By Wang Zhenghua
Shanghai recently organized its third annual "naked" bike event to promote green energy. Is China ready for a totally nude bike activity?
In China, it is uncommon to find half-naked men and women in bikinis on bikes. But on May 27, there were more than 30 of them, riding from the Orient Sports Center to the Binjiang Park in Shanghai's Pudong New Area.
They participated in the "naked" bike event, backed by the China Communist Youth League Shanghai Committee.
The activity is the third such event in the city, after two spontaneous ones held over the last two years, to promote healthy lifestyle and zero-carbon transportation.
"I am tired of the pressure of staying in the office all day. This is a wonderful platform to relax and meet friends," says Han Guqiao, a Shanghai native. "It is also a good approach to promote green commuting and to raise public consciousness of green energy."
Another participant, Shen Jiajin, says he is all for low petrol dependency. As a veteran biker, he took part in last year's event and even brought three friends with him to spread the message.
However, the respond to this year's exercise was a far cry from last year's, which attracted about 200 people.
Event founder Zhang Linyuan, 38, said attendance was significantly lower than what the organizers expected although more than 100 people, including some from the United States, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong and Macao, had officially signed up and more said they would come.
"We had wanted the event to be a simple one," said Zhang, who is also the founder of Prodigy Cycling Club. But the event this year assumed too many roles.
For instance, it was designated as part of a celebration, along with another regular cycling event, to promote the first Shanghai citizen sports meet that will kick off in half a month's time.
And, the event lost its charms because every move was strictly regulated.
To prevent any possible untoward incidents, police officers were at various spots including where participants undressed and painted their bodies.
Compared to the World Naked Bike Ride, where bikers are in their birthday suits, full nudity in public in China, is still very much a taboo.
The international bike ride staged its first event in 2004 and has expanded to 74 cities in 17 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Hungary and Paraguay.
In each event, participants plan, meet and ride en masse to "deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world".
But similar naked event is banned in China.
Last year, a group of college students in South China's Guangdong province called off its nude cycling event after it generated widespread attention and the main organizer was summoned to the police station for "information sharing".
Despite the setbacks, Zhang said he believed biking events similar to the World Naked Bike Ride will eventually come to China but it all depends on the government's openness.
"The public is ready. Some participants in the local biking clubs have already proposed to organize full nude cycling events," he adds.
His opinion confirms a poll by Guangdong Satellite TV last year: about 44 percent of respondents polled supported nude events to promote carbon-free concept, while 25 percent objected.
"I think such events are acceptable as long as it doesn't hurt social decency," said Huang Di, an assistant marketing professional at a bicycle component company. "Nudity is a way to promote the green concept."
But at the moment, what Zhang has to do is to overlook the pros and cons to partner with the officials like in past events and decide whether to involve them next year.
"I will finalize the plan for next year's event as early as possible," he said. "Official involvement would be allowed only on the condition that our plan would not be affected."