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China Politely Reminds Street Vendors to Get Beating Them Senseless

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This past January, the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau announced it would recruit 30,000 "urban management volunteers to help crack down on illegal stalls and illegal construction."

From the Shanghai Municipal Government website:

The shortage of urban management forces has caused the authorities to ask for more hands over recent years, however some temporary workers hired by neighborhood communities are often accused of rudeness and of resorting to violence when driving away illegal vendors.


Bureau officials said volunteers are warm-hearted citizens who are interested in the well-being of communities and are likely to report urban problems they detect and any misconduct on the part of urban management staff. They will be recruited from neighborhood communities in each district.

Yesterday evening, these warm-hearted folks -- or, as the Shanghaiist maintains, urban management volunteers disguised as chengguan, government code enforcers known for unstinting brutality -- had the opportunity to prove just how interested in the community's well-being they really are:

Shanghaiist's Joel Herrick writes:

Last night around 7pm in Putuo District, Shanghai, an unmarked van rolled up on a group of unlicensed street vendors working near the corner of Ningxia Road and Kaixuan Road. After the van stopped near the corner, 10 men jumped out and then began attacking the vendors in an attempt to get them to disperse. Several people were injured (including some of the attackers) and sent to the hospital, where they remain in a stable condition.

The men from the van were described as “urban management volunteers”, though it seems a bit odd that anyone would “volunteer” to stomp skulls. What relation the men have to the actual chengguan remains unclear, but perhaps by claiming the title of “volunteer” instead of chengguan, Shanghai is looking to avoid a repeat of the riot that happened in Songjiang district earlier this year, or more recent riots in Guizhou and Zengcheng. All of which of course occurred due to the perceived heavy-handedness of the chengguan.

All vendors must be properly licensed beginning September 1st. And, what better way to make sure people realize this than by beating the hell out of them?

After all, it's tradition:

Lest anyone think the even-handed, compassionate justice meted out by the chengguan only applies to street vendors, at least one Bloomberg News reporter might beg to differ.

To wit:

China’s Foreign Ministry said some journalists at the site of a planned protest in Beijing on Feb. 27 had broken reporting rules, disrupting “normal order,” and that police “properly handled” the situation.

Several journalists said they were forcibly removed and detained without explanation as they tried to report from Wangfujing Street on protests called to demand an end to corruption and misrule. A Bloomberg News reporter was beaten by at least five plain-clothes men in front of uniformed police.

But wait -- there must be some sort of explanation for such behavior, no?

“Many media organizations haven’t encountered any trouble while reporting in China for many years,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. “Why do some journalists always run into trouble? I find it strange. The journalists should really respect the laws and regulations.”

Really, all you need to know about the chengguan comes from an April editorial that appeared in China Daily:

Salute to China's chengguan (urban management officers). They have never let us down in terms of bravery and courage displayed during their battle to ensure that our cities are free from disorder and chaos caused by unlicensed street vendors.

Let us look in awe at some of their deeds.

On April 6, some chengguan in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, subdued two rebellious vendors of roast corn and sweet potatoes with just iron bars in no time, sending blood to gush from their heads.

In November last year, several chengguan in Zhengzhou, Henan province, slapped 73-year-old vendor Zhang Quanhui a dozen times because he neglected warnings and continued to sell vegetables in the downtown area to "pay for the medical cost of his son."

In January 2008, some chengguan in Tianmen, Hubei province, even beat a man to death because he dared to videotape, with his mobile phone, their "violent process of rule enforcement."

The list can run forever, and the longer it goes, the more sense of security our law-abiding citizens could feel, and we cannot but be proud of their ever-increasing combat capability and express our heartfelt gratitude to our dedicated guardians, who have risked their lives to make sure our cities are kept in good order.

Still doubtful of our chengguan's combat capability? Send some of them to Moammar Gadhafi, and I assure you they could help him retake rebel headquarters in Benghazi in just days.
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