Conflict between Chengguan and Shenzhen Street Sellers Leads to Riots

Southern Metropolis Daily reports on yet another conflict between street sellers and Chengguan, or urban management officials, on China’s streets, this time in Bao’an district, Shenzhen. In common with other similar incidents, such as the Kunming incident earlier this year, perceived Chengguan brutality in dealing with a female street seller and her child served as the trigger for rioting. These incidents are examples of the fundamental conflict across China between small business owners, often migrants, who wish to sell on China’s streets, and local governments who are generally hostile to such activities.

[…] Yesterday, circa 10pm: The police had blocked the road and traffic from Meilong Road proceeding in the direction of Minzhi Road was being diverted. At the Minzhi and Hengling Zonghe Dalou intersection, pedestrians were congregating in the middle of the road. In the center of the road, in front of a law enforcement car, Ms Weng, carrying a one year old child, sat on a plastic chair refusing to move.

This conflict between Ms Weng and the Chengguan was the catalyst for the incident. “They chased after me hitting me, they even hit the child,” she said. That night at roughly 7pm, she had been carrying her child while her husband pushed their cart, as they peddled goods as normal. At the crossroads the family met with a team of city sanitation officials, who attempted to confiscate their cart, and the two sides got into conflict.

Ms Weng showed Southern Metropolis Daily reporters a bandage around her knee, while her son had a red scar on his hand. She said her son’s forehead had also been bruised – in response to these statements Minzhi law enforcement personnel said they would investigate.

“The Chengguan are beating people, they’re even beating children” – this was the phrase that spread throughout the assembled crowd, some of whom began to question the actions of the law enforcement personnel, and this resulted in the blockade of Minzhi Road.

Minzhi police station assembled police officers, law and order personnel and the People’s Militia to maintain stability by separating the crowd into three groups. The number of people causing a disturbance increased; in addition to verbal abuse, some hurled bottles of mineral water etc. at the officers.

The situation was soon beyond the control of the forces present. Riot police and police dog teams were dispatched at this point. For a time the dogs had some degree of effect on the hecklers, however the rioters immediately clashed with the riot police. Numerous protesters sustained injuries. Ambulances were continually arriving at the scene, ferrying the injured to hospital.

The Minzhi  sub-district office chief tried to negotiate with Ms Weng. The sub-district office hoped Ms Weng and her child would first go to hospital for a check-up and then hold bilateral negotiations but these soon broke down and discontent among the crowd broke out once again.

[…] Minzhi sub-district office working committee secretary Liu Bin hastened to the scene. Before he arrived, a man with a head injury had been lying on the street for over ten minutes; he was the fourth member of the crowd to have been injured.  “First get him in the ambulance to be treated,” Mr Liu ordered a paramedic. However the police and security officials in front of him were slow to react.

Behind Liu Bin a confrontation broke out between five or six truncheon-wielding riot police, local police, security officials and the rioters. The reporter attempted to record this incident but in the confusion his camera was snatched.

At around 1am calm had been restored and the flow of traffic gradually resumed on Minzhi road.

The article also explains the background to this event:

Minzhi law enforcement department and street sellers “had accumulated grievances”

According to a source within the Minzhi law enforcement department, at the beginning of August, law enforcement teams and the local police station launched a coordinated program to clear out street sellers. By the tenth of August they had already dealt with over a hundred non-compliants [people selling illegally]. Street-sellers who were caught time and again faced fines, and their goods were confiscated.  The source stated that a situation where the roads were clear of street sellers was becoming the norm; “at the least you would not see peddlers on the main roads”.

As a result of confiscating goods, law enforcement teams had come across many obstacles: “often some peddlers  would lie outside our building pretending to be dead, there were also some female street sellers who as soon as they saw us would begin taking off their clothes.” He also explained that along with the sprucing up of Shenzhen’s Special Economic Zone, Bao’an and Longgang have also been brought into line. Authorities in Bao’an and Longgang have powers to confiscate street vendors’ goods and dispense fines under the “Shenzhen Special Economic Zone City Environment and Appearance Management Regulations”. However the reality of the situation is that every day on the streets, conflicts and embarrassment between law enforcement teams and street sellers are played out.

Read more about chengguan via CDT.

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