Crack unit makes a splash with new secret weapon to put the dampers on illegal street hawkers

Urban enforcers seek to soften their thuggish image by deploying water pistols in fight against illegal traders

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 6:01pm

Urban enforcement officials in central China have tried to soften their public image as rude and thuggish with the help of a new secret weapon – plastic water pistols.

A team of “chengguan”, or urban inspectors, operating in Changsha, Hunan province, have been photographed putting out illegal hawkers’ stoves with the vividly coloured toys.

Urban inspectors often have a poor public image and have been accused of using unwarranted violence when moving on street peddlers.

But Zou Junrong, the team leader of the water gun task force, told Changsha television he was looking for more “civilised” ways of operating.

Zou said in the past officers used to push over the vendors’ stoves and stamped out the fires, which was not only dangerous but also looked rude.

“That had much resistance from the public,” Zou told the television station.

China’s notorious urban enforcers beat street vendors

His team began using the water squirters on Monday. Fellow team members said they found them convenient, quick and safe to use.

“The people also thought it was funny and laughed. So the issue was handled in a harmonious atmosphere. We had no disputes at all,” Zou said.

As the photos being circulated online, net users also commended their creativity.

“Does that count as ‘armed force’? Look at their steps. they are moving like SWAT.” one comment on social media said.

“They must want me to laugh to death so that they can take my money,” another said.

Urban enforcement officials generally have a poor reputation in China after several highly publicised cases of heavy-handed and sometimes brutal treatment of suspected offenders.

In May last year, officers were caught on video bullying blind masseurs on the street in Kunming, Yunnan.

Chinese enforcement officials caught on video bullying blind masseurs on the street

In one of the most serious cases in recent years, a Hunan watermelon vendor died from injuries sustained after clashing with local chengguan in July 2013. The incident prompted hundreds of sympathetic locals to take to the streets in protest.