Next time someone decides to leave silly messages on the world's highest mountain, beware: China is watching.
Mountaineering officials have scrubbed graffiti from two granite tablets on the Chinese side of Mount Everest's northern base camp and plan to name and shame future defilers.
State-run mobile news site The Paper reported Wednesday that workers removed the signatures, dates, doodles and messages left by scores of visitors. They include "let's wander together," ''farewell to the mountain" and "here I come."
The graffiti grew so thick it covered the information about the mountain carved into the tablets in Chinese, Tibetan and English.
The base camp at roughly 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) is a popular tourist site and has fallen prey to the sort of behavior the Chinese government says is uncivilized and vows to punish.
Along with publicizing the names of those leaving behind graffiti, base camp management is considering setting aside separate wall space just for visitors to write their names and other messages, a local tourism official, Gu Chunlei, told The Paper.
"It's a way of getting travelers to change their habits without even knowing it," Gu was quoted as saying. Similar graffiti walls have been set up at other scenic sites, including the Great Wall outside Beijing that has long been a target for those seeking to leave a mark of their visit.
As personal incomes have risen, Chinese have become avid travelers and bad behavior by some of them has become something of an embarrassment. Along with sharp criticism in the media and online forums, the government has set up an online national database naming those involved in particularly egregious behavior and giving airlines, hotels and other travel outlets the option of refusing them service.
In 2013, a Chinese teenager scratched his name on an ancient Egyptian temple and was roundly condemned by his fellow Chinese.
As The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Ford reported, China is concerned about the bad reputation of its globe-trotting citizens.
The Chinese Tourism Agency has taken note of these reports. Last month the government department issued a set of “civilized behavior guidelines” for tourists going abroad, urging them to “be attentive to etiquette, maintain dignity … protect the environment…queue in an orderly fashion and eat quietly” among other recommendations.
On the same day, though, the agency issued a similar, but even more draconian, charter intended to govern the behavior of visitors to domestic tourist attractions, warning them not to sneeze in other people’s faces, nor to chase and hit animals, nor to spend too long in public lavatories.
In the end, lamented deputy Premier Wang, the problem comes down to what he called “the poor quality and breeding” of many Chinese, whether they are at home or abroad. It looks like the “ugly American” that some Europeans and Latin Americans love to hate is about to get a run for his money.
Everest itself has accumulated garbage, pollution and other ills brought by the vastly increased numbers of climbers and visitors to the peak that straddles China and Nepal.