Beijing will provide extra services in 14,000 public toilets by providing Wi-Fi connections, automatic teller machines and charging facilities for electric vehicles. If the move proves to be successful, it may be promoted nationwide.
Beijing Environment Sanitation Engineering Group announced the plan over the weekend to diversify functions of public toilets, which have been notorious nationwide for being unsanitary.
By the end of November, the renovation of some public toilets with these services will be completed in the Fangshan district in suburban Beijing. The toilets will optimize inner space to create a public room that will be equipped for additional recharge payments, ATMs and self-service for train and flight tickets. Users can surf the Internet via free Wi-Fi and even borrow books from a library inside the public toilet.
Outside the facilities, charging outlets for electric vehicles and even advertising bulletin boards will be installed for the convenience of users or residents nearby.
The company said public toilets in Beijing's rural areas will have exercise equipment and libraries to entertain farmers, while those in downtown Beijing will provide equipment such as microwaves and water dispensers for cleaners when they take a break.
Yang Yang, an IT engineer in Chaoyang district, said that public toilets have not left a good impression and that the renovations are necessary.
"Every time I went to a public toilet, the smell was always unpleasant. That's why I was reluctant to go to such a place, but found a hotel or a supermarket instead," the 27-year-old said.
However, the redecoration plan also aroused controversy among Internet users who questioned the luxurious and possibly superfluous services. Tong Xin, a professor in sociology at Peking University, said the extra services should be installed in other places rather than public toilets.
The public toilets should only provide a clean environment for users, and other services won't function well in this plan because of people's stereotypes toward toilets, Tong said.
In addition, the free Wi-Fi may cause congestion in the toilets if people gather outside the toilets to get Internet access, Yang said.