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Chengguan in hot soup
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How can some chengguan (urban management) officers be so ruthless and barbaric with street peddlers or those who they believe have violated urban management rules? No one would believe that they are actually taught to enforce law in such a manner.

Yet, part of a book for the training of chengguan officers posted online seems to have corroborated what we hate to believe - "instructions" on how they should "physically subdue offenders as swiftly as possible without leaving blood stains on their faces and bruises on their bodies".

Chengguan officers are an outreach of local law enforcement establishments and they are supposed to deal with such matters as illicit makeshift buildings and unlicensed street peddlers. They have earned themselves a bad name over the years for the lack of respect while checking violators.

Despite the explanation from Beijing chengguan authorities, that this book has never been used in the training of their officers as they had found it problematic immediately after its publication, many Internet users still find it outrageous.

They further explained that chengguan officers needed to learn how to defend themselves against violence from violators who show resistance, but the book had never been used as a textbook for training but only for Internal reference.

It is sadly true that a chengguan officer was stabbed to death by a street peddler several years ago. However, what the book teaches is not a defensive strategy. It clearly asks the officers to physically subdue street peddlers whether or not they pose a threat to them. The fact that it encourages violence, as long as there are no bruises, speaks volumes of its dark nature.

Violent resistance against law enforcement is rare. No street peddler would be stupid enough to have a fatal weapon ready to swing at officers.

What we see more often is a street peddler running as fast as he can as soon as he knows chengguan officers are about to show.

Because of their power as law enforcers, chengguan officers are more likely to abuse their power, which has been verified by the increasing number of complaints against them.

The question is: where do you draw the line when it comes to chengguan officers' power?

And the notion must be brought home to them they have been asked to enforce the law to maintain an orderly and harmonious urban environment.

The problematic instructions exposed online are undoubtedly against this principle. If instructed so, chengguan officers will only create more problems for urban management rather than achieve what they are expected to.

Hopefully, the current debate about the instructions will be a reminder to governments at all levels that urban management officers must be well educated to know the difference between right and wrong.

(China Daily April 24, 2009)

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