Chengguan are an urban management force installed in almost every city on mainland China. They mostly clamp down on illegal street vendors but also enforce rules on city sanitation, landscaping and parking. Chengguan officers have been increasingly criticised after some of them used bullying tactics that have resulted in injuries and sometimes death.
Chengguan violence escalates with police beating
A policeman has been beaten up in Qinghai province by a group of men, sparking outrage in the latest episode of violence by the notorious urban management force or "chengguan".
Ren Jie, a policeman in Xining, the provincial capital, suffered injuries to his head when a group of chengguan beat him with his own police baton on Tuesday.
Local police in Beicheng district had received an emergency call reporting that a group of chengguan were assaulting people. Ren Jie took decided to investigate and found a group of chengguan trying to forcefully clear a flower plantation for demolition.
Over the last two weeks, Xining has been implementing a major demolition campaign in its Beicheng and Dongcheng districts for a highway project.
Local residents resisted the chengguan's orders and a brawl broke out, Ren wrote in a diary post he posted on Renren, a social media platform similar to Facebook.
Chengguan surrounded him, took his baton and beat him, he wrote.
By Thursday, the post, which he deleted only hours after posting it, had reached Chinese microblogs, stirring further outrage against the urban management force tasked with upholding municipal bylaws.
"If you didn't wear this uniform today, we'd beat you to death," Ren recalls being told by the chengguan mob. "When I was sitting in the ambulance, I couldn't keep myself from crying."
"Even though I knew that the law enforcement environment is bad, I never thought it would be this bad," he wrote in the diary post.
Ren confirmed to the Southern Metropolis Daily that he had been beaten by chengguan. An unnamed local propaganda official told a Chengdu government web-portal that the chengguan and other officials were present at the time and it was investigating who had inflicted the injuries.
Last week, a group of chengguan killed a watermelon farmer in Hunan province. Photos of a bloodstained peddler beaten by chengguan in Chengdu, Sichuan province, spread on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, hackers manipulated the website of the chengguan office in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, re-naming it into triad headquarters.
"We offer services such as beatings, smashings, looting and killing," the website read. "We bully innocent people, poor street vendors, the elderly, the sick and the disabled free of charge!"
According to a survey of more than 10,000 people Chinese this week, 87 per cent of those questioned say they have personally witnessed clashes between chengguan and street hawkers.
Almost three-fourths of those surveyed said they were in favour of new legislation that would give the force a legal framework and specific powers, according to the survey by the China Youth Daily social studies centre.