Things are looking upwards

Electronic eyes: More CCTV cameras, similar to the one above being installed in Beijing, are being pointed upwards at buildings to catch apartment residents who dangerously throw rubbish from above. — AFP

ASK any of your Malaysian friends living in Beijing one word to describe the Chinese capital and the answer you will often get is “safe”.

I concur with them. Beijing is a relatively safe place with low street crime such as snatch theft and robbery.

I do not have the statistics but I can safely say that I am not afraid to walk home alone at night or leave my bag on the chair at eateries.

The extensive use of street surveillance cameras has somehow contributed to this.

Closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) are something one would not miss while walking on the streets in Chinese cities or major towns.

CCTVs are everywhere. Some used for security purposes, others for monitoring traffic or to catch traffic offenders.

Recently, these modern and sophisticated surveillance systems are being installed at more high-rise commercial or apartment blocks nationwide, but strangely, all the cameras are facing upwards.

At a residential community with 18 apartment blocks in Hangzhou in the eastern Zhejiang province, 47 CCTVs have been set up in the compound.

These gadgets have also been installed at high-rise buildings in Beijing and Xi’an in the northwestern Shaanxi province.

In Nanjing itself, six residential areas had the system in place in June following a series of incidents nationwide involving pedestrians who had died or suffered injuries after being hit by objects that fell from several high buildings.

On June 19, in a city in the eastern-central Jiangsu province, a 10-year-old girl was walking homewith her grandmother after school.

Just as she was about to reach home, the girl was hit by an object that fell from one of the floors of the 22-storey apartment block where she lived.

She was knocked unconscious and sent to hospital, where she only regained consciousness the following day after surgery to her head.

Police suspected an eight-year-old boy as the culprit after a CCTV camera at the area captured him picking up a small object from the corridor and throwing it down.

However, they have yet to identify the item and an investigation is still underway.

Just two weeks before the incident, a four-year-old boy in Kunshan city of the same province was killed by a piece of glass that fell from an apartment unit.

On June 13, a five-year-old boy was hit by a fallen glass window at an apartment block in Shenzhen, southern Guangdong province. He died three days later.

In the same city on June 22, a woman was seriously injured after being hit by a weight plate that accidentally fell from a unit as the owner was cleaning the place.

Cases of objects falling from high places are quite rampant in China.

Although the issue has long been a major concern of the public, it sparked a nationwide outcry following the death of the two children.

Local residents are calling for the authorities to step up prevention efforts and to punish those throwing rubbish from windows.

Some buildings have also put up safety nets to protect the tenants.

The objects identified so far included bags of trash or glass bottles thrown by irresponsible tenants, fallen glass panels, bricks or iron bars due to a lack of maintenance or flower pots and vases, and there have been cases of air-conditioning compressors too.

In most cases, those responsible could not be traced.

In such a situation, all tenants of the building would be held responsible.

Last year, the Changping Court ordered 34 tenants, who failed to prove their innocence, to share in the compensation after a car owner, whose vehicle was damaged by a falling stone at their apartment block, filed a lawsuit.

Objects falling from high places are fatal. A 60g egg falling from the 18th floor can break an adult’s skull.

“An empty beverage can, a chicken egg or a small piece of watermelon skin weighing just 8g is enough to kill someone if any of these items fall from the 25th floor,” said the narrator in a science experiment programme of China Central Televi­sion.

A Beijinger, who declined to be named, said his son was almost hit by a bag of rubbish thrown out from the window of one of his neighbours.

A week later, he witnessed a woman going through a similar experience.

An address on a courier box in the trash bag led them to a unit on the 14th floor.

An elderly woman admitted that she had thrown the bag out from her window out of convenience.

“I complained to the management but they said it was tough to take action without concrete evidence,” he told the Beijing News.

Residents at buildings with the “sky CCTVs” installed welcomed the move, saying they felt safer and that the act has reduced cases of people throwing rubbish out windows.

A worker at a property management office said any object, even as small as a cigarette butt that was thrown from the apartment could be recorded by the cameras.

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