China’s cities have long been fighting to keep electric bikes — which have earned the epithet “silent killers” because of their quiet motors — in line with government regulations. But a city in eastern Shandong province recently took this fight to the next level.
Ahead of the fall school semester, the municipal government of Heze decided to put pressure on adults driving noncompliant e-bikes — those capable of reaching prohibited top speeds — by shaming their children at school, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Sunday.
In late August, Heze announced a campaign to discourage improper e-bike use by punishing students, local media reported. In addition to hosting educational talks and screening videos about the risks of noncompliant e-bikes, primary and middle schools were instructed to appoint teachers to stand by campus gates as students arrived to keep an eye out for unapproved vehicles. Parents found to be in violation would be reprimanded, and the child’s class criticized. Any school that did not strictly enforce these new measures, the report said, would be “called in for talks” with the government.
However, some schools may have gone beyond the call of duty in enforcing the government’s order. A student at No. 21 Middle School told The Paper that teachers were deducting “morality points” from children brought to school on any e-bike — compliant or not — in an effort to encourage busing. The local education bureau, however, denied this claim to The Paper’s reporter, saying students’ grades would not be impacted by the new policy, which is only intended to make parents aware of current e-bike regulations.
Hours after The Paper published its report on Sunday, the Heze education bureau released a notice saying that the regulation of e-bikes should have no bearing on student assessments, and that any school implementing such rules would be dealt with severely.
In part because of the safety risks they pose, e-bikes have been restricted or banned outright in many Chinese cities. On the first day of the National Day holiday in October, for example, Beijing announced that only government-authorized e-bikes with a sluggish top speed of 15 kilometers per hour would be allowed on the city’s streets by the end of the year. When such guidelines are implemented or changed, they can have an enormous effect on the many people who rely on e-bikes for their livelihoods, from food-delivery drivers to the couriers powering China’s booming e-commerce industry.
Netizens have pointed out that this isn’t the only strange news story to come from Heze recently. In September, the principal of a primary school in Heze was reprimanded after giving students red scarves — an iconic symbol from the Cultural Revolution — emblazoned with the logo of a soon-to-open shopping mall.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Parents drive their children to school on e-bikes in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Feb. 23, 2012. VCG)