Today is our motherland’s birthday. Let us cheer and let us cherish. Please only leave behind your reverence, and take away with you your trash.
– Anonymous Netizen, ChinaSmack
China’s 64th anniversary flag raising ceremony saw heavy rain drench 110,000 spectators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square Tuesday. But the rain was not the only thing to dampen the festivities. Preemptive estimates reported five tonnes of garbage was left behind, requiring four vehicles and 150 sanitation workers to clean up the refuse in the historic public square.
Marking the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the national flag raising ceremony is a shared moment of pride for Chinese people. However, the petty disregard for the center of the capital has angered many of China’s citizens and sparked debate and disgust with both Chinese media and netizens alike.
The stark contrast between the patriotism of the day’s events and the lack of social etiquette led to an editorial by Beijing Youth Daily to question its compatriots on how a person is “… expected to become a qualified, law-abiding and responsible modern citizen and a patriot who does not hesitate to make sacrifice and be accountable when you cannot take away or put in rubbish bins food wrappers, fruit peel and waste paper?”.
While the Oriental Morning Post referred to the attendees as “patriotic worms”, furthering that the public doesn’t know “… that a country is made by how its countrymen behave”.”
Though the immense amount of litter left behind has ignited fierce criticism, it is also seen as an improvement by some. The Shanghai Morning Post pointed out that the mass of discarded litter during National Day ceremonies, has been on the decline, with 20 tonnes of rubbish recorded in the square as recently as 2010.
However, the condemnation has far outweighed any positive comments, and has highlighted deeper issues of environmental respect and public morality, as one netizen lamented, “These people may be patriotic but they are far from civilized”.