Martin Li, Luo Songsong
THE citywide civility law that has inspired months of public debate and several rounds of review by the city’s legislature will take effect March 1.
Shenzhen’s Civilized Behavior Promotion Law lists 10 public behaviors that are deemed uncivilized and can lead to fines for violators. The cited behaviors include spitting in public, smoking in a non-smoking place, failing to clean up pets’ excrement in public, damaging public sanitation facilities and more.
Allegedly the first law of its kind in China, the final version to be implemented March 1 removes specific, set fines that triggered controversy as the law was drafted. Instead, the law now says uncivilized behaviors will be subject to varying fines based on related laws and regulations.
Violators of the law can apply for community service work to offset up to half of their fines. The city government will detail the service-for-fine procedure in a separate document.
An earlier version of the law set fines of between 200 yuan (US$31.85) and 10,000 yuan for various uncivilized behaviors.
While local residents largely support the law’s intent, many people have questioned whether it can be effectively enforced.
Futian District office worker Yang Chao said the law isn’t detailed enough. “How can you fine passengers for littering on a bus? If someone vomits on a bus because of carsickness, should he or she be fined, too?”
Yang said fines for people who litter or spit in public might not be necessary and suggested that, instead, such people could be verbally reprimanded.
The civility law will be enforced by the city’s administrative law enforcement departments, including the urban management bureau, with assistance from police.
“It’s a good law, but it’s missing something. I regularly see parents or grandparents let their children pee on the floor, and such uncivilized behavior should be added to the list. Although it will be difficult to enforce, it’s worth trying,” said Kevin Smith, an American teacher at Shenzhen University. “The biggest obstacle is that people have no trust in urban management officers, who have a very bad reputation among citizens.”
The law’s final version fails to specify how revenue from the fines will be used, saying only that all revenues will go to the city’s national treasury.
Law enforcement officers will be required to give receipts to people who pay fines for uncivil behavior.