Beijing's spit & polish

BEIJING, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - Ahead of the 2008 Olympics, Beijing residents have been told to stop spitting, queue-jumping and dumping litter. On Monday the city’s manners police took aim at disorderly shoppers.
As part of their drive to eliminate bad behaviour ahead of the Games, top city officials and volunteers decked out in red sashes fanned out across Beijing’s major department stores to promote the fifth monthly queuing day.'' Shoppers can be rough at times so it’s a good thing,’’ said Wang Jianmin, a section chief at the downtown Cui Wei department store, one of the capital’s largest where reporters were invited to witness the crackdown on shoppers.
Most of them think lining up is a big waste of time, especially during holiday sales.'' The Beijing government has set up a special department whose job is to improve public conduct of the city's sometimes surly 15 million residents ahead of the Olympics. The Capital Ethics Development Office has issued directives that include urging the public to stop spitting, littering and to smile more. In February it was announced that the 11th day of every month would be devoted to eliminating queue-jumping. It is having an effect,’’ office deputy head Zheng Mojie said of the campaign, as shoppers at Cui Wei were met by a line-up of smiling receptionists in red pencil-skirts and white blouses.
We can report progress over the last few months, but if we want to show visitors our best face at the Olympics, we need to improve more.'' Under the slogan New Beijing, Great Olympics,’’ the 2008 Games are being touted as the coming-out party for a country keen to flex its economic and diplomatic muscle on the world stage.
Around two million Chinese and 550,000 foreigners are expected to visit Beijing during August next year, when the Olympics take place.
Preparations for the Games are on track and the Beijing organisers have earned widespread praise, and especially for the quality of the venues that are under construction.
Senior government officials here have stressed the importance of the staging of the Games to the nation’s future, regarding the event as an opportunity to present a positive face of China to the outside world.
However, concern has been building that crude behaviour including pushing and shoving at bus stops and spitting in the street could take the gloss off that image.
Last year, the city government launched a smile'' campaign, and it has set up etiquette courses to teach shopkeepers and other service industry workers such as taxi drivers how to be more polite and welcoming to foreigners. During a recent week-long May Day national holiday city police handed out fines to more than 50 people for spitting in the streets. Now, shoppers at Beijing's department stores will be urged to stand on the right hand side of escalators and avoid mobbing cashier counters. Sometimes customers can be less than cooperative, said Dong Jinghong, a clerk at Cui Wei for 18 years, who says she has witnessed a few scuffles between shoppers over the years. Most of our customers are fine but if they start trouble, just smile or offer them a glass of water to calm them down,’’ she said. ``If all else fails, call security.’’