts spitting action shots on his Web site.
"Woodpeckers pick up worms and clean up the forest," Wang said. "I want to clean up the city the same way."
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
In Beijing, Spitting Gets the Spotlight
As China gears up to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, it's trying to do a number of things to clean up its capital city, Beijing. One of them is an anti-spitting initiative: