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Hotel hygiene scandal exposes outdated laws

By Zhang Zhouxiang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-12 09:31

A cleaner wipes the toilet and the wash stand with a towel. Then she picks up a cup and wipes it with the same towel.

This is part of an 11-minute video clip uploaded on Nov 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 when it comes to hotels, including some five-star ones.

The post with "#secret of the cup" has been read 300 million times on micro blog and has exposed a major scandal in the domestic hotel industry.

On Tuesday, the local health authorities of Shanghai announced they had fined seven of the five-star hotels involved in the scandal 2,000 yuan ($292.9) each.

The lenient penalty has aroused a new round of fierce discussion on micro blog. Even the procuratorate of Tangshan city in Hebei province said sarcastically: "Trust your eyes-the fine is really 2,000 yuan, not 20,000 or more."

Of the about 7,000 comments on the issue, the majority questioned the low amount of fine. Only a very few supported the move.

The netizens had enough reason to question the low fine, as the official websites of the seven hotels involved show 2,000 yuan is less than the tariff for a single room for one night in these hotels. For example, in Bvlgari Hotel in Shanghai, one of the seven hotels, the lowest tariff for a room on Thursday was 4,940 yuan per night, more than twice that of the fine it was made to pay.

Yet it would be unfair to blame the local health department. As law enforcers, they have levied the heaviest penalty authorized by the law. According to the implementation details of 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 change 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.

While the standard for imposing fines on hotels is outdated, many other standards also need to be revised.

One such is the "single-child allowance". For long, couples who have only one child have been receiving an allowance as a reward for their contribution to the 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.

That many regulations and laws are drafted by certain administrative departments and then publicized to solicit public opinions before being submitted to the legislature for approval shows the responsibility of updating them does not rest with legislators alone.

The administrative departments that draft the regulations should bear the responsibility of reviewing their related regulations annually and advise the legislature accordingly if certain clauses need to be revised. And a systemic response mechanism should be established to ensure the regulations are regularly reviewed.

But the legislature has the responsibility to more strictly supervise the administrative departments so they update the regulations, without trying to avoid doing so to serve their own narrow interests.

To take another example, in November 2014, the national tobacco ban draft was publicized to solicit public opinions. Even more than four years later, the draft is yet to see the light of the day. There have been reports saying 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.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

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