Local authorities in China have been told to rein in spending on a nationwide ‘toilet revolution’ campaign amid concerns that officials are flushing huge sums of money away as they compete to create ‘five-star’ restrooms.
Xi Jinping vowed to clean up China’s grotty public toilets in 2015, and the Chinese president since described his toilet revolution as a “concrete part of advancing our country’s revitalisation”.
About 70,000 toilets have already been built under the scheme, while another 64,000 are expected to be constructed or transformed by 2020.
Among the fancy toilets highlighted in Chinese media is a restroom in the north-eastern city of Shenyang where visitors can charge their phones, access wifi and use toilet paper via a dispenser which uses facial recognition.
"It is convenient, and it saves paper,” local official Zhang Peng told Xinhua news agency.
Elsewhere, a toilet costing more than 800,000 yuan (£90,000) was built in the south-western city of Chongqing in 2016, while in the same year, a whopping 2.7 million yuan (£300,000) was spent on a restroom in Menyuan in the north-western Qinghai province, where visitors can enjoy flat-screen televisions.
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In an apparent bid to gain favour with Beijing, some officials have carried out other over-the-top improvements, including refrigerators packed with drinks, microwave ovens, LCD televisions, automatic shoe polishers, free toiletries and high-tech air-conditioning which dispels bad odours.
China’s tourism chief has now ordered an end to the revolution. “We don’t need local governments trying to outdo each other with five-star toilets’” said Li Jinzao, director of the China National Tourism Administration.
“We just need to build practical public facilities based on local conditions that are accessible and convenient," he added, according to the China Daily.
China has long been known as the home of grotty, dirty public toilets, with many rural people using open pits which are not connected to sewage.
President Xi has vowed to create a more ‘civilised’ life for ordinary Chinese, but he is also confronting free-spending local authorities as part of his war on graft.
Many local officials seek to improve their promotion chances with landmark schemes which often become expensive white elephants.
A tourist strip in south-west China’s Yunnan province was demolished just three years after it was built at a cost of 270 million yuan (£30 million) in 2014.
And officials in the eastern Jiangxi province wasted 70 million yuan (£8 million) on a statue of Liu Zongyan, a philosopher from China’s Tang dynasty (618-907), which was pulled down before construction work finished.
Additional reporting by Christine Wei