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Will a 'friendly' color of uniform improve the image of chengguan officer?
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Will a switch to a "friendly" color of uniform improve the image of chengguan (city management) officer?

It may not make sense to many, but the new azure-colored uniform is meant to impress local residents with the amiability of these officers of Guangzhou city, according to the publicity pitch about the change of attire.

Officers in brand new uniforms were even organized last week for a parade in the campaign known as "new chengguan image - promotion of citizenship to welcome Asian Games."

The southern metropolis undoubtedly needs an orderly and harmonious environment for the Asian Games scheduled next year. Chengguan officers as an outreach of city law enforcement establishment play an important role in keeping the city clean and tidy.

Yet it is one thing to look nice and amiable and another to be capable of maintaining good relationship with citizens in the course of their law enforcement.

In its neighboring city of Shenzhen, two chengguan officers were stabbed by street peddlers in April alone, leaving one dead and another seriously injured. It is sad that chengguan officers lost their lives while discharging their duties. It may be unfair to blame these officers alone for the conflict between them and street vendors. But there are recurrent reports, and also accounts by witnesses, about the chengguan officers' barbaric ways of checking violators.

The frequent physical fights between these officers and street peddlers show how tense relations are between the two parties. Scenes of peddlers being chased by chengguan officers are not uncommon.

Doubtless, it is not right for street peddlers to mess up clean streets with the garbage they leave behind. And, their touting of what they sell on the street does affect the flow of normal traffic and exposes them to the risk of being hit by passing vehicles.

In another case in Central China's Henan province last week, a group of martial arts students were involved in a street fight with local chengguan officers.

In these circumstances, of their conflict with sections of citizens, chengguan officers need to exercise utmost restraint. Therefore, it comes as a nasty surprise that a book for training chengguan officers has lessons on how they should physically subdue offenders without leaving bloodstains on their faces and bruises on their bodies. This revelation last month does little to improve their image.

It is good that the Guangdong municipal authorities have realized the necessity of establishing a new amiable image of chengguan officers among city residents.

However, merely by wearing a color that is supposed to look pleasing, it will be impossible to erase the reputation they have earned over the years.

Clearly, some more thorough measures are needed to apply the balm where it hurts. But we don't know whether the new amiable-looking uniform is just a prelude to other measures in the offing.

(China Daily May 11, 2009)

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