A university in Chengdu, Sichuan province, has been criticized online for charging students fees to claim lost possessions.
Last week, a student at Sichuan University of Media and Communications lost her cellphone. When she borrowed a phone to dial her own number, a man at the university's security department answered the phone and asked her to come and get it, she said.
When she went to the department with a classmate, she was asked to pay 10 yuan (.50) before the phone was handed over.
The student paid the fee and got her phone back. But her classmate was unhappy, thinking the practice went against the centuries-old Chinese value that one should unconditionally return things others have lost.
She recounted the experience and made comments online. Many netizens sided with her, saying the charges are improper.
Sun Haorui, deputy director of the university's publicity department, said the fees are used as reward for people who turn in lost items. The practice, which started in 2006, was also intended to remind students to take good care of their belongings, Sun said.
Students handing in something worth more than 1,000 yuan would receive 10 yuan as a reward paid by the student who lost the item, he said.
Zhu Lianzhai, a netizen in Wuhan, Hubei province, criticized the charge, saying it misleads students into seeking a reward for doing something good.
Dong Yuchuan, a lawyer in Chengdu, said that according to the country's property law, everyone has the right to retrieve lost belongings.
Those who lose items are free to reward finders, but if the university requires students to pay, they have a right to refuse, he said.