Zhou Yongkang

Xian police suffer public backlash

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am


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Rising social tension blamed for violence against officers

A manpower shortage, rapid urban population growth and rising social tension were to blame for the spate of violence against police in Xian , officers said yesterday.

There had been at least 13 cases of violence against police in Xian since April, and May saw six attacks within a week. The problem has even caught the attention of the Ministry of Public Security. Last Thursday, ministry chief Zhou Yongkang issued a memo calling for officers to be better equipped.

Hu Jie , a spokesman for the Public Security Bureau in Xian, said the force was simply understaffed.

'Our police force can not keep up with population growth in Xian, although we have expanded our team from 8,000 men and women in 1996 to nearly 12,000 this year,' said Mr Hu.

Mr Hu said Xian's population had risen sharply due to the arrival of a large number of migrant farmers from the countryside.

'More farmers are moving into the city and Xian has stepped up the merger of towns and villages into the city,' Mr Hu said.

Zhang Wei , director of the Legal Affairs Department at the Xian Public Security Bureau, said the manpower shortage was the force's biggest challenge. 'When people are frustrated or people believe their interests have been hurt, they often blame the problem on police,' he was quoted as saying in the Sanqin Daily yesterday.

'It should be pointed out that Xian is developing rapidly and the society is changing fast,' he said. 'Violence against police occurs because a lot of social conflicts happen together and they tend to result in public disorder.'

Hu Xingdou , a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said other factors were to blame. 'There is a lack of channels for people to vent their anger or voice their complaints,' said Professor Hu. 'People therefore take their frustration out on the police.'

Professor Hu said the problems faced by police in Xian were not unique and had also been seen in other cities.

He said the public generally had a low regard of police partly because they had heard too many complaints from officers that they were being prevented from performing well due to a lack of funds.

'[People think] that police only care about money because they often blame their low success rate in solving crimes on a lack of funds,' the professor said.

More than 3,000 police were injured or killed while on the job in the first half of this year, according to a report by the Beijing Daily in August.

Professor Hu said increased funding for the police force might provide a short-term solution, but a longer-term solution was for the government to create more channels for the public to air their grievances.