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Beijing begins Olympic decency drive
Updated: 2006-03-07 10:38

BEIJING - The government is teaching citizens "the right way to spit." A college is showing students the right way to sit. Two years ahead of hosting the Olympic Games, people across Beijing are on an all-out drive to mind their manners.

China's hard, gray, briskly communist capital has a reputation for brusqueness. Visitors are often startled to see its people spit onto the crowded pavement.

Changing all that ahead of the 2008 Summer Games is "crucial in providing a cultural and historical legacy to the world" for China, said Beijing city official Zhang Huiguang.

"We will work with newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, the Internet and mobile telephone carriers to teach people the right way to spit," said Zhang, director of Beijing's Capital Ethical and Cultural Development Office.

Zhang said her office is running a "behavioral training" campaign that also includes lining up properly for buses and turning off mobile phones during meetings.

But spitting is the No. 1 issue, she said at a news conference Wednesday.

"You have to spit into a tissue or a bag, and then put it into a dustbin to complete the process," she said.

Zhang said her office has organized a small army of volunteers who are hitting Beijing's streets to hand out "spit bags," wearing bright orange uniforms with the Chinese character for "mucus" emblazoned in yellow on the back.

Public spitters already face fines up to $6, but "this year ... we will require law enforcement officials to step up the frequency" of penalties, Zhang said.

Others are taking a softer approach.

Lu-chin Mischke was born near Beijing, married an American and spent 10 years in the U.S. She said her heart sank when she and her family returned to live in her homeland and she saw the rampant spitting, littering and cutting in line.

It prompted her to start the Pride Institute, a private group that runs seminars aimed at demonstrating the delights of being more polite.
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