Everyone wants clean streets, but has the government of Shaanxi’s capital Xi’an taken things a bit too far? That was the question both media and netizens were asking this month after Legal Daily reported on punishments being doled out to the city’s street cleaners. The lowly paid workers are distraught over a fining system which docks money from their salaries if inspectors find more than five cigarette butts in the area they are responsible for cleaning.
A reporter with Legal Daily spoke to one emotional cleaner who said she had been fined Rmb50 that day, and no longer dared to drink even a “mouthful of water” as she tried to scour her area to find cigarette butts. The newspaper surveyed 102 cleaners in the city and found that 35 had been fined. More than two thirds were over 50 years-old and their monthly salaries were less than Rmb3,000. The biggest monthly fine anyone had received was Rmb200, with Rmb5 per cigarette butt common.
The debate online was whether it was right for these poorer members of society to be so heavily punished for the littering of the city’s millions of smokers. “Only by imposing fines on those who throw cigarette butts can the phenomenon be curbed,” noted one netizen, adding “It lacks humanity to only penalise the cleaners.”
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