The New York Times looks at netizen anger over arbitrary and sometimes silly edicts passed by local government in China, including one ostensible safety measure that requires all children to salute every car that passes:
This is hardly the only nation where local bureaucrats sometimes run a bit too free. But in China, where many local officials are less than well trained and only the party can eject them from office, local governments’ dubious edicts are common enough that skewering them has become a favorite pastime of China’s Web users. Even the state-run media join in, although they rarely report who was behind the rules or suggest that they indicate a lack of competence to govern.
Often, the skewering gets results. In April, one county in Hubei Province in northern China drew nationwide ridicule after officials ordered civil servants and employees of state-owned companies to buy a total of 23,000 packs of the province’s brand of cigarettes every year. Departments whose employees failed to buy enough cigarettes or bought other Chinese brands would be fined, the media reported.
County officials said the increased revenue from the cigarette tax would buoy the local economy. After several weeks of embarrassment, Gongan County officials posted a short message on the government’s Web site that read: “We have decided to remove this edict.”