|China Focus: Square-dance basketball battle causes furor|
//english.dbw.cn 2017-06-08 09:13:57
A battle for use of a basketball court, between a group of elderly dancers and young basketball players, has exposed loopholes in the urban management of Chinese cities.
The debate sparked when a video showing a group of elderly people quarreling with several young men went viral on the Chinese Internet. In the video, the senior citizens lashed out at the young men over use of the basketball court in a local park. The heated argument soon broke into a physical fight.
Police confirmed the incident was in Luoyang city, central China's Henan Province.
"Some square-dancing elderly and a posse of basketball players had a quarrel, which broke into a fight, over the use of the basketball court on May 31," local police said. "They reconciled after the incident."
The park later closed the court and provided another area for the elderly group, but public debate flared nevertheless.
A number of Internet users defended the basketball players, saying that the elderly group crossed the line, not only by occupying the basketball court but also hitting a young man physically. Others showed sympathy for the dancers, saying a lack of areas for square dancing in Chinese cities was a major issue.
China's population is aging, with the Ministry of Civil Affairs saying that more than 220 million Chinese were over 60 by the end of 2016. The government predicts the country's elderly will account for about one-quarter of the population by 2030.
This highlights a rising need for rest and recreation programs among senior citizens. In China, square dancing has become a major daily activity among graying Chinese. But as the elderly bust their moves, a spate of conflicts has erupted across the nation
In 2014, after failing to reach reconciliation, residents in a district in eastern China's Zhejiang Province went toe-to-toe with a group of square dancers, by using loudspeakers worth 260,000 yuan (38,266 U.S. dollars) to blast out music day-and-night to drown them with noise.
A similar incident happened in a district in Fujian Province in 2016, causing police to be called.
In 2014, the historic Luxun Park in Shanghai reopened to the public after renovation, drawing a large number of elderly dancers. Rival exercise groups tried to snap up dancing squares, creating chaos and fights in the park.
THE FIGHT FOR SQUARES
Annoying noise made by square dancers has created many clashes, but experts say insufficient public space and poor management in Chinese cities were to blame.
Yang Hongshan, with the public management school of Renmin University, said that public spaces in China were typically built with economic considerations, without catering to specific public needs.
"When public spaces fail to meet rising demand for rest and recreation, problems are bound to occur," Yang said.
Liu Yaodong, with the public management department of Hubei University of Technology, said that it was necessary for authorities to make scientific planning for leisure activities when developing cities.
"When designing public spaces, authorities should consider the status quo of urban recreational activities," Liu said. "Authorities should reserve enough space for the future development of recreational activities."
In September 2015, four central government bodies, including the Ministry of Culture, issued a joint circular, asking local governments to utilize existing public spaces to accommodate public leisure activities. It also said that more public cultural venues and stadiums should open free of charge and that square dancing should be included in grassroots management systems.
But patchy enforcement has left the circular largely empty talk, according to Tang Lihong, with the law school of Fuzhou University.
"Management over public spaces should be more specific, and that modern technology such as the Internet can be employed to make the management more efficient," Yang said. "For example, appointments via the Internet can help distribute human traffic to different periods of the day to ease the pressure on public spaces."
Gu Jun, a sociologist at Shanghai University, said that the government should create local social organizations to manage square dancing.
"Shanghai has already started piloting such programs, with the government issuing favorable policies to support the founding and operation of such organizations," Gu said.
Author： Source：xinhua Editor：Yang Fan