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Shanghai calls off policy to restrict small restaurants
( 2003-09-29 09:58) (Xinhua)

Shanghai government spokesman Jiang Lan said Sunday that the regulation issued two months ago requiring the closure of restaurants smaller than 50 square meters was not compulsory, indicating an implicit withdrawal of the new policy.

The Shanghai Health Bureau published a notice on July 30 requesting all such small restaurants conclude operation as of June 2004 in an effort to strengthen management of food safety.

According to local sources, there are more than 30,000 restaurants in Shanghai, and some small ones are not able to meet hygiene standards, which might be the reason for the increasing food poisoning cases.

However, the policy aiming to protect customers patronage the small restaurants did not receive the anticipated welcome. Many Shanghai residents complained that their right to eat and enjoy themselves at some cozy places was seriously infringed upon.

Media, including some national newspapers such as the People's Daily and China Youth Daily, offered columns for discussions about the issue and doubted the policy's feasibility.

As a result, the government spokesman explained at a press conference Sunday that the policy was a guideline rather than a must-do directive. Management of the small restaurants "will be as usual," said Jiang.

Tao Weijie, 40, runs a restaurant with no more than a dozen seats in southwest downtown. Small as it is, the "Tiny Peach Blossom Garden" restaurant is extremely hot.

"I have done business here for two years and had thought I would have to close it soon, but I didn't expect the government's attitude would change and change so quickly," Tao said.

It was not reasonable for the government to scramble out some regulations without first soliciting people's opinions, said Pu Xingzu, a professor of international relations and public affairs at Fudan University.

"No doubt, it is to some extent an improvement that the government has made the policy adjustment in such a short time," he added.

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