China's Urban Police Try To Make Themselves Less Hated

Beating fewer people would help


Last week, another anecdote about chengguan—China's urban enforcers whose main tasks include enforcing urban beautification ordinances and cracking down on unlicensed street vendors—caught the public's attention. On June 15, a web user called @??? revealed on Tencent Weibo that an urban enforcer in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, spent his leisure time running an unlicensed street stall in the evening and uploaded a couple of photos as evidence. In the tweet, the Weibo user questioned why an urban enforcer, later revealed to be named Gui Wenjing, knowingly involved himself in an activity which is his duty to prevent. According to the Wuhan Morning Post, netizens viewed the tweet more than 20,000 times within twelve hours, mostly condemning what they saw as hypocrisy.

In fact, the urban enforcer's double life was part of a planned experiment coordinated by the Urban Law Enforcement Bureau of Wuhan's Hongshan district. During an interview with China National Radio on June 18, the bureau chief said the experiment was intended to deepen urban enforcers' understanding of street vendors' lives. "Experiencers" kept daily journals which were then circulated within the bureau. The purpose was to make law enforcement more humane in the future. On the same day as the bureau chief's interview, the two urban enforcers who had conducted the experiment held a press conference to discuss their adventures. They said the experiment had been ongoing for 33 days, and all the profits made from their street vending was donated to a street vendor in need of financial help.