Ho­tel hy­giene scan­dal ex­poses out­dated laws

The Nation - - OPINION& ANALYSIS - ZHANG ZHOUX­I­ANG

Acleaner wipes the toi­let and the wash­stand with a towel. Then she picks up a cof­fee cup and wipes it with the same towel.

The scene fea­tures in an 11minute video clip up­loaded on Novem­ber 14 by a mi­cro-blog­ger, sur­named Wu, who has 320,000 fol­low­ers. He says in the video that it is an “open se­cret” that hy­giene is a ca­su­alty in Chi­nese ho­tels, in­clud­ing some five-star ones.

Ti­tled “#se­cret of the cup”, the post has been read a stag­ger­ing 300 mil­lion times on mi­croblog and ex­posed a ma­jor scan­dal in the do­mes­tic ho­tel in­dus­try.

On Tues­day, Shang­hai health au­thor­i­ties an­nounced they had fined seven of the city’s five-star ho­tels in­volved in the scan­dal 2,000 yuan (Bt9,350) each.

The le­niency of that penalty trig­gered a new round of fierce de­bate among China’s ne­ti­zens. Even the prose­cu­tor-gen­eral of Tang­shan city in He­bei prov­ince said sar­cas­ti­cally: “Trust your eyes the fine is re­ally 2,000 yuan, not 20,000 or more.”

Most of the 7,000 re­sponses to the is­sue on the mi­croblog ques­tioned the low amount of the fines. Only a very few sup­ported the move.

The ne­ti­zens had rea­son to ques­tion the pal­try penal­ties: the web­sites of the seven ho­tels in­volved show 2,000 yuan is less than the tar­iff for a sin­gle room for one night. At one of the ho­tels, Shang­hai’s Bvl­gari, the cheapest room is 4,940 yuan per night – more than twice the cost of the fine it was made to pay.

Yet it would be un­fair to blame the scan­dal on the Shang­hai health depart­ment. As the au­thor­ity with ju­ris­dic­tion in this case, they levied the heav­i­est penalty au­tho­rised by the law. Ac­cord­ing to the Reg­u­la­tion on Clean Pub­lic Spa­ces, a ho­tel can be fined a max­i­mum of 2,000 yuan for fail­ing to prop­erly clean its rooms, in­clud­ing re­strooms. Only if it re­fuses to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion can it be fined up to 20,000 yuan.

The stan­dard was set in 2011, and has re­mained un­changed since then. That’s partly why the fine of 2,000 yuan seems ab­surd.

The out­dated ho­tel penalty is a re­minder that other stan­dards in China also need to be re­vised.

One is the “sin­gle-child al­lowance”. For many years, cou­ples with only one child have re­ceived an al­lowance as re­ward for their con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy. The al­lowance was 60 yuan a year, or 5 yuan a month, in 1982 when it was started. It was con­sid­ered at­trac­tive in the 1980s, when the av­er­age monthly salary for work­ing peo­ple was less than 100 yuan. Yet the stan­dard has re­mained ba­si­cally un­changed till now, though the one-child pol­icy was with­drawn in 2014. It is hard to be­lieve such a small amount of money could have had any “en­cour­ag­ing” ef­fect on sin­gle-child cou­ples.

Many of China’s reg­u­la­tions and laws are drafted by ad­min­is­tra­tive de­part­ments and then pub­li­cised to so­licit pub­lic opin­ions be­fore be­ing sub­mit­ted to the leg­is­la­ture for ap­proval. This shows the re­spon­si­bil­ity of up­dat­ing them does not rest with leg­is­la­tors alone.

Ad­min­is­tra­tive de­part­ments that draft the reg­u­la­tions should bear the re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­view­ing them an­nu­ally and mak­ing re­vi­sions if re­quired.

Mean­while the leg­is­la­ture has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to su­per­vise the ad­min­is­tra­tive de­part­ments more rig­or­ously so they up­date the reg­u­la­tions, with­out be­ing in­flu­enced by their own nar­row in­ter­ests.

To take an­other ex­am­ple, in Novem­ber 2014, the na­tional to­bacco ban draft was pub­li­cised to so­licit pub­lic opin­ions. More than four years later, the draft is yet to see the light of the day. Re­ports in­di­cate to­bacco cor­po­ra­tions are op­posed to a to­tal ban. Al­though there is no in­for­ma­tion about whether the to­bacco com­pa­nies are in­flu­enc­ing the is­sue, at least the leg­is­la­ture should strengthen its su­per­vi­sion to en­sure the draft turns into law.

In other words, the leg­is­la­ture as well as the ad­min­is­tra­tive de­part­ments that draft reg­u­la­tions need to make more ef­forts to up­date laws and reg­u­la­tions to bet­ter suit the times.

A cleaner uses a toi­let brush to wash a cup, in one among a spate of vi­ral videos ex­pos­ing hy­giene prob­lems in lux­ury Chi­nese ho­tels.

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