Chengguan: Abusive or Misunderstood?

China’s urban management officers, or chengguan, are known in the news for their abuse of power and assaults on China’s lower class. The notorious reputation of China’s chengguan was exacerbated last Friday when a video clip of a chengguan stomping on a bicycle vendor in the city of Yanan, Shaanxi went viral online.


According to Zhang Yiwei at Global Times, the incident occurred when several officers attempted to confiscate bikes outside the store without the vendor’s consent:

“A group of chengguan got out of their van and took the bicycles from in front of the shop without saying anything,” Li said. “What happened in the video was after Liu came to stop the chengguan.”

Li alleged that he and his colleagues thought the officers smelled of alcohol.

An official from the local urban management watchdog brigade told the People’s Daily Online Monday that the shop had illegally parked bikes on the sidewalk before and officers issued alerts to them several times ordering them to rectify.

“Every time they asked us to put the bicycles in order, we followed the request. On Friday, there weren’t many bicycles in front of the shop and they were in order,” Li said, adding the bicycles belong to customers.  [Source]

Although the officers who committed the assault were reportedly punished and fired by the urban management authorities in Yanan, the online discourse shows that the public still remains outraged at the incident. A fellow Twitter user tweeted Thursday:

In another clash between chengguan and street vendors this week, the officers appeared to be on the losing side. Offbeat China reports:

In another chengguan story in Shankou, Guangdong province, the officers were those who screamed because of pain. Similarly, there was a clash between chengguan and a group of what seemed to be street vendors. But in Shankou, it was a chengguan officer who was surrounded and stripped. More painfully, his neck was snapped and balls squeezed.

While some netizens expressed sympathy, many others thought that the chengguan officer deserved it all because he “must have done evil things before on his job.” One netizen 锵锵骑兵 commented: “My rational thinking tells me that these street vendors may not be good guys, either. But I’m just an ordinary guy and what I want is simple. If I have to side with one of the two, I’d choose to beat up chengguan first.” [Source]

Although the public’s distrust and contempt for chengguan run deep, some suggest that these urban law enforcement officers are misunderstood. South China Morning Post’s Patrick Boehler reported in April on chengguan‘s efforts to change its image:

In thevideo clip, a 25-year-old chengguan, university graduate Jiang Yifan, speaks about the “misconceptions” around his work.

“You only see my strict words and stern appearance,” Jiang says in the clip. “But you don’t see my tears and grievances.”

“You can disdain our work, but we will show you who makes the city a better place,” he says.

Chengguan is a profession destined to be controversial. We are bound to be queried and ridiculed on the streets.”

“But despite all this, even if it isn’t understood, we will courageously march forward. I am a chengguan and I speak for myself.” [Source]

Click through for past CDT coverage on abusive chengguan


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