Another tragic story involving chengguan, China’s notorious urban law enforcement officers. They are a special urban security force outside of the police system who are responsible for non-criminal concerns such as noise, street control, parking, sanitation, etc. Whenever they are in the news, it’s more often than not about them bullying street vendors. This year alone, we’ve already covered 3 stories on chengguan power abuse. And this time, the situation is even worse – an elderly watermelon street vendor died.
Currently, the No. 1 trending topic on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog service, is #Linwu chengguan#. Linwu in Hunan province is where the tragedy happened. Yesterday morning, water melon farmer Deng Zhengjia was reported to have been beaten to death by chengguan officers in this small southern town.
According to netizen 小纯就是小纯, granddaughter of the dead, Deng and his wife started the day around 3 am in the morning picking up watermelons. The couple ran into their first trouble with local chengguan officers not long after they arrived in town for a day’s sale. They were fined RMB 100 yuan, as well as a few watermelons as bonus gifts to the chengguan officers.
They then moved to a designated farmers market. But to their surprise, as soon as they set up their place, chengguan officers were there again. This time, a fight started and soon escalated into a violent clash.
According to Deng’s family and several eye witnesses, the killing strike was a knock on the head by a steelyard weight by a chengguan officer. Deng was once awarded “model farmer”in his township, but in his dying hands was the badge of the chengguan officer who hit him.
The story doesn’t just stop there. The real war started when local authorities decided that they wanted the body. That evening, many of Deng’s fellow villagers and several hundreds of local residents volunteered to protect the dead body. About 200 anti-riot police were sent to disperse the crowd. Inevitably, clashes happened.
Pictures from the ground show bloody faces of people beaten by police. Several people who were sharing information live on Weibo said they heard police say “Make way or die!”
The latest update from Deng’s granddaughter claimed that the body was taken by local police and was sent back to their village. Several chengguan officers were taken away by local police for investigation.
From bully to death, many netizens were asking why, with waves of complaints, there hasn’t been any improvement in how chengguan officers operate. Violence seems to be the one and only tool that China’s lower-level governments know when conflict with the people arises.
“The irony is that [my granduncle] was beaten to death at the designated farmers market planned by the township government. Is this the Chinese dream for an ordinary water melon farmer? Is this what the government meant by making improvements?”asked 小纯就是小纯