Urban enforcers in Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, surrounded and violently beat a city policeman with his own club on July 23, sparking an outcry online about the already infamous urban management officials, known as chengguan.
In almost every city in China there are chengguan, acting under the aegis of the city government, responsible for enforcing urban codes. However, in recent years they have increasingly drawn negative attention for assaulting citizens and, in this case, a police officer.
Ren Jie, a policeman in Xining, responded to a call at around noon about people being attacked by a group of chengguan. When he arrived, he found a group of the men attempting demolish an office building overseeing a flower and plant market. After confronting them, they began attacking him, including with the police baton he had brought along.
Ren recounted the confrontation on the social media website Renren, writing that he remembers being told by the chengguan: “If you weren’t wearing this uniform today, we’d beat you to death.” He added that, “When I was sitting in the ambulance, I couldn’t keep myself from crying,” according to a translation of his remarks by South China Morning Post.
A Guizhou netizen commented on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site, “The chengguan are such scoundrels, they are a national gang!”
Hackers struck the website of a local urban management office on Thursday to draw attention to the violence. “We offer services such as beatings, smashings, looting and killing,” the website was made to read, according to the South China Morning Post. “We bully innocent people, poor street vendors, the elderly, the sick and the disabled free of charge!”
Last Wednesday, a watermelon vendor was beaten to death by chengguan in Linwu County, in Hunan Province, for not having a license. The Linwu propaganda department released a statement afterwards claiming that the vendor had “suddenly fallen to the ground and died while he was involved in an argument with officers.” The response provoked fury online.
That attack in Linwu triggered uproar on Chinese social media sites, where commentators protested not only the chengguan but also the regime and how it handled the situation. A Zhejiang netizen posted the comment: “[The police] are no different than the chengguan, they’re mostly thugs. Simply put, they are the same thugs, only disguised by the cover of government.