See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

China: Olympic outhouses catch on fire, explode

Global Voices OlympicsThe 24 Hours Online blogger Laohu ‘Tiger Temple’ Miao, who spent months earlier this year blogging the stories of destitute Beijing residents whose makeshift homes were harmonized to make way for the Olympics brings us a post today about a fire yesterday not far from the Olympic Bird Nest which began in portable toilets used by construction workers there and resulted in several small explosions.


This neighborhood is just a block away from the Bird Nest, and since four years ago when construction of the Bird Nest began, this place has become a hot spot for construction workers to hang out in their free time. Drinking, eating together, making calls at the phone booth, buying their daily necessities. It's been pretty lively for a few years already. These days, as work on the Bird Nest gradually wraps up, fewer construction workers are showing up, and for that reason a number of shops have already closed down, and the few that are left are just barely getting by, anticipating new luck coming soon.

To explain residents’ views on this fire, you have to look at the whole story. A few months back, the Olympic Organizing Committee put up the money to put up an plastic-plated decorative aluminum wall alongside this neighborhood so that not every laowai who walks by has to see it. Many residents were opposed to this, but didn't say so—only because it was a ‘tofu dregs’ construction job that this face was getting put onto—but they did want to point out that in order to keep it from being too easy for laowais to enter and observe, they went out of their way to seal off the two gates on the west side of the neighborhood (facing the Bird Nest), leaving only a single-person entry/exit point which until now leaves residents having to make a detour to go buy things. And the key point in this fire, it's precisely because the gates are sealed, cutting off a fire exit, that when the fire trucks came, they had to stop on Beichen East Road and were left feeling useless. Because of this, residents now have many objections, feeling quite strange about the weird justification for the design of the ornamental project which has now led to journalists from many countries coming to take many photos. It has truly left the community residents very unhappy.


According to eyewitnesses at the scene, the large fire started inside the two iron portable toilets there. Because the wall construction has already been completed and the workers have already left the site, the two toilets are only being used by those left to guard the site, and to stop others from using them the toilet doors were bolted shut by the workers. So whatever it was inside that exploded like thunder when it came in contact with fire has become a riddle. Firefighters arrived twenty minutes after it was reported because traffic was heavy at the time and getting stuck in traffic couldn't be avoided, but with the Olympics soon to be here, I'm afraid it's going to be hard for people to forgive this kind of emergency response speed. The fire squad had to struggle, just seeing them jumping back and forth over that newly-locked steel fence, feeding the hose through (see photos), you honestly wouldn't have known whether to laugh or to cry!

Two fire trucks were dispatched for this, one ambulance, two police cars and countess police motorcycles that were only being used to shuttle around. From start to finish they struggled for about 40 minutes, and then the fire was out.

Only because of the sensitivity of the location, when the large fire broke out, dozens of laowais immediately rushed over to take pictures. This kind of scene is presumably painful to watch for patriotic types. After the fire, people slowly began dispersing until only residents remained, looking at the scorched side of the decorative fence so recently installed, leaving the crowd also just one topic: ‘face’ projects, turns out they're bad for people!


  • Ben

    If “face” projects are bad, can “faceless” projects be any good?

  • Knights

    I bet the tibetan terrorists led by Dalai were on this.

    [sigh] how can we avoid these kinds of incidents when dalai has a support from U.S., Brittain, Germany, France and Australia? It’s like China against a gang of nations, very sad.

  • karze


    Its ghost of gang of four and their mentor Mao who has set fire. Chinese have least blood on their face. Having robbed Tibet they are not satisfied they now want to exterminate Tibetan race.

    How could have Tibetans come their when they can’t move out of their house. Their house are barricaded by PLA with mortors and tanks aimed at them.

    Tibetans are not carnivorous like Chinese.

  • Eric hu

    To Kzrze:

    I have no idea of your senseless comment.

    Obviously, it is not a project of “face”, but a project of “brainwashed” to some people

    Just one question, as far as Tibetans are not carnivorous, which kind of vegetable can be planted on
    frozen earth and feed millions for centuries?

    To John Kennedy:

    When Chinese people are concerned with earthquake, CPI, or flooding in south provinces, your “face” report do remind me something.

    “Political animals” do not sleep!

  • vincerinos

    Tread carefully – that’s some explosive sh*t you’re talking about

  • chan

    Let me tell you something…..
    yesterday, China Police have already arrested a culprit who has caused the fire. He was interrogated for his motive of causing the fire. The culprit has told the police about all.

  • Kneecap

    To Eric Hu:

    Remember that while Kzrze`s comments are ludicrous, he was responding to a post by someone claiming Tibetan terrorists (backed by Western governments) were behind the explosions of these outhouses! The original comment was much more laughable.

    And just so you know, humans only began consuming meat 10,000 years ago. We were herbivores prior to that.

  • Jim

    Reminds me of Jim Morrison:

    “I’m gonna get my kicks before the shithouse goes up in flames!!! alright, alright.”

    Probably the work of waidi workers who wanted to have some fun before they get put on the train back to the detention camps in Bengbu.

  • The cave paintings at Lascaux France are dated 15000 to 10000 years. I think it’s safe to say humans were hunting well before they found time and means and desire to paint on cave walls.

  • […] Chinese portable toilets blowing up [via […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site