Chinese to cough up for spitting


CHINA: Foreign visitors to Beijing are often dismayed to have to dodge the phlegm spattering the paths to the Temple of Heaven - and just about everywhere else in the Chinese capital. But with the 2008 Olympics fast approaching, a new government anti-spitting campaign aims to clean up the city's streets and manners.

Officials yesterday identified spitting as Beijing's worst habit and vowed to crack down, supported by a new high-tech police unit. They will be fighting tradition and geography.

For most of Beijing's 14 million residents, spitting is considered not only acceptable but necessary to clear the throat of the dust and grit in one of the world's most polluted cities. But surveys show a growing number find the habit unpleasant and unhygienic.

Anti-spitting volunteers are already handing out small "spit bags" in which people can deposit their saliva. More than two million guidebooks to good manners are being distributed, and police have launched a "mobile command car", equipped with a satellite link and two rotating video cameras. Costing more than €110,000, it is meant to spot spitters and present them with video evidence to back up their 50 yuan fine.