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Officers disguised as vendors 'not a publicity stunt'

By Zhou Lihua in Wuhan and Jin Haixing in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-19 07:47

Officers disguised as vendors 'not a publicity stunt'

Gui Wenjing, a chengguan officer who disguised himself as a street peddler for the past month, shows reporters the billboards he used for his business in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Tuesday. Liu Kun / China Daily

Two urban management officers who disguised themselves as street vendors at night for the past month were not part of a publicity stunt, the urban management authority in a Central China city said on Tuesday.

The urban management authority also released diary entries written by the two officers in Hongshan district in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, on Tuesday.

Based on the two officers' experiences, the urban management bureau of Wuhan plans to conduct further research and set up an open market for vendors in a limited area and period.

The urban management bureau, commonly shortened to chengguan, is in charge of enforcing bylaws, city appearance, environment, sanitation, work safety and pollution control.

However, in many cities, chengguan are often accused of treating street vendors poorly, and conflicts have often been reported.

In May, a chengguan bureau in Hongshan district approved a plan to allow two officers to operate a small business in a street, so they could experience the life of peddlers and improve law enforcement in the city, it said.

Gui Wenjing, the male officer who devised the plan, said he and his colleague Yang Xi started the mission on May 13 and in the beginning the operation was very difficult.

Yang said her family supported her participation in the operation, and her mother said she was brave to take part.

The two officers, disguised as peddlers, sold teacups and other small items.

After the case was exposed on Saturday by a micro blogger, the bureau suspended the mission. Many Internet users questioned the mission and some even said the diaries written by the two officers were made up.

Gui denied such claims and said he could guarantee all of the information that appeared in the diary was true.

"It is full of details of life, which cannot be made up," he said.

Yang said she controlled the finances for the business, but she did not disclose its expenses and profits.

She said they planned to donate the profits to a street vendor who makes a living by selling sweet potatoes and pays for his son's heart disease treatment.

According to the diary written by the two officers, they had several encounters in the past month with chengguan, who asked vendors to stop doing business in the streets.

"From the perspective of vendors, sometimes the law enforcement from chengguan officers is too strict," Gui told China Daily on Tuesday.

"To my surprise, vendors are far more familiar with the job of chengguan. They know exact teams responsible for specific streets, and they even know the latest work slogan of the Hongshan chengguan bureau," Yang Xi wrote in her diary.

Gui said he learned a lot about the difficult lives of vendors and he hopes that chengguan and vendors can come up with solutions to improve law enforcement.

Although the mission received much criticism from the media and the public, experts welcome the move.

Yue Shenshan, a lawyer at Beijing Yuecheng Law Firm, said the mission was acceptable and did not exceed the scope of chengguan authority because it was aimed at learning about the life of street vendors.

Chengguan usually have to inform street vendors of their real identity during law enforcement practices such as issuing a fine. But in this case, there is no evidence that chengguan will punish vendors found during the mission, he said.

Mo Yuchuan, a law professor at Renmin University of China, praised the mission and said he has witnessed many similar operations from Wuhan chengguan in recent years.

However, Mo said the agency should make specific and long-term plans for reforming law enforcement methods to eliminate public misunderstandings rather than letting individual officers make changes.

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