China’s New Social Enforcement Campaign: Beijing Turns to Social Media Tattletales in Battle Against Smoking

china-no-smoking

Alyssa Abkowitz and Hu Chao report: Smokers in Beijing get ready: law enforcement officers won’t be the only ones trying to catch you smoking indoors.

“To pump up attention for the WeChat account, the government is inviting people to vote for a hand gesture that residents can use to try and discourage people from smoking.” 

Beijing’s government is rallying residents to help enforce the country’s new smoking rules, which will be implemented on June 1. The rules ban smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor public places, with maximum fines of 200 yuan (about $33) for individuals and 10,000 yuan for organizations and companies.

“The government-suggested images include:  I do mind(我介意),which depicts a woman covering her nose with her hand, Don’t(不可以), in which the woman is holding her palm like a stop sign, and Please stop(请停止), in which the woman makes a time-out signal with her hands.”

The government this week launched an account on the social messaging app WeChat to allow residents to report violators, either by uploading images or videos of smokers caught in the act. In addition, the account offers a bevy of anti-smoking information including the full text of the regulations, anti-smoking videos featuring famous CCTV anchors, and warnings about the health impact of smoking (such as the fact that it can negatively affect the quality of one’s sperm).

“But the campaign will face an uphill push in a country where smoked-filled banquet rooms are a routine part of doing business, and the state-run tobacco industry generates a whopping 956 billion yuan ($156 billion) in taxes and profits.”

Asking the public to help police the nation is a familiar thread in Chinese history. During the Cultural Revolution, neighbors were encouraged to report anti-revolutionary actions of one another. More recently, the government has urged citizens to report polluters by calling an official hotline. Read the rest of this entry »