The city of Shenzen, China, is home to more than 10 million people. Situated just north of Hong Kong, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the world. This is in large part due to a massive influx of foreign investment, something likely due to Shenzen’s position as one of China’s “Special Economic Zones.” The zones are experimental cities where capitalism is the rule, guided by an ethos of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” in the words of the Economist.
One of those characteristics, though, is something that both foreigners and Chinese nationals would both balk at: a strange prioritization of cleanliness over privacy. To put it bluntly, if you use a public toilet in Shenzen, you better not miss.
In the summer of 2013, as reported by the BBC, Shenzen officials proposed a 100 yuan (about $15) fine for those who “are deemed to have failed to urinate accurately in city facilities.” While the punishment seems odd, the need may be real. The proposed infraction was drafted in response to “uncouth” behavior, per one official, which the government wanted to put an end to. One report stated that “Chinese toilet discipline can be notoriously wayward, with pictures of people defecating in public sometimes appearing on [the Chinese version of Twitter,] Weibo.” So who knows what’s going on when it comes to public urinals.
Regardless, the plan was met with derision — as one would expect. The South China Morning Post described the ban bluntly and the pointed out a major flaw: “The penalty will apply to those who urinate outside the bowl of facilities in Shenzhen, although draft regulations did not specify a minimum quantity of spillage required to be classed as a violation.” But the key objection seen on Weibo was in regard to implementation — how, exactly, does one enforce a ban on such spillage? Many absurdists wondered sarcastically if this was part of a job creation effort. One Weibo user joked that “a number of new civil servant positions will be created. There will be a supervisor behind every urinating person to see whether the pee is straight.”
Shenzen officials were slow to provide any meaningful thoughts behind enforcement, and as of late 2013, the regulations were still just drafts, thankfully.
From the Archives: A Fly on the Urinal: Another way to prevent spillage.
Related: Cherry urinal cakes. Not for eating.