Planet China

Blush, then flush

Chinese public toilets have been undergoing a major revamp since 2015 as part of a three-year action plan. Last week, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) said local governments have installed close to 36,000 new toilets across the country and another 15,000 have been renovated, thus completing 90% of the target set by the Xi Jinping-endorsed campaign.

The public toilets at the Temple of Heaven, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Beijing, were hailed by the CNTA as “star bathrooms”. However, in an embarrassing revelation, a local newspaper has reported that people have been stealing toilet roll from the Temple facility, with some offenders making multiple visits a day. Worse for Temple of Heaven staff, the provision of toilet paper is a prerequisite for receiving a top rating from the CNTA.

The problem has seen officials turn to technology for a solution. After trying out fingerprinting and laser sensors to foil the toilet paper thieves, the Temple of Heaven team has settled for facial recognition techniques. Toilet rolls are now mounted on walls complete with high-definition cameras and machines dispense a 60-centimetre roll of paper for each facial scan. If the same individual wants more tissue, he or she must try again in nine minutes. “For emergencies – having loose bowels, for instance – one can ask for toilet paper from the staff managing the facility,” one park official explained to a local newspaper.

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