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·2· Picnic Police in Shanghai

28-May-2010 [58]

• No one expects the Picnic Police

Part of Police


You might look into the eyes of this man and think he looks friendly enough: but his warm smile and friendly disposition belie his fearsome occupation. His weapon? A whistle. His prey? Picnickers.

The picnic police in action,
 whistling and shouting at some...
The picnic police in action,
whistling and shouting at someone
walking on the grass

At this time of year, when Shanghai is still enjoying warm, sunny days, you would be forgiven for thinking that sitting on the grass in the park on your lunch break was a reasonable thing to want to do. But parks in downtown Shanghai are subject to bylaws that seem pretty cuckoo to visitors. You are not allowed to sit or walk on the grass in parks. It can be baffling watching the rule being enforced by the “picnic police” who blow their whistles and shout as soon as someone dares to sit on the lawn.

The Shanghai Municipal Park Administration Rules for downtown parks, which include this particular bylaw, also include some Chinglish howlers:

“Don’t piss or paste randomly, neither smear and score, nor remove or destroy the Park’s facilities or equipment. Don’t bare arms and lie down randomly, neither wash nor dry clothes, nor glean and collect scraps or beg in the Park. Don’t befool, scare or catch birds, crickets, fishes or shrimps (except operational items), cicadas etc. without permission, visitor should not bring any kind of animals into the Park. Don’t destroy woods and affect flowers growth carelessly.”

The legal way to (kind of) sit on the grass...
The legal way to (kind of) sit on the grass

For all the entertainment it might provide foreigners, there is a serious reason why green spaces have to be protected. When asked why they stopped people walking on the grass, a park patroller said: “If people walk on the grass it dies and it’s expensive to replace.” It comes down to the sheer number of people living in Shanghai- almost 19 million.

In the Chinese-language newspaper, *Shanghai Youth Daily*, Zhu Yi Ren, a lawn expert from Shanghai Landscape Research Institute, explained: “Two types of grass are used in Shanghai – one suited to warm climates and one to cold. Both types should survive if they are stepped on but neither can last long if walked over by large numbers of people. In that case the grass dies very quickly. Outside of downtown Shanghai, there are fewer people and so in places like Shanghai Zoo or Lujiazui Park you can, in fact, sit on the grass.”

So, in fact, the picnic police are the ultimate eco-warriors.

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