Chengguan Deny They Killed Fruit Vendor, No One Believes Them

Chengguan beat fruit vendor

Deng Zhengjia, a fruit vendor, died suspiciously on Wednesday after scuffling with chengguan, i.e. this country’s much-maligned urban management officers. His family claims he was killed after a blow to the head by an officer — a charge that chengguan denied yesterday. Reports Global Times:

A county chief from Chenzhou, Hunan Province Thursday said there is no evidence a local fruit vendor was killed due to a blow to the head during a physical conflict with a team of urban management officers, or chengguan, despite accusations from the dead man’s family members and witnesses.

But chengguan in China have somewhat of a credibility problem, thanks to incidents like this, so the people’s response has been to riot. Fruit vendor dies, police involved, riots ensue… hmm, where have we seen this before?

Leave it to SCMP to make the connection obvious:

One netizen compared the Hunan watermelon seller’s fate to that of the Tunisian vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, whose vegetable cart was seized by police in Sidi Bouzid in 2010. In desperation, he set himself on fire. His death triggered the fall of Tunisia’s authoritarian regime of Ben Ali and those in three other countries, so far.

The odds of an Arab Spring happening in China anytime soon, as we’ve documented before, are slim, but they’re basically none in this case. Chengguan have always been seen as extralegal, so the battle here may be one against organized thuggery rather than the state.

What a battle that could be, though. Everyone knows the chengguan system needs reform — better training for the officers, better pay to attract better talent, etc. — but inertia has largely kept the current structure in place, ensuring bad apples will continue to cause embarassing incidents. Isn’t that right, Global Times op-ed writer?

Violent law enforcement by a minority of chengguan is caused by their personal qualities as well as the complexity of their duties. If the violence of chengguan is proved to be the direct cause of Deng’s death, then this will become a criminal case. Noticeably, it has nothing to do with the chengguan system.

Well then. We eagerly await the next bout of violence involving a “minority of chengguan.”

UPDATE, 12/30, 7:08 pm: Four chengguan have been sentenced. Via SCMP:

A Chinese court on Friday sentenced four municipal security officers to prison for a clash that left a watermelon seller dead and triggered a public outcry.

The Yongxing County People’s Court said in a notice on its website that the four officers were convicted of intentional injury and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3.5 to 11 years in prison.

    4 Responses to “Chengguan Deny They Killed Fruit Vendor, No One Believes Them”

    1. reddit

      Let’s analyze this honestly…

      Is it not a “minority of chengguan” committing these heinous acts? Why the quotations? China is a very, very big country. Lots of people. Lots of chengguan, too. Surely the amount of chengguan beating/killing people seems like a lot when its in the news every day, but in terms of OVERALL numbers of chengguan in the country, how common is this? I don’t know, I’m just asking…

      • Anthony Tao

        I think you bring up a fair point, but the studies I’ve seen suggest that it’s not an insignificant minority that’s causing problems (thus the quotation marks, to point out that Global Times’s wording on “minority of chengguan” doesn’t tell the full story).

        I can appreciate how tough the honest chengguan’s job is, though. We’ve posted about it before. You deal constantly with peddlers who are deeply resentful of authority, some of them who probably do break the law, and on top of that, perception problems caused by your asshole colleagues.

      • terroir

        Another way of defining “extralegal” is that these chengguan are above the law; for all the many chengguan stories that you hear about, all your hear about is acts in which people are victimized by chengguan and not chengguan being held responsible for their actions.

        One injustice is too many; to try to factor in “the law of averages” just means that humanity is lost within the huge crush of a system too massive for its own good.

        Ask an honest moot question, and you will honestly answer yourself.

      • narsfweasels

        Well, there’s an equivalency here: A minority of people are in the government. And they claim credit for the success of the nation. If you take credit for the success, then you must be responsible for the failures – either by action or omission of action, and therefore a minority are responsible for all the failures.


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