A recent video shared on Twitter by well-known Chinese human rights activist Zeng Jinyan has showcased a group of middle-aged men and women scrambling to grab newly replaced rolls of toilet paper outside a public restroom in Chongqing, China.
The video, which quickly went viral, left many foreign netizens astonished.
In less than one minute, a big roll of toilet paper is gone, in a public restroom in #Chongqing City, #CCPChina, on Apr 21, 2023.
In 2001, a western #FalunGong was going to secretly travel to #Beijing to protest against the #CCP's crackdown on Falun Gong. Before she left, she… pic.twitter.com/ia4M0EX4q9
— Inconvenient Truths by Jennifer Zeng 曾錚真言 (@jenniferzeng97) April 22, 2023
Zeng, who is currently in exile in the United States, posted the video on 22 April. It shows a crowd of people furiously grabbing toilet paper from outside a public restroom until none remained, without anyone taking the paper inside to use.
According to Zeng, the video was filmed on April 21st in Chongqing, where the public restroom’s toilet paper had just been replaced. “In less than a minute, the large roll of toilet paper was all gone,” Zeng said.
Reflecting on the incident, Zeng recalled advising a Western member of Falun Gong traveling to Beijing in 2001 to bring their own toilet paper. The individual, who planned to secretly protest against the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong, was puzzled by the advice.
Zeng explained, “Public restrooms don’t provide toilet paper… If they did, people would take it home.” Zeng felt ashamed, admitting that regardless of the situation, people would still take the toilet paper home. Now, 22 years later, public restrooms do provide toilet paper, but people’s behavior has not improved.
Upon seeing the video, many foreign netizens expressed their amazement. Some questioned why toilet paper in Chinese public restrooms is placed outside, prompting several Chinese netizens to explain that this prevents theft.
“Placing it outside is to prevent stealing; otherwise, providing a roll in each stall would be too costly and it would be impossible to know who took it,” one user commented.
Others added that it is a cost-saving measure and that the goal is to promote an image of civility, similar to that of Western countries.
In reality, the practice of taking free toilet paper from public restrooms for personal use is not new in China. The phenomenon has been criticized by Chinese official media, and many netizens within the country have lamented the decline in civic-mindedness among their fellow citizens.