Services must be improved for better law enforcement
By Li Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-17 05:45

Wreaths lay in front of the gate to a major electronics store at Zhongguancun in Beijing over the weekend, in memory of Li Zhiqiang, a policeman who died on duty last Friday.

People often associate the police with duties such as regulating traffic or solving crimes. But Li Zhiqiang was not a police officer in that common sense of the word.

He was a staff member in the new local government administration entitled "bureau of comprehensive administrative law enforcement for urban management."

True to its long title, the new bureau's teams of law enforcers take charge of implementing regulations, administrative orders and laws encompassing 14 areas, as specified on its website,

They shoulder huge responsibilities: Nabbing industries and workshops that pollute the air, the rivers and lakes; maintaining safety standards at construction sites, public waters and public works; watching over hygiene and garbage treatment in public places or farmers' markets; and keeping order at parking lots and in streets, among others.

They play a major role in clearing the streets of pirated DVDs, CDs and computer software.

The new law enforcement bureau was established four years ago at municipal and district levels in cities across the country to help upgrade urban governance as Chinese cities become more crowded and urban society more complicated.

As their jobs require, the new agency and its staff members try to take all the laws and regulations into their own hands and go all out to see the laws and regulations take effect.

Despite the comprehensiveness of their tasks, some of them carry their duties out with simplicity and single-mindedness when they appear in public places, seemingly without due respect for the law by public understanding. As a result, they have invited more frowns than public trust.

At an entrance to a shopping mall or a shopping street, it is not uncommon to see unlicensed peddlers suddenly gather up their merchandise and run at one cry, "Cheng Guan (urban management police) are coming!"

Those peddlers who are a little slow often suffer, as the law enforcers snatch away their merchandise, tools and handcarts. The peddlers are made to pay fines, which the law enforcers have the right to levy for a series of misdemeanours.

Worse, an elderly peddler in his 60s was seen beaten up by four or five of the "urban police" at Shijiazhuang Railway Station on August 4. Another member of the law enforcers in Shenzhen was heard to proudly acknowledge that he was a "ruffian."

Those peddlers who are tired of running sometimes fight back. Last Friday, a peddler surnamed Cui pursued Li Zhiqiang and stabbed Li in the neck with his knife, after Li and his colleagues confiscated his tricycle. "My livelihood depends on that tricycle," Cui said when he was apprehended.

Li was seriously wounded and later died in hospital, becoming the first urban law enforcer to sacrifice his life on the job.

While the public mourns Li's death, we must acknowledge that enhanced enforcement and regulations alone will not help ensure social harmony or mitigate complicated social problems.

In fact, violence between the new urban police and those men in the street unlicensed peddlers and the like is, sadly, becoming more common. Since January this year, some 89 urban management police have been wounded in Beijing alone while on duty.

The bad conduct of a few urban police is one contributing factor. Meanwhile, city administrators have not created comprehensive new services to furnish the urban poor and rural migrants with opportunities to sustain their livelihood legally.

Better government services, incorporated into the social security net that is available to all citizens, are key to better law enforcement and the best tribute to Li Zhiqiang.


(China Daily 08/17/2006 page4)