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Feature: China expects "intangible legacy" from Beijing Olympics(1)
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09:12, October 04, 2007

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He looks well-groomed, and like a professional, wearing a suit and walking down the street in the middle of the day.

His head turns slightly and there's a slight hoicking sound from the back of his mouth. Then, he spits on the street.

It's a flagrant violation of the law that occurs thousands --possibly hundreds of thousands -- of times each day in the Chinese capital, but as Beijing tries to spruce up its image for the 2008 Olympics, the city government and the civic-minded have the practice in their sights.

During the week-long Labor Day holiday this year, which began on May 1, more than 100,000 paper bags were handed out to the public for people to spit into. The local authorities also meted out fines ranging from 20 yuan (2.7 U.S. dollars) to 50 yuan (6.7 U.S. dollars) to 89 people for spitting in public.

A most recent official campaign against spitting in public was in 2003 to raise the public awareness of the spread of SARS.

But spitting is proving difficult to eradicate. Beijing's dusty climate and high levels of pollution mean many people consider it necessary to spit in the streets just to clear their throats.

Wang Tao, 35, who works at the Xicheng District Health Bureau, decided to do something about it.

He started his first battle to fight spitting in the streets in May 2006. At weekends Wang and his growing band of Green Woodpeckers, formed mainly of student volunteers, patrol on Beijing's streets, trying to show spitters the error of their ways.

"We give tissues to the people who spit and ask them to wipe up the spittle," he says. "If they refuse, we do it in front of them. This kind of action is effective on most people."

He is not alone. With less than a year to the opening of the 2008 Olympics, Beijing continues its endeavors to improve the character of the city as residents are on the alert to mind their manners.

"Hosting the Games means a lot more than building grand stadiums," says Zhang Huiguang, director of Beijing's Capital Ethics Development Office, the official etiquette watchdog.

An official estimate of 500,000 visitors and athletes will come to China for the Games. "Both China's positive and negative sides will be amplified -- and bad impressions last," she says.

Changing bad habits ahead of the Games is "crucial in providing a cultural and historical legacy to China and the world as a whole", says Zhang. (more)

Source: Xinhua

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