Chengguan, Hard at Work

Another entry in the vein of illogical law enforcement. My wife passed this video along earlier today. It’s actually a couple months old now, but still making the rounds on Chinese social media, and it has racked up more than two million views.

Note: To be fair, I’m not entirely sure the men in this video are chengguan (city management officials), as the video isn’t clear enough to read anything on their uniforms, but they seem to be performing the duties of chengguan and are identified as chengguan in the comments, so let’s just assume they are.

Nothing about this is surprising, of course, but it’s worth noting the the ridiculousness of this kind of “enforcement strategy,” which happens all across China with alarming frequency. Chengguan are tasked with keeping the city’s streets clean and ensuring that vendors are in the proper places, with the proper permits. Frequently, they’re not, and I do understand China’s desire to regulate this (in theory), but the practice often leaves much to be desired.

The kind of enforcement we see in this video doesn’t solve any problems. All it does is create problems. Where previously there was a calm woman on the street selling fruit, now there is an angry woman on the street, a small crowd of onlookers, and a huge mess because the chengguan decided to dump her fruit all over the sidewalk. The chengguan have effectively turned what was a regular street in China into a mess of emotion and spilled fruit. What has society gained from this?

Nothing, obviously. The chengguan don’t even gain anything personally, aside from the minimal ego boost that comes from bullying people you have some power over. It is a needless show of force, the desperate demonstration of an insecure bully who is terrified that if the people’s fear ever subsides for a moment they’re going to see just how pathetic he really is.

(Another sign of the times: in the video comments, some commenters have pointed out that these guys are actually quite restrained for chengguan; they may have stomped and dumped out her baskets, but at least they didn’t physically attack her. Disturbingly, this is enough to pass for ‘restraint’ these days.)

4 thoughts on “Chengguan, Hard at Work”

  1. Too many of these types of videos floating around. Whoever they are, there are 2 uniforms who are probably subordinate to the plain clothes guy disturbing the harmony. So, they’re definitely not hired thugs but they sure are hired thugs for the local government.

    I was going to raise you one “chengguan beating up police” video but I’ll leave that to others. I remember reading about at least one occurrence but apparently it’s not exactly that rare either.


  2. On the one hand, if China is ever going to have rule of law, you need people to respect it, and people to enforce it. And permits are there for a reason, so that you don’t get a free-for-all. So in principle, they gotta do what they gotta do. As you say, the proportionality that is employed in enforcing rule of law is probably what’s lacking here and in other similar cases. Certainly doesn’t convey a lot of “harmony”.

    BTW, what happened to your site earlier? Thought for a while that geeks was harmonized.


  3. @ S.K. Cheung,

    Nah, not harmonized, host just shut it down for a minute because it was using up too much server resources…turned out to be some google crawler issue.


  4. Well, when I lived in HK under British rule, there was a cat and mouse game going on between the “hawkers” and the police. Locals knew to kind of keep an eye out so that they wouldn’t end up with hot cooking oils spilled on them when the hawkers took off before the police got there. The idea was to move them into government facilities above the wet markets like they did in Singapore a while back. Now, most of the hawkers are gone. As I’ve moved back to the States, I really haven’t followed up on what happened to them. I tend to eat at the cooked food stalls above the wet markets. I felt sorry for the hawkers trying to earn a buck in an expensive place to live. I never have seen the HK police act like that. They just fined them. I guess it was a pretty big fine to cause them to run away…


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